Archive for November, 2012

Eurocup in Eilat

Not long after the London Grand Prix I was heading for the Eurocup this time held in Eilat in Israel. This made for a grueling and expensive journey which may explain why the number of teams participating fell from 62 in 2011 to 34. Unfortunately the organisation was unimpressive; the playing hall was much too small causing my chair to be knocked on a regular basis by players returning to their boards. It was also rather warm which is rather more serious than it used to be bearing in mind the draconian ECU dress code.
The hotels were very pretty but despite paying in full and in advance, the hotel tried to expel at least four of our group from our rooms several days prematurely and before one of my games I was sufficiently concerned about this possibility to pack our belongings in case the hotel followed through on their threats.
The team wasn’t favoured by the disgracefully bad pairing system that was totally lacking in logic and fairness and considerably worse than the poor effort they had used previously. It is unclear why the ECU is so reluctant to remedy this long standing problem.
Still there are no good excuses for a bad result and I didn’t play as well as would have liked.
On a brighter note, Tara and I stayed on as tourists for a few days afterwards and had a good time visiting the Old City in Jerusalem, floating in the spectacular Dead Sea, and spending a relaxing day in Tel Aviv before heading home.

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Last Minute in London

Around lunchtime the day before the opening ceremony, I got a late call up to the London leg of the FIDE Grand Prix substituting for Peter Svidler for that one event only. Despite the lateness of the invite, openings-wise I fared quite well, but was tired towards the end of the event and felt I should have picked up a few more half points from the positions I had.
The rules were the usual FIDE mishmash: it’s not clear why Sofia rules are used during this event when they aren’t during the World Championship match when they would actually be useful. The event was also unusual for unintentionally employing two different time controls; we started with 40/2 followed by 20/1 but now things got confusing as in the first couple of games you were only credited with your additional 15 mins plus 30 seconds once your regular time had elapsed rather than on move 60. The additional increment would have been welcome in my first game with Wang Hao. To remedy this flaw from round 3 onwards, we received the increment on move 60 as is the norm.
This event was the first to be organised by Agon although it is clear that they won’t have time to implement their main ideas until at least the London Candidates. Obviously they are serious about chess and I was impressed with their concepts concerning branding and presentation of the game several of which were new to me. I hope they can be successful with the big problems of finding sponsors, and creating a proper World Championship cycle.

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Istanbul Olympiad

I was back in Turkey in time to re-use my visa from the team competition, this time for the Olympiad, held not far from the airport. The hotel and meals were quite good compared to recent editions, although the state of the hotel internet was a problem that was never fully resolved. The teams in the WOW hotels were lucky to be able to walk to the venue although there were limited facilities around and those who had to bus it to the chess might have had a more interesting location.
The playing hall was quite decent from a player’s point of view although the temporary toilets which were brought in for the event were at first insufficient in number and none too pleasant. I was shocked to see only 3 VIP rooms and would hope that a minimum of 1 room per esteemed guest would be the bare minimum in the future.
Spectators had it rougher; there were very limited possibilities to view the games outside the hall. If you stashed your phone and ventured into the playing area it was only possible to see the first 10 boards in each section. Even making out the scores in other matches was impossible as the boards showing results were not large. Spectators have had a raw deal at Olympiads for too many years now and for such a showpiece event it needs to improve.
Plenty has been written about arbiters at this event but it seems to me that fewer are required as with the incremental time control there is little for them to do, and many of them seemed incapable of resolving simple problems like three fold repetition or dealing with a faulty clock. The ludicrous Zero Tolerance was made even more ridiculous by the rounds routinely starting over 5 minutes late.
Another area of concern is the excessive charging for hotels; and other dubious money making measures such as charging for press passes which were also in evidence. Of course the ever increasing size of the event, whilst great for the game, doesn’t make it easy for organizers to balance the budget, but making it too expensive to attend is counterproductive from everyone’s point of view as people simply choose not to come.
Moving onto the chess, the team lost a good opportunity to build on a good start with slip ups in rounds 8 and 9, this missed opportunity against the Philippines was irksome:

This game was followed by an abysmal loss to Le Quang regrettably the 2 key matches which cost the team,. Several of my team-mates were also having a frustrating time, although Nigel Short carried the team with an excellent performance.
I am very grateful to a number of individuals who generously donated money to help fund the team, and I was happy to demonstrate the game below at a small gathering with them after the Olympiad. There are a lot of computer lines but the power of the machine in these types of position is rather humbling.

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