Blog Post #105: Great Chess in Geraardsbergen!

Dear Readers,

A superb team of dedicated, hardworking organizers led by Dirk Flamée really did extremely well to run the 36th International Open Chess Tournament of Geraardsbergen across five locations from August 8-12 to cater for 214 players who were happy and grateful for getting to take part in a wonderful over-the-board, in-person competition, overcoming the many extra challenges of managing this in these difficult Corona times.

For very many people, this highly memorable event was their first return to chess after a necessarily long time-gap due to the global situation.

Lots of keen and talented young players performed magnificently, and special congratulations must go to Dutch FIDE Master Onno Elgersma who, though still only a teenager, won the tournament impressively with 6 wins, 3 draws and no losses, thereby amassing a score of 7.5/9.

Among the older players (like myself!), Dutch International Master Herman Grooten did particularly well to equal Onno’s score of 7.5 points and finish 2nd on tie-break. (Though I don’t personally know Herman’s son, Tommy Grooten, I would still like to add sincere congratulations to young Tommy on scoring five points and winning a prize for being a high-achieving youth-player.)

One of the other titled players in the field was IM Geert Van Der Stricht, a great friend whom I have known for around 25 years already. He nearly always plays very fine chess indeed, and I would like to wish Geert lots of enjoyment and success in the Belgian Championships which start in Brugge today.

Most of the year round, I dedicate a large part of my time to teaching Mathematics. In Belgium, I have been doing that in schools (and sometimes with families) since 2005 and, in the sixteen-year period from then until now, I have only actually played a total of five chess tournaments: one in 2005, one in 2009, one in 2013, one in 2017, and then in Geraardsbergen now in 2021. So, though I did prepare intensively at home for a whole month before going to Geraardsbergen, I certainly still have more to do in order to try to produce my best. On this occasion, I am truly happy and grateful for having had a lovely time with lots of friendly people at the tournament. I also particularly thank my opponents Frans, Johannes, Koen, Simon, Oleg, Bob, Jordy, Joris and Rick for nine terrific battles over the chessboard! Given everything that has happened, I am content with 4 wins and 5 draws (6.5/9), and the valuable lessons learned from all the games.

I am delighted to now post several nice photos which all hold good memories of this time in Geraardsbergen.

Analysing happily with Wessel, Alexandre and Peter

Pictured with Griet De Moyer, who owns The Preacher where I played my chess games and enjoyed seeing old friends and making many new ones. Griet has brothers Karel, Tijl and Wouter. A long time ago when we were all much younger, I had the pleasure of doing some chess coaching with them.
Pictured with Stefaan, a dear friend whom I first met thirty years ago at the 1991 Ostend open tournament when he was only 14 and I was 29. To figure out Stefaan’s family name, crack this little brainteaser…! Think of a very particular number. Write it as a word, in English. Count the number of letters in that word. Double that. The result is the same special number that is Stefaan’s family name!

Well, congratulations for getting Stefaan SIX (rather than Stefaan Twelve) !! 😊

It’s good and healthy to laugh a lot, and so here’s a wee joke based on something amusing that Johan Devriese said to me… Why are the chess players in country B generally stronger than the ones in country A !?

It’s because country B has longer winters, and what else would you do throughout wintertime than study chess of course!!

I would like to now conclude this article by saying a big “THANK YOU” again to Dirk Flamée and his entire team of organisers, arbiters and other really good people who made the 36th Geraardsbergen Open such a special event. I look forward to seeing you again, and in the meantime I wish everyone a wonderful, happy weekend now.

God bless you all, and enjoy solving the beautiful chess puzzle shown in the final photo here.

With kindest wishes as always,

Paul Motwani xxx

1 Rxh7?? would produce stalemate. Your fun challenge is to find a far stronger move that wins for White. Happy solving! 😊

Author: Paul A. Motwani

My name is Paul Motwani, but my colleagues, my students and their parents mostly call me "Mr. Mo"! My middle initial, A, stands for Anthony, because I was born on the official feast day of St. Anthony of Padua, the patron saint of miracles and of lost souls. I love teaching Mathematics and Chess, and giving fun-packed talks and shows in schools and clubs. The popular ingredients of Math, Chess, Mystery and Magic are my "Fantastic Four", and I give prizes too! I am an International Chess Grandmaster, and (loooooong ago!) I was the World Under-17 Champion. I am the author of five published chess books and hundreds of newspaper articles. I live with my wonderful wife and son in Belgium. I also love music, movies and puzzles. I blog at My e-mail address is You can find me on Facebook, too.

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