Chess is no longer a mind gym for badly dressed men
‘We shall never surrender — British Forever,’ reads the sign outside the gift shop, but here at the Caleta Hotel British sovereignty is the last thing on anybody’s mind. Perched above a sandy beach in a quiet corner of Gibraltar, this quaint hotel is a great place to escape the winter blues. But nobody is outside by the pool. They’re all indoors, playing chess.
The Tradewise Gibraltar Open is regarded, quite rightly, as the world’s best chess tournament. With several hundred players from 61 countries holed up for a fortnight, it’s like a gigantic mind gym, full of some of the smartest folk on earth. Outside, in the real world, every TV channel is ablaze with news of Donald Trump’s latest pronouncement, but none of that matters here. The big screens in the lobby are tuned to the chess matches upstairs. Trump could start a nuclear war and none of these geek gladiators would notice. Whether they’re hunched over the chessboard or unwinding in the bar, the only thing they think or talk about is chess.
Why do they keep coming back, year after year — even those poor sods who never win? Because for them, this daft, infuriating game is far more interesting than real life.