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My First Trip to Puerto Rico - by GM Alex Yermolinsky

In the past few months, I have been making a tour of Central and South America courtesy of my life-long friend GM Alex Shabalov. Alex is still active on the tournament scene, and he knows the right people to make such things possible.

Our latest stop was San Juan, Puerto Rico where we took part in the Hermanos Colon Romero Memorial.


Start of Round 1

Aside of the two of us, the other guests came from Cuba, Grandmasters Yuri Gonzalez Vidal and Reynaldo Vera. We were treated like royalty throughout the whole thing, and at the closing ceremony were presented with beautiful works of local artist and chess enthusiast Jose Paul Reyes

 

From left to right, GM Alexander Shabalov, GM Alex Yermolinsky, Gabriel Pinales (organizer), GM Yuri Gonzalez Vidal, GM Reynaldo Gonzalez-Quevedo and artist Jose Raul Reyes. Photo taken by IA Cristobal Vega

Overall, the tournament wasn't that strong, but the local players proved to be tough competition, and one of them, a 2022-rated Diego Zilleruelo Irizarry managed to score 2.5 out of 4 against the GMs!


Diego Zilleruelo Irizarry

The atmosphere was very relaxing, thanks to the choice of tournament site. We played in the Natatorium, which as the name indicates is an Aquatic Center located in popular recreation location of Parque Central. It boasts a gorgeous Olympic-size swimming pool, one of the very few in the world that are of open air type. Obviously, the year-around summer of Puerto Rico makes such things possible. Shabalov, who's a known fitness fanatic took full advantage of the facilities, while I also went a few laps between the games.

 

 

Walking in Parque Central one sometimes encounters wildlife.

 

Those guys aren't native to the island, but they seem to be thriving there. One of our friends, Abner is his first name, took us for a ride outside of town where we took a pleasant one-hour walk on a trail that followed the coast-line.

 

Some of the trees are still down from the Hurricane Maria devastation, and only very brave souls can walk down to the waterline.

 

Shabba went down there...

Don't worry, he came back alive and well.

The next day we felt like countering our healthy lifestyle by taking a trip to the Bacardi Museum

 

to continue with our cultural enrichment.

 

 

Long walks in Viejo San Juan

 

 

brought us to the Spanish-build old fortification, known as Castillo San Felipe del Morro, or simply El Morro.

 

Then, there was swimming in the ocean, tasting local food, listening to jazz band at a sidewalk cafe, shooting eight-ball in the local dive, visit to a cigar shop and many other fun things us tourists do.

Oh, and was there any chess? Indeed it was. The main tournament was a seven-round affair won by Gonzalez Vidal, who won a critical battle early.

 

 

For the rest of the tournament Yuri didn't experience any problems and finished a clear winner with 6 points

I was at 4.5 after 5 rounds, only a half-point behind the leader, thanks to the following efforts.

 

 

On the last day, however, my vacation spirit took over and I took two quick draws to secure my second place finish.

 

Here I am going home happy with a new hat and new memories.

 

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