Party Time at the Chess Olympiad

6/12/2006 – Some chess players are tedious and boring; but most are affable and good-natured, and not adverse to enjoying life. Some in fact are veritable party animals. Luckily there are many parties at chess Olympiads. So too in Turin, where at the wildest one there was an incident that has made it to the world press, which suddenly revealed a keen interest in chess. The full story.

It's Party Time at the Chess Olympiad

By Frederic Friedel

Chess is hard, chess involves a huge amount of study and preparation, chess is often tedious, staid and boring. Some chess players, too, can be defined in the same way. But certainly not all of them. Most are quite affable, good-natured people who know how to enjoy life. How to have a good time when they are not brooding over a chessboard. Some are veritable party animals.

As fate would have it, at the chess Olympiads there are many parties. Every other day some team, usually from Africa or the Caribbeans, will throw one. It involves throbbing music and alcoholic drinks, and is inevitably well-attended by members of the 150 or so national teams that are participating in the Olympiad.


Guests at a party to celebrate the 40th birthday of Spanish GM Romero-Holms


Guests at the Panama party to celebrate being alive and playing chess


The Panama party with a fairly well-known Latvian guest (tall, checkered shirt)


Action at one of the spontaneous African parties


Males performing the typical early summer test-of-strength rituals


Playchess SysOp Andrea Natoli, left, with US champion Hikaru Nakamura


The Panama girls goofing off with a statue in front of the pub


Spanish GM Francisco Vallejo with a friend from Honduras


Cuban GM Lázaro Bruzón with friend


A lithe chessplayer from Angola: Valquiria Rocha

The Bermuda Party

The highlight of every recent Chess Olympiad, from the entertainment and night-life point of view, has been The Bermuda Party. It is the supernova big-bang celebration, and has escalated from a wild, noisy affair to one with multiple imported bands which play throbbing bass-heavy music until well into the dawn. For obvious reasons The Party it is held on the eve of a free day, so the participants have a good 36 hours to recover from its mind-numbing after-effects. Incidentally, in Turin a tour to Venice had been arranged for the free day – the party attendees simply got onto the early morning bus and slept on the six-hour ride to the city of canals.


The host of the Bermuda party in proper evening attire

One interesting aspect of the Bermuda Party is that on the day before it is held a very large number of chess wives arrive at the Olympiad, ostensibly because they do not wish to miss the great action, but certainly in many cases to make sure their husbands do not have to go through the ordeal all by themselves. The same applies for female players, with the chess husbands or boyfriends arriving in time to chaperone the ladies to the party.


The Bermuda party is the entertainment high point of every Olympiad


Ukrainians Andrei Volokytin and Pavel Elyanov working up a sweat


Action on the floor – on the right Firuza Kasimdzhanov, wife of former world champion Rustam


Firuza is a trained dancer.

The Incident

What transpired at this year's Bermuda Party is described as accurately as possible further below. We held back for a while with this report, at the explicit request of the English team, who was worried about the effect a massive world-wide exposure would have on some of those involved. We complied, although the story was juicy and, equally important, offered us the opportunity of publishing a lot of pictures of attractive female players.

In the meantime the news of The Incident has made the broadsheets all over the world, which suddenly discovered a passionate interest for chess. The story was quickly dubbed "Gormallygate" and, according to The Guardian, is "probably the best thing to have happened to this much-mocked pastime in a generation." And the chess blogs, naturally, went wild over it, reporting on a day-by-day, sometimes hour-by-hour basis. For them this became the main topic of the 2006 Olympiad, sweeping their web pages clean of chess. Some of them really need to get a life.


Arianne Caoili, playing for Australia at the Turin Olympiad

So let's get to the facts. At the heart of the story is Arianne Caoili, Women's International Master playing on board three of the Australian team, rated 2169 on the FIDE list. Arianne, who will turn 20 this December, is of Filipino-Australian-Dutch extraction. She is also a bit of a glamour starlet (see the special section below), and an aspiring singer.


Levon Aronian in action, before the incident with Gormally

At the Bermuda party, which she attended at the arm of German GM Arkadij Naiditsch, Arianne at some stage started to dance with Levon Aronian, the world's number three player and top board of the Armenian team. The dance, she told us later, was neither close nor sexy, and Aronian an old friend whom she has known since she was eight or ten. "There is no romantic link between us," she said.


