Paris – St. Petersburg Rally
It was a pleasure to participate in The Alekhine Memorial. An unexpected treat at the the Paris opening which was held in the Louvre in fine style was a private guided tour of a few of the highlights including some up close personal time with La Joconde. No reproduction or photograph in any way does this portrait justice. I can highly recommend the Ruinart champagne they were serving, they also had some rather spectacular tomato based snacks that were supposed to be squirted directly into your mouth; not all the guests seem au fait with this advanced snack delivery system and were walking around looked like they had stumbled off the set of Dexter.
The venue was a well appointed marquee in the Tuilleries and coinciding as it did with the first good weather of the year this was a very pleasant place to play. The juxtaposition of art and chess continued in St. Petersburg as the venue there was St. Michael’s Castle, a branch of the Russian Museum which houses the portrait gallery. We took a tour on the evening of Opening Ceremony – the sequel, one rather lovely touch was in the modern section of the gallery where many notables were on display such as Stanislavski and Gagarin – but you had to look up to find the latter, they had placed him way above our heads!
The tournament got off to an unexpectedly good start for me as I won my first two games. The first win was a bit fortunate as Vishy didn’t seem to do a lot wrong but suddenly ended up in a hopeless endgame. The next day I was happy with my game vs. Svidler. My next two games were less cheering; I had a double Black and was under pressure from the start, Gelfand showed fine technique for which he deservedly received a special prize. I escaped by a miracle against Fressinet. The next few rounds saw missed opportunities as I let an edge slip vs. Vitiugov and failed to convert an extra piece against Aronian and missed some chances vs. Vachier Lagrave. I was on the worse side of the draw against Ding Liren, but despite this still had some hopes to win the event if I could win with White against Kramnik in the last round. Strangely the same last round pairing I had in the LCC and will have in the upcoming Dortmund event. I managed to come up with a new idea against the Berlin variation and had a nice position but overestimated my chances and he grabbed the advantage before the time control. Again I was the last game going and was unable to hold the draw.
A disappointing end and I felt I should have made more of my opportunities but with a number of long games averaging over 56 moves it was a demanding event.