Impressions of Wijk aan Zee

The view from our room

It’s been cold, windy and sunny. Soon I’ll have to go out for a run to keep up with my fitness. That’s one of the difficult things of travelling so much keeping a routine especially when you are “stuck” in one place. I was told there was a gym in the nearby town of Beverwijk but that’s a 15 minute bus ride away and the buses come once every 30 minutes.

I spent most of the first day hanging around the playing hall with IM Jovana Rapport a strong player in her own right, I think she’s married to some guy named Richard. She’s also here for the next few weeks supporting but not playing. We chatted a bit and I found it funny how people always seem to ask us the same kind of questions being married to a strong GM things along the lines of “Don’t you always just hang out and play chess together?” “Doesn’t he help you with your chess?”. Little do people realize that at some point you need a “break” from chess and that there are many other things in life that are enjoyable!

It’s quite impressive having so many players playing during this festival and Wijk itself has become a complete chess village! All the townsfolk must know the chess players have arrived and the few stores in this town all have a chess theme happening. What’s also very cool is that there are chess boards in all the restaurants (maybe not so cool?!) but it’s nice to see chess being appreciated.

We will have a very busy April and so far have signed up for the Sharjah Masters,Dubai Open and the Reykjavik Open. I think we have something like 4 days at home in between the two tournaments. This is a very hectic schedule and it’ll be interesting for me how I get on with playing so many games in a short amount of time.

So I played in the 3 round, 4 player round robin and didn’t do as well as I had hoped. I was top seed but I really struggled. In my first game I was better but forgot a move and then my position collapsed. In my round 2 game I struggled with my opening but my opponent offered me a draw and I had to accept. For my last round, I forgot theory and soon after I lost two pawns and lost. It was a very difficult day in the office and it was a day I was close to tears. It’s been a long while since I have been so upset with my play and the only other time I recall crying was after a game at Bunratty. I have no idea now why I was so upset then but I remember clearly screaming into my pillow. This made me recall when I was 11 and at my first Olympiad in Bled, 2002. I distinctly remember a GM breaking down in tears after his game and breaking his glasses in the process.

I was not sure if I was going to play in the 9 round tournament that starts tomorrow but I’ve decided that I should seeing as I have this opportunity. Let’s hope I can play some good chess and if not then I’ll have lots to learn. When they put a link up I’ll insert it here. I also realised that I had not played a long tournament since my debut for England at the Tromso Chess Olympiad so it’s now time to play again.

Gawain on the other hand has finished the first third of the tournament with 2.5/4. We still have 11 more days in Wijk. We didn’t participate in the football match on the free day. I wouldn’t mind playing if only it was rugby 🙂 We both would have definitely played but perhaps there would be more injuries, definitely a lot more bruises.

Our good friends from New Zealand, Bill and Maria will soon be joining us in Wijk so we are both very happy and excited to see them. Bill is the current New Zealand Major Open Champion shared with Yogesh Kulkarni and Bill will be participating in the 9 round tournament but in a different group to me.

Today the Masters tournament is headed to Rotterdam so it was the first time I saw many players who are staying in this hotel at breakfast! Chess players like their sleep and everyone has their own schedule. There is also no Amateur tournament in the playing hall today so De Moriaan was a bit empty. It’s a very different atmosphere compared to when it’s been packed with other players and spectators!

I managed after a bit of procrastinating to go out for a run! But by the  time I headed out the sun was gone and the temperature had dropped. Luckily for me there was no wind but my hands became very red!