Editor: Dr Tim Harding
© Dr Tim Harding
28 March 2023
For more information about chess for over-50s, please see our Seniors calendar and our Seniors introduction page.
The FIDE Events Commission's call for bids to host the 2023 World Senior Individual Championships closes this coming Friday, 31 March. For details, see their website.
The call was dated on 16 March but we did not see it highlighted on the Commission's website up to 22nd March when we made our last update of these pages. It may well have been circulated to FIDE's member federations on the 16th.
The notice is of course very short but originally these championships had been awarded to Sochi, Russia, and it was only towards the end of 2022 that FIDE President Dvorkovich admitted that this could not be the venue. We were surprised that a call for bids was not issued at the start of this year, at the same time as the call for the team competitions. The venues and dates for both events would normally have been settled months ago.
Meanwhile the FIDE Events Commission still has to decide between the four bids it received from organisers offering to host the 2023 World Senior Team Championships. These bids were from the national federations of Malta, North Macedonia, Thailand and Italy (Sardinia). For details see further on in this article.
The Events website also links to new (March 2023) FIDE regulations concerning the regulations for World Senior Championships. These can be found in section D/04/03 of the FIDE Handbook. One detail we noted is that the championship could be reduced from 11 rounds to 9 rounds. Other changes concern offering choices of hotels and meal plans, evidently in response to criticisms of last year's arrangements in Assisi.
The new regulations also state that "the organizer of the competition should ensure representation of all continents and at least 20 (?) players in each of the categories." There was criticism last year of FIDE's late decision not to hold separate tournaments for female players, which was apparently because not all continents would have been represented.
In view of the continuing uncertainty over where and when the FIDE World Seniors Championships will be held, we may expect that the European equivalents will attract a larger and stronger entry than is often the case.
The organisers of the European Individual Championships have now set up a provisional entry list on the chess-results website. English GM John Nunn, the current World 65+ Champion, tops the list while chess legend GM Nona Gaprindashvili has also entered in recent days. As of today, there are 110 entries in total but we can expect the final figure to be 200 or so. The list is not yet split between entries for the 50+ and 65+ sections.
Scottish-based Danish GM Jacob Aagaard, the well-known chess trainer, author and publisher (with Quality Chess), has entered the 50+ Championship but is not the highest rated entrant. That is now former 50+ World Champion Zurab Sturua of Georgia. The name of GM Azmaiparashvili briefly appeared on the list but has now been removed.
Another high-rated entry for the 50+ tournament is Israeli GM Ram Soffer, who is also a grandmaster at chess problem-solving and moreover (not currently mentioned on his slim Wikipedia page) Soffer is a concert pianist. Some readers who played in Bled in 2018 may recall the impromptu recital he gave one evening in the hotel lounge, accompanying an American opera singer who was also playing in the World 50+ Championship that year.
It should be noted that as of May Russia quits its affiliation to the ECU and becomes a member of the Asian branch of FIDE. In theory this should mean that Russian players should no longer be able to compete in official European championships unless they take up the option to transfer to other European federations. In practice we shall have to see what happens. Two of the 93 entrants to the European Seniors are Russian, indicated by the "FIDE" registration.
Meanwhile, the European Chess Union and the Polish Chess Federation have published details of the European Senior Team Championships (50+ and 65+) to be played in the city of Swidnica, Silesia, in July. (This is nearly 400km from the border with Ukraine.) The longer the announcement for the World events is delayed, the more likely this event will attract a strong entry.
The full regulations and hotel offers can be found on the ECU website or via our calendar page where the English PDF is available. Teams can represents nations, regions or clubs and as usual there are separate prizes for all-female teams.
There is now an entry list on the chess-results site but at the time of writing there are only seven teams listed: four British and three Polish. Of course it is early days and entries only close in Juen but there are discounts on fees for entering by early April or (lesser discounts) by early May.
North Macedonia propose to hold the event in Ohrid between 19-29 September. Those dates do not clash with any other major senior congress, but the venue (a lake town in the south-west of the former Yugoslav republic) is 160km from the capital Skopje, to which many western European airlines do not fly anyway. Overland travel to and from the relatively close Tirana (capital of Albania) might not be any easier.
The Italian bid is from the team in Sardinia who have run some successful events in the past including the European individual championships in 2021. They propose to play in Palau between 20 and 30 October. One potential problem is that the most convenient airport is Olbia (about 40km distance and served by airlines including Easyjet) but Ryanair fly to the southern Cagliari airport, about as far from Palau as you can be on the island. Still, compared with the obvious difficulty of reaching Ohrid, this is not an insuperable objection.
