Editor: Dr Tim Harding
© Dr Tim Harding
10 December 2022
For more information about chess for over-50s, please see our Seniors calendar and our Seniors introduction page.
The last major senior chess congress of 2022, the World Senior Individual Championships, ended on 26 November in Assisi, Italy. Players from 51 countries and all continents participated. Congratulations to the four new champions: GMs John Nunn, Nona Gaprindashvili, Zurab Sturua and WGM Elvira Berend.
We now have separate pages about the two tournaments, linked as follows:
Since we did not play in round 11, we were able to update those pages during the games.
We have now added some general comments about the Congress and the organisation below.
Assisi, in the Italian province of Umbria, is a large and ancient hill-top city which was the home town of St Francis, where the Franciscan order of friars was founded in 1208. It was certainly worth visiting.
The town is now largely restored following two devastating earthquakes in the region in 1997 and it is now said to be the third most popular tourist destination in Italy, though in mid-November it is fairly quiet. This morning we went to one of the main pilgrimage sites, the Basilica San Francesco, about 9.30am and it was almost empty with no queues.
The tournaments were played in two adjacent hotels on the plain below, near Assisi railway station and the 16th century church of St Maria degli Angelis which was built near where St Francis lived at the end of his life. As there were shops, restaurants and a laundrette in this area it was only necessary to go up to the old city when one wished to do sightseeing. That was either a bus ride (every half hour) or a stiff uphill walk taking 40-60 minutes depending on your age and fitness.
On the free day, the organisers offered (for 50 Euro) a bus trip to Siena (about 1hr 45 minutes each way) with a guided walking tour (but no lunch arranged). Only a minority of players chose to take this option but we enjoyed seeing another famous hill city.
This is the third time we have played in a FIDE congress organised by Cristina Rigo's Arcoworldchess company and it will be the last. (We only went this time because we hadn't been able to play World Seniors since 2018 and the venue city was attractive.)
We have always had the suspicion with this organiser that they have too little concern for the wishes of the players (at least those who are not Italian) and too big an eye on their profit margin. Ms Rigo is also not good at communicating information; those of us staying at the 3-star Hotel Leonori and/or playing on the lower boards of the 65+ tournament were sometimes made to feel like second class citizens.
The Leonori was fine, actually, except that its WiFi in the rooms kept failing, regularly forcing players down to the lobby with their laptops at peak times. This is, of course, not an infrequent problem at chess tournaments because of the large bandwidth required to serve the chess community but it did cause frustration.
Some of the issues people complained of - division between three playing halls in two hotels and the Fair Play (i.e., anti-cheating) regulations which restricted spectating opportunities - were down to FIDE and not the organiser. Not only phones but also watches were forbidden in the playing hall, and devices such as hearing aids had to be registered with the arbiters. Everyone was scanned with a wand before play and there were some random checks after games. Nobody was caught cheating.
At Assisi only a few of the games not played on live boards were released in PGN, despite the fact that at the technical meeting the arbiters said that every game would be checked with Professor Regan's software. Clearly they meant only the top 16 games in each tournament - and so several of the games crucial to the 65+ Women's Championship race were not input and checked. (All Gaprindashvili's games were on live boards but here nearest rival's games in the last three rounds are not available in PGN, so presumably were unchecked, and only two of the bronze medallist's games are available.)
The division between playing halls in various hotels was also an issue at Marienbad in 2016 but otherwise the organisation there was satisfactory, not least because every game played was quickly input to database from scoresheets and posted online.
Evidently there should have been more liaison between FIDE and the organising company ahead of the event to ensure there was someone available to input games. (Speaking as somebody who has done this at international events more than once, it is quite a skilled job, given the vagaries of handwriting and the types of notation error that players make when stressed or short of time.) We may add that we found, about a week after the event was over, a few more games in each event had been added to the PGNs available online.
There also were insufficient arbiters at Assisi in my opinion, given the four playing rooms and the spread of languages to be covered.
The main reason for dissatisfaction this time was the poor quality of food served to the chess players staying in the two adjacent congress hotels (Cenacolo and Leonori, both run by the same company) which was clearly (judging from the good online reviews for both hotels) different from and much inferior to what ordinary guests at those hotels have experienced.
We also do not understand why it was necessary for the Leonori guests to walk to the other hotel for their meals (sometimes in pouring rain) and in some cases eat with people not of their choice. Only the organiser's (unknown)deal with TH, the owners of both hotels, can explain this unstaisfactory arrangement which must never be repeated at a FIDE senior tournament.
The meals we got at the Cenacolo were clearly not even of 3* standard, let alone the four stars that hotel boasts, and were described to us by one tournament veteran from a continental nation as the worst he ever had at a chess tournament, while another said the fare was "even worse than British food" and the wife of an English player described the food as "weird".
The evening meal on the arrival day, when many of us had been up early and travelling for hours with no proper food, was an almost totally inedible "mixed grill" and some of the other main courses on other days were little better. The breakfasts were passable, at least offering reasonable choice though the only hot offering was a boiled egg, scrambled egg (of indifferent quality) and an Italian version of streaky rashers.
For those of us who had been at the European Team Championships in Dresden a few weeks previously, and paid about the same money there at the Hotel Maritim, the comparison was particularly shocking. Not every organiser may be able to offer that standard but at the 2018 World Seniors in Bled, the only truly excellent World Seniors Individual Championships since 2014, the fare was far more varied and appetising.
From speaking to a Canadian player who stayed at a different hotel (because all the accommodation at the Cenacolo and Leonori had been booked out) that they did have buffet meals that were of better quality and that some players were accommodated in a fourth hotel where dinners were a la carte.
The above is only a summary of our complaints and when we have time we shall write in more detail to the FIDE Events Commission.
The Congress was opened on Tuesday 15 November by FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich who stayed in Assisi for a few days, coming straight there from the European Youth Championships in Antalya, Turkey. In his speech, Dvorkovich stated that no decision has yet been made about next year's World Individual and Team Championships but admitted it is likely the former will not be played in Russia as previously announced. (Sochi has since been removed from the FIDE Calendar online.)
Entries from female players were lower than hoped. As there must be players from at least two continents to qualify as a World Championship, FIDE made a late decision, only a few days before the start, that the women would play in the Open sections although with separate prizes. So there were just two tournaments: Open 50+ and Open 65+.
The organisers' intention had been to hold the women's tournaments in Hotel Cenacolo and the Opens in two playing rooms in the adjacent Hotel Leonori but instead the Open 65+ was split between three separate rooms in the two hotels which was hardly satisfactory. Only the live boards of the 65+ but most of the 50+ were played in Hall 1. It was also noticeable that on the lower boards of the 65+ inferior quality chess sets were provided.
You can find results and pairings (and tiebreaks) on chess-results.com with separate pages for each section. See also the official website for further details and links to the live games which are now being shown on the DGT cloud as the original live broadcast arrangements proved unreliable.
Each day the top 15 games in each section are being broadcast live but with a delay varying between 15 and 30 minutes. These games are not on chess24 unfortunately. The games can also, we believe, be found via ChessBase and maybe other sites too.
Several Russian players who were originally in the entry list withdrew, including GM Yuri Balashov and WGM Elena Fatalibekova. There is now nobody listed as RUS but there are seven players (three male and four female) who are playing under the FIDE flag.
The prize fund, increased by FIDE, includes three prizes for 75+ players (in the 65+ tournament). We should like to see more tournaments in future with 75+ prizes and indeed some tournaments specifically for players aged 75 and above.
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