Valge Daam chess festival
There is not so many traditional chess festivals around Baltic sea region. One of them was the Liepaja chess festival. Last year however they had the 25th edition and unfortunately this was the last one. The main organizer in Liepaja Aris Ozolins quit due to health issues. It is the common situation when traditional chess festival dies out when the man behind the event is leaving. This happened also with two other much more famous events, one in Linares and other in Reggio Emilia already years ago. Chess is not a business opportunity and the empty space is difficult to fulfill. Last year the new FIDE leaders were elected, but no new ideas how to promote chess or how to implement new events were created. Everything still depends on local initiative.
The city of Haapsalu in Estonia was eager to sponsor a big chess festival. Haapsalu is not new to chess. Yours truly played in Haapsalu some 40 years ago. Like Liepaja Haapsalu is situated on Baltic sea shore and is itself well known tourist destination. There is a lot of events in Haapsalu during the summer. One of them is the White Lady festival which takes place on the beginning of August. Haapsalu is very busy during the summer month, so the chess players found the end of August most convenient for their event.
The festival was held from 23 till 25th of August. During the three days four different events took place. The Open tournament was 9 rounds event from where top four finishers qualified to the super tournament. Total 68 players took part of the Open event. Kirill Chukavin and Dana Riezniece Ozola where the winners with 7,5 points. Chukavin is young Estonian players and Riezniece is today well known Latvian politician, but in the past she was the Latvian strongest female player and despite not being active any more she is still the number one in Latvia among women. The tournament cross table.
The blitz tournament took place on Saturday morning. It had seven double rounds. Total 48 players participated and the pretournament favorite Latvian grandmaster Nikita Meshkovs emerged victorious with 11, 5 points. I share second third place with 10,5 points. I lost my match against Meshkovs 0,5 to 1,5 and this was the crucial outcome for final results. Full table is here.
There was also so called handicap tournament which was intended to real chess aficionados and for sponsors. Unfortunately it did not attract as much players as hoped for and finally nearly all players who had interest were included. The players were divided into four categories and according to their category the time control was adjusted. The top players had two minutes against the weakest players who had 8 minutes. There were no increment so some games got very wild at the time scramble. No incidents occurred and during the festival the arbiters Gert Elmaste and Margit Brokko had everything under control. Surprise winner of the handicap tournament was Robert Dubrovin.
The Super tournament. From the Open there were four qualifiers and other players were invited. One of the participants was the ex-World champion Alexander Halifman from Russia. He as usual kept his solid style and was the only player who did not lose a single game. This was however no good for the first place. In recent tournaments Latvian player Nikita Meshkovs is showing upswing trend. He showed very strong play also in Haapsalu. He lost his only game in the last round when he already secured the first place. The lucky winner was former Latvian now American grandmaster Alexander Shabalov who finished second. Halifman was third. The best Estonian player was Meelis Kanep who finished fourth. Dana Riezniece was the last only with one draw. Halifman was the only true gentleman who drew with the lady. The tournament gathered in overall very strong field and the winner got nice cup among some small prize money. The overall standing.
The festival was a success considering the overall activity. Nearly one hundred players participated. I was happy that few youngsters whom I taught chess during my chess club activities in Haapsalu participated as well. This kind of chess festival should be four days instead of three, but the Haapsalu during the summer season is expensive tourist destination and the accommodation is costly. This is why the Open was held in one day instead of two. The feedback from players was positive especially from our Latvian friends. We hope that this was not one time event and the city of Haapsalu may sponsor it next year as well.
In the last round Shabalov won complicated battle against the tournament winner.