This year's route took 76 players and about half again as many other guests from Prague to Vienna, Budapest, Trenčín (Slovakia), Krakow and back to Prague.
Rogers narrowly won the 12-round rapid tournament with 9 points, edging out Czech GM Martin Petr by a fraction of a tiebreak point. (Full results)
The one-of-a-kind tournament is sponsored by Czech Railways, which debuted a chess-themed locomotive at the opening ceremony in Prague. It pulled the ten train cars — named after World Champions — along the Czech portion of the five-country route.
Each day, beginning just after departure, participants play between one and three rounds at a time control of 20 minutes a game with a 10 second increment per move. In the afternoon, when the train arrives, players check in to their hotels and then have the remainder of the day to explore a new city. It's a great way to combine a little chess with travel and sightseeing, particularly for those who enjoy scenic train rides.
Rogers is one of a very small number of full-time chess journalists, and this was a rare occasion for him to play himself; professional chess competition was stressful enough to become a danger to his health, and he officially retired a few years ago on the advice of his doctor. But the atmosphere on the Chess Train is relaxed and so he decided to take the ride for the first time.
Winning the tournament provided a small way to honor his friend and editor Břetislav Modr, who was the founder of the leading Czech chess magazine ŠachInfo, and died earlier this year. At the closing ceremony Rogers accepted his first place prize of 15,000 Czech Koruna (about USD $700) in Modr's memory.
You can play through one of Rogers' wins below:
1. d4 ♘f6 2. ♗g5 e6 3. e4 h6 4. ♗xf6 ♕xf6 5. c3 d6 6. ♗d3 e5 7. ♘e2 c6 8. O-O ♕d8 9. f4 ♘d7 10. fxe5 dxe5 11. ♗c4 ♘f6 12. ♕b3 ♕b6 13. ♗xf7+ ♔d8 14. ♘d2 ♕xb3 15. ♗xb3 ♗g4 16. ♘g3 exd4 17. cxd4 ♗b4 18. ♘f3 ♖e8 19. ♘e5 ♗e6 20. ♗xe6 ♖xe6 21. ♘d3 ♗d2 22. e5 ♘d7 23. ♖ad1 ♗e3+ 24. ♔h1 g6 25. ♖f3 ♗g5 26. ♘e4 ♔c7 27. ♖f7 ♖f8 28. ♖df1 ♖xf7 29. ♖xf7 b6 30. g3 ♔d8 31. ♘xg5 hxg5 32. ♔g2 ♔e8 33. ♖g7 g4 34. ♘f4
The Chess Train is a novel idea, based on the simple notion that sharing a game of chess on a train is a delightful way to pass the time. It's easy to romanticize trains, which have connected cultures in far flung places since the mid-19th century, just as chess has for many centuries before.Looking up from your board at the unfamiliar landscape whizzing by, you can imagine yourself as part of that grand international history, a global citizen speaking the universal language of the sixty-four squares.
Personally it was also a chance for me to play in my first tournament since 2011. The result (4 wins, 4 draws, 4 losses) was uninspiring, but not terrible either. The second round where I failed to win a position that was -6 in my favor, was fairly indicative:
1. c4 c5 2. ♘c3 ♘c6 3. g3 g6 4. ♗g2 ♗g7 5. ♘f3 ♘f6 6. O-O O-O 7. e3 e5 8. ♘g5 d6 9. d3 ♗g4 10. f3 ♗d7 11. b3 ♘e8 12. e4 h6 13. ♘h3 ♕c8 14. ♘f2 ♘c7 15. ♗e3 f5 16. ♖c1 f4 17. ♗d2 ♘d4 18. ♘e2 fxg3 19. ♘xg3 ♕d8 20. ♗e3 ♕h4 21. ♗xd4 exd4 22. ♖c2 ♗e5 23. ♘fh1 ♖f7 24. ♖ff2 ♖af8 25. ♘f1 ♘e6 26. ♘hg3 ♘g5 27. ♔h1 No need to rush. White has no moves.
Ian and his wife Cathy are long-time friends, and graciously invited me to join them, along with WFM Hana Modrova, on the daily excursions in each city (see gallery below). Among the highlights were Trenčín Castle, parts of which date back to the Moravian Empire in the 9th Century — so it is naturally replete with history. A tour of Budapest from local IM Laszlo Hazai (a former coach of the Polgar sisters) provided stunning views across the Danube, as well as an unexpected candlelit dinner.
The chief shortcoming of the tournament is that you often have just a few hours in the destination city. In Krakow, for instance, we arrived at about 18:00, which wasn't enough time to explore a city I've never had the pleasure to visit before.
Still, if you like chess and you love to travel, this is the tournament. There were players from all over the world but, surprisingly, I was the only player from the USA this year.
Czech Railways has already agreed to sponsor the tournament for a further two years. The 2015 route will take players from Prague to Dresden, Warsaw, Bratislava and Vienna, from October 9-13. Mark your calendars!
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