The Golden Cleopatra Open

by ChessBase
6/18/2003 – Egypt is the country that springs to mind when you think chess. But a giant open in Cairo, just three miles from the pyramids, is something that catches your attention. When we asked the organisers for a report we expeced a dry chessboard (chess-bored?) affair. Instead we received a truly spectacular illustrated article. Take some time to read this unique tournament report.

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7th Golden Cleopatra Open

The Golden Cleopatra Open 2003 was held from June 1st to 12th at the Eastern Company Club, which is located about three miles from the Pyramids. It was a ten round Swiss System with 153 players, including six GMs, one WGM, 25 IMs and six FMs. There were a total of 19 players from 11 countries, 134 from Egypt. The new Fide time control were used: 90 min for all game + 30 second a move added to the clock.

Edvins Kengis finished in first place, beating Spartak Vysochin and local player Essam El Gindy on tiebreak score. Here are the final standings after 10 rounds. The prizes for each player are given in US Dollars.

   Name                    Fed T. Rat   tot     T.B.   Prize
1 Kengis, Edvins LAT GM 2581 8 21719 915
2 Vysochin, Spartak UKR GM 2551 8 21382 815
3 El Gindy, Essam EGY IM 2473 8 21031 770
4 Kosten, Anthony C. FRA GM 2545 7.5 42.5 550
5 Rausis, Igors BAN GM 2533 7.5 42.5 500
6 El Arousy, Abdul Hameed EGY IM 2314 7.5 42.5 450
7 Abdelnabbi, Imed EGY IM 2446 7 43.5 250
8 Malakhatko, Vadim UKR GM 2503 7 42.5 200
9 Ismail, Hamed EGY 2314 7 42.5 200
10 Belezky, Sasha UKR IM 2403 7 42 200
11 Szuhanek, Ranko ROM IM 2427 7 41.5 175
12 Hassan, Sayed Barakat EGY IM 2325 7 40.5 175

Here are all 279 games of the Golden Cleopatra Open 2003 in archived CBV fomat (36 KB) and as a zipped PGN file (68 KB).

During the tournament we asked the organisers whether we could get some pictures, not just of the players but of the country in which they were playing. After all how many tournaments are held in Egypt? There was no reply, until after the tournament was over. Today we received the following "report" (should we call it an essay, a cultural monograph, a picture tour guide?) from Mohamed El-Zahaby, one of the organisers of the tournament. At the end of this treatise you will find pictures of the playes and the chess – if you are still interested in such mundane affairs.

Ancient Egypt

Pharonic Egypt started around 3000 B.C. It became a united country under the rule of the Pharaoh Narmer and lasted till about 300 A.D. The last Pharaoh was a Roman emperor named Garerius. So as a civilization, Ancient Egypt flourished for more then 3000 years.

Let me tell you a little about the land we are going to visit. It was the perfect place for one of the worlds greatest civilizations to take root. The geography around the Nile Valley provided one of the most important factors in the longevity and productivity of the culture. Surrounding the peaceful Nile valley were impenetrable obstacles that protected the Egyptians far better then any army could. To the east, invaders would have to cross mountains and the Red Sea, on the west there were cliffs that gave way to a large expanse of desolate and barren desert. They were vulnerable only from the north and the south. From the north by way of the Mediterranean Sea and the Sinai Peninsula and from the south via the Nile itself.

This protection gave the Egyptians perhaps the single most important element in building a great and powerful civilization... time. Time to learn agriculture and animal husbandry. Time to develope a code of laws to live by, and deities to worship. And time to create art, a beautifully written language, music and dance.

The Nile River, along which most of the people of Egypt lived, stretches more then 4000 miles, but the Egyptians only knew about 1000 miles of it, and that was at the height of their empire. Along the river there is a thin ribbon of land that was nourished by the annual flooding of the Nile, it is lush, and many crops were crown there. The ribbon varies from a couple miles wide in some places and nonexistent in others. The Egyptians called this place Kemet "the black land" because of the richness of the soil. This is the land where Osiris taught mankind to be civilized. This is Egypt.