Aronian in action – the super-GM at the Bermuda party

The dance with Aronian, however, incurred the wrath of – well not GM Naiditsch, but Daniel Gormally, a 30-year-old grandmaster, Elo 2554, who plays on board four for England. Danny knew Arianne only casually ("there is no romatic link," she told us once again), but the sight of the superstar dancing with his beautiful acquaintance resulted in a surge of jealousy in the Brit. He lunged at Aronian and sent the surprised GM sprawling on the dance floor.

Gormally's action was fairly harmless, but he had violated one of the basic laws of nature and evolution, which says: never attack an Armenian. Immediately a random countryman of Aronian, whom we shall call GM X (and who happens to be a reserve player on the US team, rated 2575), rushed forward with murder in his eyes. Figuratively speaking, we believe.

Fortuitously, at this point another grandmaster, a muscle-bound man of superhuman strength, whom we shall call GM Y, intervened energetically in order to prevent the situation from escalating any further. He pinned Gormally to the wall with one hand, while fending off GM X with the other. There was an emergency exit close by, and GM Y quickly popped Gormally out into the fresh air, while making sure that the vengeance-seeking GM X remained in the party room. During the scuffle the wife of Dutch GM Jan Timman took a light grazing blow to the chin – nothing serious, but it left her in tears and in need of comforting. This act of kindness, too, was absolved by GM Y. In case you are wondering: no phone booth, cape or Clark Kent glasses were involved.

The whole incident was dismissed a few days later by Arianne's mother Annette as "a storm in a teacup". We too had the feeling that everyone, except the newspapers and blogs, wanted to forget the incident as quickly as possible. Levon himself was completely unfazed when we spoke to him the next day. "Nothing happened," he said, implying it was just a minor dance-hall scuffle. Of course the laws of nature and evolution are not so casual about these things: later that day Gormally was confronted by a group of Armenians, who roughed him up a little. Danny decided enough was enough and returned to England. Aronian went on to win his next game in great style, and then take the Gold Medal with his team.


Gold medalists Armenia, led by Levon Aronian on the right

And now, before you fill our feedback inbox with thousands of emails, here is the solution to the obvious puzzler: the Superman Grandmaster Y was none other then our mild-spoken commentator, the man who brought you the live Playchess multimedia coverage from the Chess Olympiad in Turin. Yep, Yasser Seirawan, who it turns out has muscles of steel (we felt!) and has been trained not just in the Marshall but in the martial arts. Ask him to tell you about this hidden part of his personality the next time he is doing a multimedia broadcast on Playchess.com.


A bird? A plane? No, it is Yasser Seirawan!

Photos by Andreas Natoli, Carsten Straub and Frederic Friedel

Arianne Caoili, WIM, singer, photo model


"Australia's chess starlet Arianne Caoili" in the media

  • Date of Entry: December 22 1986; date of Departure: Unknown!
  • Breed: Australian and Dutch (mother), Filipino (father)
  • Interests: Singing and music, Latin dancing, the beach, chess, backgammon, tennis, running, ice-skating, languages, psychology, politics, history- ancient and modern, philosophy and revolutionary thought.
  • Likes: Funny stories, The Cream, arguing, getting up to no good, shopping, quotes, tea, Pink Floyd album covers, dancing (all forms), chocolate, blitz, theatre, Karpov's games, Oreo's, black and dry humour, singing, good music, gravity (without it we're doomed), sunsets, sunrises, fine food (and fine boys), stars, moons, water, Edward Norton and Johnny Depp, grace, green lights, cooking, pina colada's, vodka, red wine, Kahlua, dwarfs and the odd Cuban cigar.
  • Dislikes: Religion, insensitive people, boy bands, country music, lame humour, slow computers, red lights, beetroot, potatoes, beer, white wine, grammar Nazis.
  • Coffee/Tea: Milk, no sugar
  • A few countries visited for chess or otherwise: Australia, Spain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Singapore, U.A.E., Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Philippines, Japan, Slovenia, Slovakia, Turkey, England, Vietnam, Austria, USA and New Zealand.
  • Ambitions: Make a short comeback to chess in 2006; live in Norway, England or Italy for a period; complete a solo album; learn 10 languages; sky dive; soccer; bullet a bunny; meet Sting; study law and international relations [major in Middle Eastern studies]; earn giant gobs of money; make history. "I have other ambitions which will not be listed due to their dangerous and radical nature, unfit for this site! Hahaha..." (from her web site)

  • Listen to Arianne sing

Links for those who cannot get enough of the Gormallygate story

The first two links given below are "endorsed" by Arianne as "the most accurate, compared to what I hear going around."

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Najdork Najdork 8/7/2014 03:24
Who are Mr X and Mr Y?
1