This year’s edition of the European Rapid and Blitz Chess Championship was a great success. The event was hosted in the same location as in 2021, the Spodek Arena in Katowice. What makes this tournament special is the combination of a big arena, band music, and over 900 competitors playing each other for a weekend. The idea of an arena with spectators, music playing, and some people performing arts or fighting has been a hit for thousands of years. Greek antic theatre, Olympic games, or gladiator fights are such examples. A recipe for success that still pays off.
Compared to the previous year, the number of participants increased by more than 50% in the rapid section. Also, the percentage of women from all participants who played rose from 17% to over 20% in 2022. The reason is the constant interest in chess worldwide combined with no Covid restrictions this year.
The rapid section of the tournament consists of 11 rounds of chess, and in each round, you get to play someone who has the same amount of points as you. In the end, the person with the most points is declared the Champion of Europe in Rapid chess. Also, the woman who gains the most points is Woman European Champion. This year the winner was Jaime Santos Latasa from Spain with 9.5 points, followed by ten players with 9 points. Aleksandra Maltsevskaya from Poland won the women’s title with 8.5 points. Aleksandra’s win was a surprise as the rating favorite was Alexandra Kosteniuk, who is also the woman world champion in rapid chess. Alexandra Kosteniuk also had 8.5 points but an inferior tiebreak result and ended in second place. Both women represented Russia before, but now that country is banned by FIDE from chess events. Russian players must play for another country or under the FIDE flag in official chess events.
It was snowing heavily in Poland during those days, and the train was the safest way to get there, although many trains had delays because of snow. That weekend was also the final of the world soccer championship. The organizers changed the schedule of the chess tournament to finish before the start of the world cup final. Therefore on Sunday, we played without pauses for the 5 rounds and completed the chess in time before the soccer started.
There were players across all of Europe there. Many players are from Ukraine, as the border is close; for them, it was also a way to forget about the war. It is the end of a challenging year, and people want to enjoy a normal life for a weekend as if nothing has happened. Things around us can change anytime; we should enjoy the present moment and what we have.
As always, the event had excellent broadcasting on Youtube with comments and interviews. Here you can watch the last day of the games:
I only wanted to have fun, and am happy with the outcome. I won 5 games and lost 6, no draws, and lost 48 Elo points in the end. I met three titled players, and the best was the International Grandmaster Ralf Akesson from Sweden. The game was excellent but required a lot of mental energy. In the diagram, the black and white bar on the left of the chess table represents the computer evaluation of the position. When the bar becomes completely white, white is clearly winning.
European rapid in Katowice is one of my favorite chess tournaments. It is fun and exciting; you forget about anything else in life for a while. I liked the atmosphere there, and it is hard to express that in words. Perhaps this article explains better what I am trying to say.