Mike Waddington, for many years one of Dorset’s strongest players and a keen congress participant, shares his experiences of playing in the Gibraltar Masters and, immediately before that, the Seville Open both in late 2018. At the end of the item, Mike provides a link for one of his games in the Masters. Many thanks to him for sending this article in! And also thanks to his wife Vicki for her added comments. Vicki explains she struggled a little for things to do while the chess was being played, but mainly because “they were there for so long”. She thinks Gibraltar would be a great place to visit for a 4 day stopover.
Towards the end of last year, I received an invite to the Gibraltar Masters due to a few good results. I wound up Bolty (Graham Bolt) about this who was turned down and furious that other lesser stars were accepted. Never one to turn down an invitation, Stuart Conquest suggested I might play in the Seville Open the week before and so it was that on a cold, dark January morning my wife and I set off for the ferry from Poole and drove down France and into Spain which I had not visited since the hot summer of 2003. We visited Pamplona and Madrid where we arrived for what seemed their own Trooping of The Colour, but was in fact the State opening of Parliament. We next went via Toledo and Cordoba (must see place) before hitting Seville.
I hadn’t played in a big continental open for some time and the congress centre meant everyone was playing in the same semi-circular room which I liked as well as the cosmopolitan atmosphere. I think the daily 5.30pm start is very civilized, giving you time to explore the city. Unfortunately, I caught a bug and this cut short my explorations. My chess suffered and I finished on 50% score. We went to Gibraltar via Cadiz. I had never been and it is a hectic, polluted place with much high rise going up. There is so much traffic but I didn’t see where it was going as it is only 2.5 square miles dominated by the Rock. There was no cable car running, so we had to make it up the Charles V Staircase with macaques running down. After a long walk and time ticking my wife sent me on to get to the chess and said she would find her own way down. An hour later my ‘poor’ wife who had inveigled a lift from a local craftsman comes sailing past me waving enthusiastically and laughing.
The venue, The Caleta Hotel situated on the east coast has seen better days. It has become a victim of its own success. Whilst the top players MVL, So, Nakamura et al play on the 1st floor with superior conditions- space and light the rest of us play 3 floors below in the dingy conditions of the basement. When Gibraltar started, playing in the basement was known as the Walk Of Shame and I understand why. What can I say about my chess? Awful. 2.5/10. Suffice to say I won’t be invited back. And I have had to put up with much ribbing from Bolty!
I liked the Master Classes where top players demonstrate their games, talk about how they got started and their hopes for the future. Conquest is a great director and he was very generous with the wine. I did not like the way some top GMs attempted to bully him for this and that. You should think yourself lucky with the privileged terms you receive rather than expect more. The farewell dinner was a disappointment. I was sitting with Robert Bellin and others and we waited 2 hours(10.30pm) to be served our starter which was one lettuce leaf and one beetroot slice I kid you not while the local dignitaries had already had their first 2 courses.
I do not feel I need to go back. My wife was struggling finding things to do. I would recommend Guernsey instead. I played for the first time last year and understand why people keep coming back and have a role of honour to reflect this. If, however you fancy the Gibraltar Masters and do not get a personal invite you can attend a seminar on Gibraltar with Veselin Topalov Thurs 16th– Sat 18th Jan 2020 which guarantees a place to the Masters starting Tues 21st Jan 2020. The only catch – it costs £1110 or £1400 with accommodation and that is before you factor in an entry fee of £150 and boarding costs.
Mike Waddington, 2 July ‘19
Please click on this link to see one of Mike’s games: