Posts Tagged Olympiad

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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Yet Another World Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk

The rating lists used for the World Cup qualification were July 2010 and January 2011, so establishing whether or not one was qualified should be simple. However despite several requests for information FIDE treated this data as if it were nuclear arms codes and the players by rating and reserves were only confirmed on June 21st. Given that in the meantime I had committed to the more competently organised event in LA I was unsure whether to play in Khanty-Mansiysk as it meant crossing 13 time-zones in five days with a huge amount of travel and two night-flights thrown in. In the end I decided to give it a try.

I briefly touched down at home to pick up some clean clothes before continuing onwards to Siberia. My flight was due to land at around 1.15am but was a bit late; baggage reclaim took forever and after being taken via the scenic route around the other hotels it was gone 3.00 before i made it to my room. My confused body was further disorientated and I never really got properly adjusted, always waking up way too early to get properly rested.

The players’ meeting is rarely exciting but this time proceedings were briefly enlivened when somebody enquired why he was listed as playing the incorrect opponent in the official bulletin. Unfortunately from a comedy stand point, at this stage the English translation seemed to drop off a bit, but he was eventually told that to go check the official pairings on the website. This farce was a knock-on effect of the careless mistake that had been made with the pairings initially which had necessitated them being redone. Clearly nobody remembered to tell the bulletin publishers.

It was interesting to note the differences as to how the players were treated in comparison to the Olympiad. For that event the organisers refunded visa charges but no such luck this time and instead of the free charter flights, players got to make their own way with pretty harsh prices: 400 Euros was the going rate for Moscow – Khanty-Mansiysk on UT Air on 26th August. Instead of food specially flown in, the players got the expensive unpromising local chow in hotels; could there have been some event taking place alongside the Olympiad that would explain the difference in hospitality?

Russian service is different and arriving at breakfast one day the restaurant were out of cups: a problem that the staff were unwilling to solve despite several requests. No coffee or tea for most although one quick thinking GM grabbed the last remaining bowl to ensure delivery of his morning caffeine fix.

When I checked out of the hotel I made sure to have a close perusal of proceedings as on my previous visit to that hotel a number of ‘accidental’ erroneous charges had crept onto the bill. This time I seemed to have been charged an additional half day on the day of departure which seemed a bit odd. As I was leaving at 4.30am it was hardly a late checkout! The hotel got FIDE on the phone and they helpfully explained “It’s nothing to do with us, the hotel can do anything they want” which when they have your passport and travel documents, is pretty much correct. They further claimed that all players would be charged this fee; if correct that would have certainly have been a nice little earner.

The chess got off to a highly misleading start as I won my first game quite efficiently. Struggling to close out the match the next day was rather more typical.

The first three games of my match with Peter Heine Nielsen followed the same pattern as I struggled in the opening phase whilst he built a big clock lead but they ended in draws without major incident. In the second tie-break game I managed to reverse the pattern and got a decent position with a time edge but I missed some things and the momentum totally reversed. Oversights were something of a speciality of mine in this event but in this game I was surprised by Rxc3. I thought he would make this capture on several occasions when his rook was on c8 but once it had arrived on c4 for some reason became less concerned about it. My general impression in these events are that they are much less random and more just than is commonly thought and my opponent was a deserving winner.

The high point of my event came on the way back (not an unhappy event in its own right), I was on the same Moscow flight as Viktor Bologan as well as some other players. We went off to check in for our flights, this didn’t take Viktor long and he kindly looked back to see if I was progressing. I was marooned at the back of the queue, taking the initiative, he wandered over to the vacant business check in and shortly returned to tell me I could check in there. I asked him about his secret technique, he replied he had just asked them if GM Adams could check in. I don’t think I’ll try it on my next visit to Heathrow but was a nice surprise!

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Olympiad Blues

Moving onto the chess, I think that if you had told me beforehand that I would beat Magnus Carlsen and we would place ahead of two Russian teams I would have thought the event had gone fairly well! However, it didn’t really work out like that; I got the team off to a bad start losing the decisive game to Bosnia in round 2, we gradually climbed the boards but made a hash of our best opportunity to get near the leaders with an apparently promising pairing with Belarus in round 8 going very sour. We went on to beat a weakened German team before drawing with the Netherlands and Czech Republic. This left us 20th equal. A kinder pairing towards the end would have put a more positive spin on things but it was a disappointment not to visit the top boards at any stage. Ultimately though, the main problem was that only Gawain was in really good form and you need more players firing to compete with the very strong opposition these days.
Considering my first two games I was fairly happy with my result although six whites in the last nine games helped. Physically I wasn’t in great shape, really struggling with the 5 hour time difference for the first few rounds, to be fair I imagine most of my opponents had similar difficulties. I then got sick shortly before round 6 but managed to struggle through the remaining games. I think this was the first time I played all the rounds in an Olympiad (my previous best being 13 out of 14 in Yerevan). Still a win against Magnus definitely made things worthwhile.

For a long time the pairing system in the Olympiad has worked quite well with scoring by board points, bucking the maxim of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, the powers that be have now switched to match points with a new pairing system with predictably bad results. There are few things so bad they can’t be made worst and the pairings this time were completely hopeless, I hope they can return to the simpler methods of the past.

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Mammoth Effort

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.
mammoths---Khanty-Mansisyk
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.
Photo Credits:

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