The bid from Malta (in connection with the well-known Greek organiser Nikos Kalesis) proposes the venue of Mellieha (north Malta) from 2-13 November. Travelling there should not be any problem. The dates are around the time a chess congress is usually held in that country, but this is the time of the year when the World Senior individual championships are normally held so if this bid is accepted a different problem will arise.
The Asean Chess Academy of Thailand propose to hold the team event in, probably, Bangkok, between 15 and 26 October. Weather-wise, we are told, this may be a good time of year to visit but in our view, expressed to the Commission, Thailand would be a more suitable venue for the individual championships. It is certainly not a bad idea to host a Senior championship outside Europe for a change, but to play this team event outside Europe would be a "first", and one that would be very likely to flop as the level of entries would probably be very low. Singapore is the only Asian nation that is usually strongly represented at FIDE senior tournaments and we cannot remember seeing a Thai competitor.
The cost and other issues associated with long-haul travel are likely to deter many teams who would be willing to play in most European countries. Individual players can make their own decisions about flights, but to coordinate arrangements for a team of four or five players to travel to Bangkok months ahead is trickier, given the risk that a team member may have to drop out at a late stage. Health issues for seniors have frequently in the past meant that teams have had to withdraw or play without a reserve because of illness.
So the Events Commission certainly does not have an easy decision, especially as it may be in negotiations with all four bidders about other dates and whether any would be willing to host the individual champoionships (which originally were due to be played in Sochi, Russia) instead of the team competitions. We hope they make wise decisions.
Details of the 2023 English Seniors (in May) and British Seniors (late July) can be found on the ECF website, linked from our calendar page.
Unlike the English Seniors (only for players with an ENG registration), the British events are also open to players from Ireland (north and south), Scotland, Wales, the Channel Islands and Isle of Man, and even to genuine long-term British residents who are not nationals and one or two British expats who are FIDE-registered with other countries.
During 2022 the Amateur Chess Organisation (ACO) expanded its activities for senior players and their 50+ "World Seniors Championships" was held at the Fodele Resort, Crete, Greece, where the 2023 event will be played. However ACO cancelled plans for a team event because of insufficient interest.
ACO is a German-based commercial company. Note that their tournaments are NOT rated by FIDE although they use FIDE (or national) ratings to determine which tournament entrants compete in. The "titles" they award are not recognised by anyone except themselves.
ACO events are essentially a holiday but they are popular with regular visitors. FIDE need to recognise that they are in competition with ACO for the large minority (or is it small majority?) of senior players who want a good holiday and not just a chess tournament.
The 2023 Irish Senior Championships were held over seven rounds in Dublin from 5-8 January as part of a very successful programme of events. This now traditional New Year festival could not be held in either 2021 or 2022.
78-year-old Eamon Keogh scored a notable success, winning the strong 65+ Championship with 5.5/7. The Irish co-champion of 1975 and 1979 finished a clear point ahead of a 5-way tie for second which included your editor who was also unbeaten but failed to convert several good positions.
This very enjoyable tournament attracted a record entry of 30 players and the large number of hard-fought drawn games was reflective of the fact that at least a third of the field had played internationally for Ireland, including two who were in the 50+ age group only last year.
The 50+ championship was smaller, perhaps because the date schedule did not suit players returning to work after Christmas. Ciaran Quinn was a worthy winner of the Irish title, holding off a strong overseas challenge for the prize money. Quinn shared first place on 6/7 with Nicholas Schoonmaker (USA) ahead of third-placed FM Cesar Becx (Netherlands) who scored 5.
The final major senior chess congress of 2022, the World Senior Individual Championships at Assisi, was decided on 26 November, when the final rounds were played. We added some further comments about the organisation during December.
We also still have our final report on the European Senior Team Championships (50+ and 65+) which concluded earlier in November in Dresden, Germany. That was a very enjoyable and well run event, and the first we were able to play abroad in over four years, meeting many old friends.
The ECU has awarded their 2024 senior events to Slovenia (team championships) and Italy (individuals) in consecutive weeks in October of that year. The venues look attractive and geographically quite close; overland travel between the two should take only a few hours. See our calendar for details, which may of course change.
To make room for new announcements, news of past events which have been on this page for some time are now removed. We sball probably strip this page back to recent news once the summer season of senior events gets under way.
The death was announced during August 2021 of the 2017 Senior World Champion, GM Evgeny Sveshnikov, who was a regular competitor in FIDE senior tournaments for several years. You can still find our obituary notice on a separate page.
If you have Seniors chess news you would like posted here, or announcements of future events, please email Tim Harding.
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