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Why do people keep coming back to Ikaria to play chess every summer

Ikaros Open is famous for the beautiful and unique nature surrounding the event (see full photo gallery below)

Ikaria derives its name from Ikaros, the son of Deadalus, who according to Greek mythology, was the first man to fly but he flew too high and too close to the sun so that his lax wings melted and he was drown into the sea that, since then, was named after him.
The island of Ikaria is located at the east part of the Aegean Sea, close to Samos. It’s also known by the name Nikaria or by its ancient name Doliche. In the ancient times Ikaria was famous for its wine (called “Pramnios Inos”) and its spas that nowadays are visited by thousands of people every year. In the years after WWII and the Greek civil war (1945-49), Ikaria was used as a place of exile for communists, and thus it acquired the nickname “The Red Rock” that still holds today. Finally, Ikaria is also known as one of the very few “Blue Zones” on the planet (i.e., geographic areas of the world where people live measurably longer) due to the healthy diet and way of life of the Ikarians!
But apart from the spas, the wine and its communist past, Ikaria is also well known among Greek chess players for its annual chess Ikaros International Chess Tournament commenced in 1978 as a friendly tournament between local players and some stronger players from the rest of Greece. In the following years there was in increasing interest for the tournament and, in 1991, the organizers decided to turn it into an international chess festival with preliminary events taking place all around Greece during the winter, cultivating in summer at Ikaria. The “Soul” (as well as the “Body” one could claim) of Ikaros Chess Festival is Mr. Kosmas Kefalos who, before, during and also after the festival, works overnight to have everything done!


Official website of Ikaros International Chess
Since 1991 more than 14500 games have been played in Ikaria. Players from more that 40 federations and 4 continents have visited the island while all recent Greek champions have took part in the tournament. All these years the festival has acquired some permanent friends from Greece as well as from overseas that come to Ikaria every summer and again to take part in the festival.

But what is this that makes these people return to Ikaria every summer? Is it the strong composition of the tournament and the high prizes or the luxurious hotels, the bars and the trendy beaches that one finds in tourist islands like Mykonos, Paros or Santorini? No, definitely not. There is, of course, a number of GMs and IMs playing in the tournament every year but the majority of the players are non-professionals who come to Ikaria with their friends and family to combine their vacations with a chess tournament. In this respect Ikaria is an ideal place for chess players in summer. Agios Kirykos, the capital of the island, where the tournament is held, is a small town, so every morning and every evening all chess players meet at the cafes down at the port. You can chat, enjoy a cup of coffee, or just relax viewing the Ikarian Sea.
The atmosphere is very relaxing and no one is in a hurry. This is a very distinct characteristic of Ikaria. There is no hurry for anything! This at first might appear strange or even annoying for the unfamiliar visitor but it only takes a couple of days to get accustomed to the local rhythm of life and start enjoying it! In fact this is exactly what people appreciate at Ikaria and return to it. In some cases you can even leave a café or a restaurant without paying. The waiter is in no hurry. You will return the next day and pay your debts!

During summer the island of Ikaria can be reached by plane (there are daily flights from Athens to Ikaria while there also flights from Thessaloniki and Heraklion) or by ferry (from Piraeus, the port of Athens). Ikaria has two ports, Aghios Kirykos at the south east part of the island (which is also the site of the tournament) and Evdilos at the north-west. Depending on the schedule, the ferries reach one of the two ports (or, sometimes, both ports). For the participants arriving at Evdilos the organization committee of Ikaros International Tournament offer free transportation, by bus, to Aghios Kirykos. Furthermore, the organizers of the tournament quite often get a good discount on ferry tickets for the tournament participants. Finally, another option to get to Ikaria (especially suitable for central Europe residents or those who lie island hoping) is to get a direct flight for the neighboring islands of Samos or Mykonos and from there take a ferry to Ikaria (in this way the ferry trip is much shorter compared to making  the trip from Piraeus).


This year, Ikaros International Chess Tournament becomes 36 years old and invites all chessplayers to visit Ikaria! Ikaros  2013 (13th till 21st of July) includes the traditional open international tournament “Open Aegean Championship 2013” (13th till 21st of July) as well as plenty of other side events such as junior, Ladies, Veteran, blitz, rapid and simultaneous exhibition events, blindfold chess, problem solving, chess lectures and many others.

Information about Ikaria can be found at: , , and


Information about Blue Zones and Ikaria can be found at:


The official webpage of the Ikaros, with all the latest information about Ikaros Chess Tournament 2013 can be found at:


while those interested in more details can contact:


++30-6947-829772 (Mr. Dimitris Kapagiannidis)

++30-6977-730286 (Mrs. Antzela. Shiaka)


Or can send an e-mail at:


Click on the images for full size view

We would like to thank the photographer Yiorgos Depollas and the Editions Fotorama Co. for their kind permission to use the photos from Yiorgos Depollas’ album titled “Ikaria” (ISBN: 960-7524-18-7). If you are interested in the other photo albums of Yiorgos Depollas please check at:

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