Egypt from Space

View of Egypt and adjacent countries photographed by the Apollo 17 astronauts on their trip to the Moon. (9 December, 1972)

Panoramic view from a Space Shuttle of the entire Sinai Peninsula and the nearby Nile Delta. The Suez Canal, at the top of the scene just to the right of the Delta, connects the Mediterranean Sea with the Gulf of Suez on the west side of the Sinai Peninsula and the Gulf of Aqaba is on the west where they both flow into the Red Sea. (13 October, 1984)

The Nile Delta contains some of the richest farm land in the world. The capital city of Cairo is at the apex of the delta. Giza, home of the Great Pyramid, is just to the left of the city of Cairo and the Suez Canal is just to the right of the delta. The large dark patch in the lower left is the Faiyum Oasis. Photographed by a Space Shuttle crew with the aft end of the shuttle in view. (13 October, 1984)

When this photograph was taken during the STS-56 mission of the Space Shuttle Discovery, the crew was about to capture an astronomy satellite (gold object) above the Nile River Valley. This view reveals the landscapes of the Sinai and the Gulf of Suez on the right. The Nile River Valley and the base of the delta dominate the scene, while the leaf-like appearance of the Faiyum Oasis is clearly seen to the west of the Nile. The city of Cairo is at the base of the delta. The photograph's coverage extends to just south of the town of Asyut. (17 April, 1993)

The waters of Lake Nasser back up behind the Aswan High Dam in this Space Shuttle view. The dam is just visible at the top of the picture. (8 August, 1992). The controversial dam was built to provide cheap hydroelectric power and to regulate the historically uneven flow of the Nile River.


South of the city of Aswan lies the beautiful temple complex of Philae (pronounced "feel-i"). Its main temple was dedicated to the goddess Isis and its construction was undertaken during the third century B.C. Philae was the last bastion of ancient Egyptian religion and hieroglyphic usage. It is also a superb example of threatened cultural heritage being saved in the face of modern civilization's march to change the environment.

The island of Philae and its temples came under threat at the turn of the century when the British erected the Aswan Dam at the First Cataract. Philae began to spend some of its time beneath the backed-up flood waters of the Nile. The Dam was progressively raised in the following decades, but the final nail in the coffin for the island of Philae came with the construction of the Aswan High Dam in the 1960s. The temples were destined to disappear forever beneath the river's waters.

Fortunately, Philae was saved from drowning. In 1977, a coffer dam was constructed around the temples and the water was pumped out. Then the temples were carefully dismantled with every block assigned a number and its position noted. A nearby higher island called Agilkai was modified to resemble Philae and the temples were resembled. In 1980, Philae was once again opened to the public.

Today, Philae is one of the highlights of any visit to Aswan. To reach it, one can take an organised excursion booked through a travel agent or hotel. Alternatively, take a taxi to the boat landing at Shellal on the east side of the old Aswan Dam. From there, a short boat trip can be arranged to the island.

If time permits, a night visit for the Sound and Light Show is very worthwhile as the temples look stunning under floodlights. Shows are presented in English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish and Arabic. The language and time schedule should be checked before going.

Ancient Egyptian Lives

Our knowledge of everyday life in ancient Egypt has been derived largely from depictions on the walls of tombs and other written records, including thousands of fragments of limestone (ostraka) from the New Kingdom which include letters, legal matters and student writing exercises. Here we look at some of the information gleaned from both these sources and artefacts.

Food producers

Many Old Kingdom tombs at Saqqara depict scenes of activities such as hunting, fishing and cattle herding. Small sculptures from the Old Kingdom also depict various activities such as bread and beer making.

By the Middle Kingdom, some tombs contained wooden models of servants working in granaries, baking bread, ploughing fields and sailing boats. One major wooden model in the Cairo Museum shows a landowner seated under a canopy with his officials as his stock are paraded past him (right).

Other models illustrate workers weaving and fishing with nets suspended between boats.

In the New Kingdom tombs of officials and craftsmen, scenes often show fields being harvested, followed by the winnowing and threshing of grain.

Scribes are sometimes depicted in such scenes noting the quantities of grain for the purpose of taxation. In return, the administration oversaw the construction of irrigation canals and dykes to make best use of the annual flooding of the Nile.

Grape-picking is shown in some paintings and the tomb of Sennefer, an 18th-dynasty mayor of Thebes (modern Luxor), has a large part of its ceiling painted to depict vines and clusters of grapes. Grapes were eaten and also used for wine production, the best quality coming from the Delta region.

