The Gazette - August 2015

Edited by Julie Leonard
The views expressed in the Gazette do not necessarily reflect the policies or views of the BCA, nor those of the editor.

Why Not Give Haaksbergen a Try?

I was asked by the main organiser of the Haaksbergen tournament to encourage people to give the tournament a try, so here are a few thoughts based on my own experiences. As well as listing what makes it so enjoyable, I’ve also addressed a couple of things that people have told me make them hesitate to try it out.

I’ve been twice now, and everything else being equal, intend to go again next year. A particular feature of the event is your stay with a host family. We are well looked after and I know that some people who have been have stayed in regular contact with their host families after the event is over. The arrangement seems to work rather well; you get social interaction, but you can also get time to yourself if that’s what you want. You don’t end up getting under people’s feet.

The social side of things is important. On the Friday evening you go to the playing venue to see who your opponents will be, but this get-together is just as much an excuse for a couple of drinks at the bar and an opportunity to catch up with people or make new friends. There’s also a party on Saturday evening. Attendance isn’t mandatory, but why wouldn’t you go? On Sunday evening I’ve gone out for a dinner with the host family.

My experience is that the attitude towards the chess amongst the players varies a bit. There are prizes for first and second on each table of four and some do take it pretty seriously. It is generally expected that you will play competitively, but I also know that there are some people who only play three games a year, i.e. their three Haaksbergen games! The point is you can find your own level. For me this gives the event a slightly different feeling to a typical weekend congress and it means that Haaksbergen can be attractive to both those who want serious chess and those who want something just a bit less testing than your typical five-round Swiss.

The other thing that one or two have told me makes them hesitate to go is the apparently complicated travel arrangements; the ferry and train route can sound messy. In fact the truth is the journey flows remarkably smoothly. You can get on the boat early and there is entertainment on the ferry if you want it, or you can just get the chessboard out if you prefer. There are opportunities to break up the journey (we’ve spotted a couple of excellent chocolate shops en route!), and what actually happens, particularly on the journey back, is that we just turn it into a relaxing day pottering around and going to places we fancy. Even so, if this doesn’t appeal, you can always make your own travel arrangements, just as long as I know so that I can inform the tournament organiser.

I’ll finish here by saying that I was always tempted to go but for various reasons didn’t (concerns over not having a guide, which in fact we’ve always managed to get around, being one reason), but having actually gone I wish I’d started going a lot earlier. I’m guessing I’ll be taking on the organisation of the trip next year, so if you are tempted let me know; at least four people who went before have told me they’re thinking of going again.

Guy Whitehouse.

Editor’s Note: Please see Mike Murphy’s report on Haaksbergen 2015, which includes dates for the 2016 event.