In general my impressions, aided by a large amount of ‘expectation management’ in the chess press before the event, were positive. The Olympic hotel had obviously only recently been constructed: the smell of solvents remaining pungent in the air. The builders had however done a good job, the rooms were well appointed and after a week’s airing the smell was almost gone. In the hurry a few things had got confused, there was a nice cabinet containing a fridge with a place for the wires to plug in at the back but unfortunately no power points anywhere within range. After a bit of interior re-design I managed to resolve this problem and also to plug in my computer whilst simultaneously having a place to rest it which was a plus.
The food, which was awful on my previous visit, was also pretty good this time and a big improvement on the admittedly very low level in Dresden and Turin. Most people would have been happy to switch to something less bland and repetitive on their return, but the organisers did make every effort and also offered sparkling or still water, coffee, tea and various fruit juices with every meal which was a generous innovation.
The biggest organisational error was the charter flights fiasco, probably more due to FIDE than the locals. The outward effort was brought forward a few days before we left, although it was then delayed so it left around the original time. It was also not very clear why our departure flight wasn’t scheduled to take off until 4.45 in the afternoon making onward journeys problematic due to the late arrival in Prague. Some unlucky players were still stuck in Khanty until 6am 2 days after the last round. The ever changing times unsurprisingly caused complete chaos: of course this is not a new problem for FIDE events is but as it obviously causes serious problems it is about time it was remedied.
England captain Lawrence Cooper made a great effort to shield our players from these problems as much as possible and also spent a lot of time acquiring visas for the team members which was above and beyond the call of duty.
It should be noted that although most things worked out in the end, players don’t make the decision to participate or not after the event but some time before and the negative stories probably discouraged several players from attending. There was more to see in KM last time I was there – no ice sculptures this time due to the warmer weather, but I did get to visit some large mammoths.
The Bermuda party remained a highlight, especially the pint of rum swizzle that Larry Ebin of FIDE congress video fame had slipped into my hand, and it was also great to see the Irish hosting their party for the second time! They definitely won on the decor front but their musical plan went a little awry. They had hoped that there would be better opportunities for conversation and had assembled an appropriate playlist: all started off well, as I arrived the classic ‘Fairytale of New York‘ was playing, but as soon as it got more crowded the DJs reverted to the mind numbing techno that is obviously popular in Siberia.