Many types of vegetables were included in the diet, some being onions, garlic, melons and peas. They also ate plenty of fish, ducks, pigeons, geese and quail.

Fishermen used nets and fishing hooks (right) that would not look out of place in a modern fishing tackle shop. Fish were much more plentiful in the Nile than they are today.

To keep themselves going, the Egyptians liked beer and bread made from barley and emmer wheat.


Some of our present knowledge of the ancient crafts of boat building and sculpturing comes from wall paintings, as well as actual preserved examples of boats and partially completed statues.

Various tradesmen were required to meet the demand for manufacturing furniture and other items for both the home and the tomb, the house of eternity. While Egyptian houses were sparsely furnished, the standard of work seen in surviving furniture from wealthy tombs can be very high.

Carpenters used saws, wooden mallets, chisels and a tool called an adze for carving wood, as seen at left in an ancient model of a workshop in the Cairo Museum.

Egypt's craftsmen also produced statues, amulets and various other items from bronze. One preserved illustration shows the production of a stone statue of a pharaoh by men involved in polishing the stone, painting and carving hieroglyphs.

Superb gold and silver work has been found that has been worked to perfection by jewellers. They also made necklaces containing elements made of faience (a glazed material) that were molded to look like flowers, leaves and fruit. Men and women often wore large decorative earrings.

Artists painted some beautiful scenes in tombs but, like sculptors, they were mainly anonymous craftsmen rather than artists producing art for art's sake. Very few names of artists survive, although the style of someone's work is sometimes recognisable to experts.


Whilst temples, the houses of the gods, were built of stone to last, the homes of ancient Egyptians were made of mud-brick – even the palace of the pharaoh – as these were not intended to last forever. Supports for the roof were in the form of palm logs and wood was usually used for doorways.

Houses in the towns could be multi-storey to make the most of limited land. Homes would have been sparsely furnished. Some of the country villas of the rich were equipped with gardens and a decorative pool in which sweet-smelling lotus flowers would grow. The pool also was stocked with fish from the Nile. Palm trees would have provided welcome shade in the hot summers.

At the site of Deir el-Medina (right) in Upper Egypt, one can see the lower walls and preserved layout of a New Kingdom village. It was inhabited by the workers who built the royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings.

Personal appearance and health

With the dry and dusty conditions often encountered in Egypt, appearance and cleanliness were important. Hair was often kept short and wigs made of human hair would be worn for special occasions.

Bronze mirrors were used when applying makeup. The one on the left has a handle with the image of the goddess Hathor.

Examples of cosmetic containers, such as the one on the right, survive from tombs.

Kohl, an eye-paint made from powdered galena (lead ore), and green copper oxide, was used around the eyes and applied with an applicator stick.

Clothing was generally in the form of simple linen tunics which were woven very finely. Their light nature was ideal for the hot climate. Sandals were made from plaited palm leaves.

Doctors were well respected in ancient Egypt and surgeons used various knives, tweezers and needles. Surviving medical papyri list many treatments for ailments suffered by the Egyptians. Honey was often applied to wounds, however, not all treatments sound like they would have made one feel better. For example, swallowing a dead mouse to cure a bad cough may have been slightly off-putting!

Time to play

Children had toys to play with and some of the surviving examples would give much pleasure to young children today. Toys included dolls, spinning tops and some that had moving parts operated with a string, e.g. cats or crocodiles with moving jaws.

The Egyptians enjoyed games, including a board game called senet. Examples of senet survive in the form of rectangular boxes on top of which are 30 squares, some of which were meant to represent hazards. Small draws in the box contained the gaming pieces.

The game of Senet was played by two people, either on the top of a box with inlaid squares, as shown here, or on grids scratched into a stone surface. Players threw knuckle-bones or throw-sticks to determine their moves. Some squares represented bad luck and others good

Tut-Ankh-Amun's tomb was well equipped with senet board games – he may have intended to spend a lot of time playing!

Various playing pieces for ancient Egyptian gamesfortune.

Ball games also were popular as they are with children in modern Egypt. The game involved going piggy-back and throwing the balls.

