Wednesday, September 2, 2015


My participation at a tournament never depends of the prizes. It is my hobby so the tempo, the expected opposition, location ... are more important to me. A professional will obviously look differently to this. Recently I read on the blog of Natalia Pogonina that for many professionals it becomes very difficult to cover the expenses.

An important reason would be the diminishing prizes of many tournaments. Is this true or fiction? I made a test by comparing the prizes of Open Gent in 1997 and  2015. The total prizes decreased from 7437 euro to 7125 euro. The first prize decreased from 1859 euro to 1800 euro. The CPI for Belgium (consumption-price-index or inflation) would be around 40 % in that period. Although these are official data, it is well known that this figure is rather optimistic by selecting only a bunch of products while the expenses of each family raised much more. E.g. I managed to sell my apartment in 2009 for approximately 100% higher of the buying price in 2000.

Besides the prizes also the growing number of grandmasters (already mentioned in my previous article) influences the income. In 1997 3 grandmasters participated at Open Gent. That is half less than recent years: 7 grandmasters in 20135 grandmasters in 2014 and 6 grandmasters in 2015. Even a modest total prizes of 3455 euro and a first prize of 800 euro attracted in Open Brasschaat already 4 grandmasters surprising the organizers. So not only the cake becomes smaller but it must also be split by more people. The era that a player like Bernard De Bruycker in the 70ties could make a living from chess in Spain as described in the book What is wrong mister Kasparov? is passed long ago and will surely not return.

I already talked about the negative consequences of this evolution on my blog see earlier articles: professional chess and quitting chess. However there is also something positive about this. First more (strong) amateurs get the opportunity to play against a grandmaster. Furthermore I also detect a much higher competitiveness between the top-players. A decade ago somebody like the Bulgarian grandmaster Boris Chatalbashev was an exception. While his colleagues easily played a few short draws in open tournaments, he was often the only professional playing each game till the end which I could see for myself in Plancoet 2004. Today he still uses the same strategy sometimes bringing him some big victories like recently in Maribor which hosted the Pirc Memorial.

Today Boris is not an exception anymore transforming many open tournaments being completely unpredictable. Very often it is only after the last round that the winner is known. In the last Open Gent we even saw 2 + 2600 players going home without any prize. In Brasschaat the victory was shared by the untitled Stefan Colijn. In Charleroi on the other hand we saw 5 winners despite a firework of deciding games. Eventually Alozyas Kveinys was proclaimed the tournament-winner thanks to a better coefficient although he lost in round 8. His game of a round earlier against Igor Naumkin is a good example of those gladiator-fights.

An interesting opening from white especially if you like to play the Dutch. In our mutual game of 2012 another variation popped up on the board (some fragment of that game was shown in the article sitzfleisch) but I did meet the specific line last interclubseason against Stijn Bertrem.

Due to the developments we also have to notice that including sofia rules became less relevant. I can imagine many grandmasters aren't happy to play in this surviving-mode. Some already decided to get a normal job besides just playing chess. Unfortunately this isn't always good for the results as Mher probably can confirm with the last Open Brasschaat.


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