Chronicle of a Tournament

By Pedro Pablo Morejon

HAVANA TIMES – It was morning on September 18th and the most important chess tournament in my province was going to begin. Here, spots are given for the semi-final of the national championship.

After 10 years outside the chess world, I got ready to play because even though time has passed, my profile is still at the FIDE (International Chess Federation), my Elo Rating and as a result, my classification for these kinds of events.

A part of me really wanted it, a month playing online can’t substitute the adrenaline of sitting face-to-face with an opponent in front of a physical board. I wanted to test myself and also enjoy the beauty of the king of mind games.

Another part of me wondered if it was worth investing a week into this fun, but stressful game, without taking care of more important matters given the fact I’m not going to become a professional chess player at this point in life.

Despite my indecision, my feet led me to the place until I found out that it had been postponed until October because of logistical problems.

I was relieved, I’d have a month to make sure I could take part. October 18th rolled around, and I had decided on playing despite the downsides. 

I reached the chess academy, the place of the tournament and then, in the technical meeting before the competition, I learned about the provincial committee’s acrobatic act to try and make sure the tournament took place. I concluded that INDER (Institute of Sport, Physical Education and Recreation), the state-led body responsible for guiding any sports event in Cuba, had abandoned them, they still didn’t have the resources to pay for it.

Accommodation and food for players from municipalities were thanks to arrangements made by this official and personal help from a father of a chess prodigy in the province, who works at the University.

The accommodation was over 3 km away from the site of the tournament with poor food without guaranteeing them breakfast.

As there wasn’t enough for more than six days, we had to play two rounds a day, in the morning and afternoon, including the weekend, something exhausting for someone who doesn’t know the physical and emotional burnout that comes with over four hours competing in a game where the brain doesn’t rest between calculating tactical plays, choosing a strategy and definitely trying to beat a rival that is going to make it very difficult because they also want the same thing.

At least the place, which will host the national championship in February 2024, has been remodeled and has air conditioning, new boards and digital clocks, the latter surprised me.

I remember those Russian clocks from the 1970s and ‘80s years ago, which were already faulty and in shortage, and over half of them had been brought from home by competitors to make sure the tournament could go ahead.

I ended the tournament with great relief and my body aching. Playing all day was torture and the truth is I was wishing for it to end so I could rest, once you register and begin you can’t leave unless you want to be sanctioned by the FIDE.

In terms of my results, I passed without much fuss, and ended up in the middle of the rankings board although after being out of the game for so long, I could consider it an achievement.

In November, the Hermanos Saiz tournament will take place, a national event and of course conditions shouldn’t be so hard as the recent one, even if conditions are quite poor.

I’m going to play, maybe I’m a masochist, but chess is fascinating…

Read more from the diary of Pedro Pablo Morejón