Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Chess Train

By Alex Cherniack

Paul MacIntyre and I went to a neat chess tournament last month. It started in Prague on October 12, and then continued in Dresden, Wroclaw, Piestany, and Vienna, before finishing in Prague again, all within 5 days.

How did we play in so many countries in so little time? We were on the Chess Train, a unique tournament where all the games were played on a moving train. When the rounds finished for the day, all the participants checked into a hotel at the different cities, and had a chance to sight see. Then it was back on the train, for more chess. The 400 Euro entry fee covered all the train fares and the hotel accommodation, a fantastic bargain. The most expensive part about the trip was the airfare.

The time control was G/20 with a ten second time increment per move. The games started on the train at 10:00 AM, with 2-5 rounds per day. Most of the players were Czech, with a handful of players from Germany, Holland, and other East European countries. Paul and I were the only Americans.

The winner of the tournament was one of the two grandmasters, Martin Petr, with a perfect 13 out of 13 score. Paul and I had winning positions against him, only to lose on time trying to convert our advantages. German FM Jan-Dietrich Wendt won second place. Jan Plachetka, a legendary GM from Slovakia, finished in third. Paul and I tied for the remaining money prizes with Sven Roemling, an interpreter from Germany.

It was a fun tournament. Because the turnout was slightly lower than expected, the organizers had more prizes than participants. The organizers proved to be generous. They handed out chess piece-shaped chocolates to everyone on the way to Wroclaw, and flash drives in the shapes of trains on the way to Piestany. In Vienna, they organized for the players a tour of the city's legendary chess cafes. At the closing ceremony, everybody won something. Paul won a humongous food basket, and I won a digital Fischer random chess clock, in addition to the money.

Paul and I were there for the vacation - we played a token 'compatriot' draw when paired,

and by the end of the tournament we weren't even keeping scores of the games. I did save mine with Paul, though.

Paul MacIntyre-Alex Cherniack
(Round 8, played somewhere between Piestany and Vienna)

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Bb4 5.e5 h6 6.Bc1 Ne4 7.Qg4 g6 8.a3 Bxc3+ 9.bxc3 c5 10.Bd3 Nxc3 11.dxc5 Qa5 12.Qb4 Qxb4 13.cxb4 Bd7 14.Bb2 Na4 15.Bd4 Nc6 16.c3 Nb2 17.Be2 Nc4 18.Nf3 Ke7 19.0-0 a5 20.Bxc4 dxc4 21.b5 Nxd4 22.cxd4 Bxb5 23.Rfb1 Bc6 24.Bxc4 dxc4 25.Rc1 Bd5 25.Nd2 Rfc8 26.Rab1 Rc7 27.Nxc4 1/2-1/2

The best part about the tournament was the people. On a confined train for five days, you get to know your fellow participants very well between rounds in the restaurant car. Our opponents spoke good English, and were fascinating, accomplished people outside of chess: a retired bookseller, a stock investor who worked out of his laptop, a doctoral physics student, an interpreter who spoke 9 languages, an international trade lawyer, and others. Many of us went sightseeing together in the cities when the train stopped for the day.



Pavel Matocha, the lead organizer, promises to run the Chess Train again in October 2013. If the train stops in different countries, I will be there!


Ken said...

Cool chess experience, thanks for sharing!

Robert Oresick said...

Sounds like a wonderful chess vacation.