Welcome to Portugal

by Stefan Löffler
12/17/2019 – Europe's westernmost country does not have as rich a chess tradition as Spain and has so far been under the radar of chess lovers who like to combine tournaments and tourism. That is now changing thanks to the Portugal Chess Tour, an annual series of classical and rapid tournaments, especially the Portugal Open in Lisbon at the end of January 2020. STEFAN LOEFFLER explains. | Photos: Portuguese Chess Federation

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A treat for the newcomers

A friend had suggested to Maciei Klekowski that they travel to the Open in Figueira da Foz together. The young International Master from Poland never looked back. Not only did he win the event, but he also scored his third and final Grandmaster norm.

“It was my first trip to Portugal, but I am sure not the last one. Not only because of my great results, but also I really like being here”, says Maciei. Even though the autumn sun wasn't strong enough to entice a dip in the ocean, he and his friend spent a lot of time at the beach, adoring the powerful waves of the Atlantic Ocean with some of Europe's best surf spots nearby. “We rent bikes from our hotel and took rides along the coast.” 

The best known chess fact about Portugal is the mysterious death of World Champion Alexander Alekhine in 1946 in a hotel room in Estoril. But this is bound to change with the Portugal Chess Tour. The series was initiated in 2018 by Dominic Cross. The dynamic President of the Portuguese Chess Federation with family roots in Germany, has convinced organisers and sponsors to join. Already in its first year players from sixty countries participated. The tour started in late August in Guimarães and will last until July 2020, including both rapid tournaments and classical time limit tournaments. 

Figueira da Foz is not the only tour event that provides excellent chances to fulfill title norms. The same goes for the Open starting today in Ferreira do Alentejo (December 17th to 21th, rapid on December 22nd), which is situated in the heart of the agrarian region that is known for its exquisite cuisine and wines. It also goes for the big one in the end of January.

Ferreira do Alentejo is about 100 Km Southeast of Lisbon

The Portugal Open in Lisbon (January 25th to February 1st 2020, rapid on February 2nd) is an excellent chance to explore the Portuguese capital during the period when there are the fewest tourists and air carriers and hotels offer the lowest rates.

Playing hall

You can still expect lots of sunshine and an international crowd of players. As someone who lives in walking distance from the venue, I can assure you that you will find lots of great seafood and more delicacies on the winter menu (seasonal fish, Cozido à Portuguesa, Feijoadas…) at a fraction of what you would pay in Central or Northern Europe. Or maybe you want to check out the springtime open in Portugal's academic capital Coimbra (April 30th – May 4th 2020) or explore Porto from Gaia (June 9th - 14th 2020) or from Famalicão (July 19th -25th 2020).

After I moved to Portugal recently my first tournament was a rapid in Viseu in Central Portugal, and I had the good luck that unlike recently in Pampilhosa da Serra where the first nine places were all taken by Grandmasters, no professionals showed up and I could claim the first prize. The tour seems to be treating newcomers like me or Maciej well. Here he has annotated his best move from Figueira da Foz.


You can move the pieces on the live diagram

Maciej Klekowski:

I was highly stressed, during this game, because position was very tense, and I knew that if I win, I would be very close to my last GM norm and winning tournament. In position above I was able to find nice combination, which was very helpful in winning game without any counterplay. 38.xd6! A strong move, I am giving up exchange for more direct attack chances.

38...xd6 39.c5 f6? After this move, I have much easier way to realize advantage, black had more chances after [39...♚g8 40.♗xd6 g3 41.♔g2 ♝f8 42.♕g6+ ♜g7 43.♕e6+ but anyway, in the end the position in still lost.]

40.xd6+ xd6 41.e7+ g8 42.xd6 h7 43.d7 a6 44.f5+ h6 45.g5+ h7 46.xh4+ h6 47.e7+ g7 48.e4+ h8 49.d6 b7 50.d7 and Black resigned because of ♕e8 threat with d8(♕) next.


Stefan Löffler writes the Friday chess column in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and succeeds Arno Nickel as editor of the Chess Calendar. For ChessBase the International Master reports from his adopted country Portugal.


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