The gameboard of Tut-Ankh-Amun

Date: New Kingdom, 18th Dynasty. Material: Gilded Ebony, Ivory

Senet or "passing" was an extremely popular game among ancient Egyptians, royalty as well as laymen. It also assumed a religious connotation as it began to symbolize the passage of the deceased through the netherworld. This derived from the game's main goal as the two players would each try to advance their own pieces, while blocking or eliminating those of the opponent's as determined by the sticks or dice thrown before each move. The gaming board itself had 30 spaces on the rectangular board. This one above is the largest of four boards found in Tut-Ankh-Amun's tomb. The gaming pieces belong to the smaller ones as the larger pieces were stolen by tomb robbers.


Music was obviously enjoyed, judging by the many paintings of musicians playing at banquets. Instruments included tambourines, oboes, lutes and harps.

Female dancers and musicians are shown in some New Kingdom paintings wearing only their jewellery.

Music and song would have played a large role in the rituals of temples in ancient Egypt.



Islamic Egypt

Cairo – Tombs of the Mamelukes

Arabic Museum, Cairo

The Mosque-Madrasa of Sultan Hasan (left) and the al-Rifâ`î-Masjid (right)

View of the qibla wall (Sultan Hasan Masjid)

Khan el-Khalili

How could a market in Egypt be responsible for the founding of the United States? Khan el-Khalili, once known as the Turkish bazaar during the Ottoman period, is now usually just called the 'Khan', and the names of it and the Muski market are often used interchangeably to mean either. Named for the great Caravansary, the market was built in 1382 by the Emir Djaharks el-Khalili in the heart of the Fatimid City. Together with the al-Muski market to the west, they comprise one of Cairo's most important shopping areas.

But more than that, they represent the market tradition which established Cairo as a major center of trade, and at the Khan, one will still find foreign merchants. Perhaps, this very market was involved in the spice monopoly controlled by the Mamluks, which encouraged the Europeans to search for new routes to the East and led Columbus, indirectly, to discover the Americas!

During its early period, the market was also a center for subversive groups, often subject to raids before the Sultan Ghawri rebuilt much of the area in the early 16th century. Regardless, it was trade which caused Cairo's early wealth, even from the time of the Babylon fort which was often a settlement of traders.

Lots of colorful brass

Egyptian Museum

On the 6th day of the tournament the players visited the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, which containes the greatest collection of Egyptian antiquities in the world. It is a place of true discovery and, even after many visits, one continues to make new and delightful discoveries.

To be sure, the museum can be daunting in the sheer numbers of its antiquities on show, but there is an order within its layout and it is a dream come true for anyone wanting to study Egyptian antiquities.

The museum's ground floor follows the history of ancient Egypt. Upon entering through the security check in the building, one looks toward the atrium and the rear of the building with many items on view – from sarcophagi and boats to enormous statues.

Upstairs on the first floor (i.e.second level) are thousands of smaller items from the span of Egyptian history. Of course, everybody wants to see the treasures from Tutankhamun's tomb – these occupy a large area along almost two side of the upper floor. Chariots, gloves, jewellery, the famous mask – many of the antiquities from his tomb are displayed here.

Tutankhamun's Innermost Coffin

Tutankhamun's tomb contained four gilded shrines nested one inside the other. All four of these shrines are on display in the museum. They are lined up in order of decreasing size. The innermost of these covered a stone sarcophagus which remains in the tomb.

Inside the stone sarcophagus were three coffins – the innermost being made of 110 kilograms of solid gold. Inside that lay the pharaoh himself wearing the famous gold mask (at right). Tutankhamun remains in his tomb to this day.

Pictures from the tournament

The winner, 44-year-old Latvian GM Edivns Kengis

Top scorer Essam El Gindy from Egypt, receiving his prize

GM Igors Rausis, 42, from Latvia

GM Spartak Vysochin, 28, from the Ukraine

Egyptian player Ali Farhat

WGM Anna Zozulia, 23, from the Ukraine

GM Vadim Malakhatko, 26, from the Ukraine

GM Tony Kosten, 44, England

Dutch GM Harmen Jonkman, 28, who makes our tournament calendar

IM Ranko Szuhanek, 28, from Romania


Players in front of the Golden Cleopatra logo

IM Mihai Grunberg, 27, from Romania

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