Tuesday 13 November 2012

de Verdier´s corner - #1

It was a long time ago that I was asked to write an article for this blog about chess in Malta. The project has since then moved through a conceptual phase, one sub-conceptual and even a post-conceptual phase before starting to materialize.
I first moved to this small island in the Mediterranian in 2010, and back then my mind couldn't have been further from chess. 
Instead I was focussing on my professional career, which is still ongoing, in Malta, by the way. 
However, of course I couldn't stay away from chess for very long, and in the summer of 2011 I marked a "mini-comeback" by scoring my first IM-norm in Pardubice, Czech Republic. I still enjoy the odd tournament when I can spare the time, and my short-term goal is now to score my third and final norm for the IM-title.
To write an article about chess in Malta, one first has to start by writing something about Malta.
This small island has a rich history due to its strategic position, and amongst its rulers in the past we can count the Phoenicians, the Greeks, Romans, Arabs,  the French and the British.

Today Malta is an independant nation state within the European Union, and something of a tax paradise for foreign enterprises. Another great source of income is  the tourism industry, of course. Today, the 12th of November, we enjoyed a sunny day with 24 degrees celsius...

Chess in Malta enjoys the same kind of obscure status as in my native Sweden. The rare media coverage is often marred by simple journalistic errors and ill-informed pieces of information, and Malta has yet to produce its first titled player.

This doesn't mean that the local players don't take the game seriously, however. The 2012 National Championship was (as expected) won by Colin Pace, his 7th title all in all. Colin also led his team on board 1 in the 2012 Olympiad in Istanbul, where they also took their national trainer GM Heberla, from Poland.
Malta also has a great representative outside the chess board in Geoffrey Borg, currently the Chief Executive Office of FIDE.

However, a problem for Maltese players that I noticed very early during my time here, especially young players, is the lack of competitive games, and to be exposed to different kinds of styles. I firmly believe that to play a lot of games is the best way to improve when you are young and just started your chess career.

Therefore, the big international open that was arranged on the island for the first time last year was a very positive initiative. 
Local organizer Clarence Psaila (also a member of the Olympic team in Istanbul) teamed up with the German organizers of chessorg.de and over 120 players participated in the event, which was eventually won by Swedish GM Stellan Brynell.

In 2012 the tournament looks to grow, at the moment 173 players are registered for the tournament that starts on Sunday,18th November, and runs to the 25th.
One of the favourites has to be top-seed Heberla, but also the Azeri Mirzoev should be mentioned, as well as last year's winner.
I would like to finish with a funny anecdote from last year is that IM Silas Lund from Denmark thought he would walk from the airport to the hotel to Bugibba in the north where the tournament is played, a promenade of about 14 kilometres. Luckily, Brynell picked him up with his taxi after a few hundred meters...

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