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10 January 2016

Fine Weather in Tallinn

Picture report from the opening ceremony of the Paul Keres Memorial – ACP Open by Vladimir Barsky.

“The weather in Tallinn is good, 15 degrees below zero”, – the flight hostess informs us in a cheerful voice. And who knows if minus 15 is really for you good or not? After the frostbound Moscow I wanted to enjoy a little bit of warm weather instead! However, the winter in the capital of Estonia is beautiful and snow-white. On the way to the hotel the taxi driver assures us that there will be no more frost in just another day or two from now. To drive the point home he goes on to add, "In fact, we have had plus 10 at Christmas after all!" How come, and what day is it today anyway? Ah, indeed, it is December 25th – the Catholic Christmas! Well, at the end of December we also used to have something which looked neither like spring nor like autumn...

January 7 marks one hundred year anniversary of the birth of Paul Keres. Estonia is celebrating this date on a grand scale, having released a postage stamp and a two euro coin featuring their national hero, whereas the chess tournaments, dedicated to the memory of Paul Petrovich, are being organized at all parts of the republic. However, the biggest festival, organized with the support of the Association of Chess Professionals, is about to start off in Tallinn. Among the participants are Peter Svidler, Boris Gelfand, Pavel Eljanov, Nikita Vitiugov, Alexandra Kosteniuk, Pavel Tregubov, Emil Sutovsky, Igor Kovalenko, Pia Cramling, Valentina Gunina, and Alexander Motylev. There are also grandmasters of the older generation, Yuri Balashov and Evgeny Sveshnikov, who used to meet Keres in person over the board. Evgeny Ellinovich recalls outperforming the great chess player in the opening to end up winning the exchange, but failed to convert it in the final run as Keres managed to salvage the ending with a bishop pair versus a rook and a knight. "Back then Petrosian had quite a laugh at my technical performance!"

Sveshnikov tells this story with a smile in the Paul Keres Chess House, where the opening ceremony of the Memorial takes place. The ground floor accommodates a museum, on a wall of which one of the pictures shows the game Petrosian - Keres against the background of a portrait of Lenin. Immediately next to is a wax effigy of Paul Petrovich: the grandmaster is analyzing one of the Ruy Lopez lines that bears his name nowadays (the one with the retreat of the knight to d7), but for some unknown reason he is sitting from the white side of the board. Meanwhile, on the second floor the participants and guests are welcomed by the President of the Chess Federation of Estonia Andrei Korobeinik, the ACP President Emil Sutovsky, and the statesmen of Estonia. The speech was delivered in three languages ​​– Estonian, English and Russian. Sitting in the front row of the spectators’ hall is the daughter of Paul Petrovich.

The tournament itself will be hosted by the Radisson hotel, where the majority of the participants have come to stay. It takes five minutes on foot from the hotel to the old town. In general, they say that nothing is faraway in Tallinn because of it being a relatively small town. However, this is a very beautiful town indeed, dressed up for Christmas.

The 25th Keres Memorial - ACP Open is a Swiss system tournament that features 11 rounds, 15 minutes time control till the end of the game + 10 second increment per move. Four games are scheduled for each day of January 8 and 9, while January 10 will conclude the event with the final three rounds.

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