Bowling in Kalmykia: players unwind in Elista

3/28/2009 – Remember our recent report on a free-day bowling spree in Linares? At the time we promised to dig out some older unpublished pictures taken at the end of the 2007 FIDE Candidates Matches in Elista, where some of the best chess players in the world got together for a relaxed evening of bowling. Judge for yourself who has the best style (a no-brainer) and who should best stick to chess. Retrospect.

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This was a picture from our recent report on the free day in Linares. Levon Aronian,
alias "Manolo", in full action, bowling a match-winning 117 points.


Our Linares press chief Maite Lopez, far more elegant than Manolo in her throw...


...even if she finished 27 points behind the GM

While we were publishing the Linares report it occurred to us: hadn't we seen all this before? Hadn't we photographed some of the world's best players rolling the heavy ball? And weren't those historical pictures still unpublished? A quick search of our archives revealed: indeed, the material was all there, cropped, resized, ready for a "retrospect" article on our news pages.

Bowling in Kalmykia

The occasion was the 2007 FIDE Candidates Matches in Elista, after the final round of the event and a festive closing ceremony, when a large group of the participants, together with some dignitaries and helpers, paid a visit to the modern bowling alley in the capital of the southern Republic. To give you a feeling for the mood of the various protagonists here are the results of the Candidates' Matches:

Final standings of the Candidates Finals, June 14 2007

 Player
Elo
1
2
3
4
5
6
TB
Tot. 
Perf. 
 Levon Aronian
2759
1
½
½
½
½
½
 
3.5
2758
 Alexei Shirov
2699
0
½
½
½
½
½
 
2.5
2700
 
 Peter Leko
2738
1
½
1
½
½
   
3.5
2790
 Evgeny Bareev
2635
0
½
0
½
½
   
1.5
2591
 
 Alexander Grischuk 
2717
1
½
½
0
½
½
2.5
5.5
2680
 Sergei Rublevsky
2680
0
½
½
1
½
½
0.5
3.5
2717
 
 Gata Kamsky 
2705
½
½
0
½
0
   
1.5
2586
 Boris Gelfand
2733
½
½
1
½
1
   
3.5
2852

So Aronian, Leko, Grischuk and Gelfand were the players to qualify for the World Championship that was held three months later in Mexico City – and ultimately won by Indian GM Viswanathan Anand.

The evening at the bowling alley starts with some convivial discussions in the restaurant. You will recognise Sergei Rublevsky and Alexander Grischuk – the former had been knocked out just hours before in the tiebreak by the latter.

At the start of the bowling competition FIDE announces the rules, which are debated by the participants: you can see Carsten Hensel, the manager of Candidate Peter Leko, pointing out a contentious detail to Georgios Makropoulos, Deputy President of FIDE. Kema Goryaeva, left, who runs the FIDE office, and chief arbiter Andjei Filipovich, seated right, mediate.

"Makro" assures Berik Balgabaev, right, personal assistant to Kalmykian President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, that FIDE will not change the rules in the middle of the event. On the table between the two is the prize money – all of it – for the bowling match. It was put up by the participants themselves.

Still, the discussions continue. Here you see Carsten Hensel debating the rules of play with two of the seconds who were present in Elista: Vladimir Potkin, who assisted Levon Aronian, and Vladislav Tkachiev – we must confess that we cannot remember why he was in Elista, but it is always interesting and entertaining to have this hot-blooded Kazakh GM at any tournament.

We did say "hot-blooded", didn't we? Here Vladislav and Carsten are close to agreement on one of the more subtle points of the bowling match, while Russian chess journalist Elmira Mirzoeva listens to Tkachiev's arguments in fascination.


Our friend Lev Aronian, in his "Middle East" look, also has an emphatic say in the matter

At last the match starts, and we bring you a set of pictures of some of the best chess players in the world, together with their seconds, friends or significant others, in full action. We urge you to study the images and decide who has the most elegant bowling style and who should best stick to rearranging pieces of wood on a checkered board. Hint: it's an absolute no-brainer – just keep an eye on the hands.


Russian GM Dmitry Jakovenko, who was in Elista to assist we forget who


Russian GM Vladimir Potkin seconded Levon Aronian (this we know for sure)


Typical: the Kazakh firebrand Tkachiev, who today lives in France


Evgeny Bareev, who in 2000 helped a certain Vladimir Kramnik become World Champion, by driving his opponent Garry Kasparov nuts with the Berlin Defence


An action photo of Tkachiev and Bareev bowling in adjacent lanes


Alexander Grischuk, 23 years old (at the time), in full, lumbering action


Hungarian GM Peter Leko, who is extremely intense (and competitive) in any game


Manager Carsten Hensel maintains protocol by using the same ball as his client


Arianne Caoili, who is – how did we put it? – the significant other of Lev Aronian


Arianne, easily the winner of our elegance competition, don't you think?


He owns it all: our host in Elista, FIDE and Kalmyk President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov.

There is a more or less dark secret to be revealed here: Kirsan's bowling skills are – how to say this diplomatically? – well just sort of fair. Or to put it differently: in a direct machup with Barack Obama we wouldn't know where to put our money.


Buddies – the President with Argentinian GM Miguel Quinteros, who was a friend of Bobby Fischer, who was offered a house in Elista's City Chess by Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, who subsequently gave it to Boris Spassky, who may actually go and live there for part of the year.


Proof: Boris Spassky got a full house in the Chess City, all for himself, that very same day


A visitor, part of the entourage of the Kalmyk leadership


A personal advisor, part of the entourage of the Kalmyk leadership


Kema Goryaeva, who at the time was almost single-handedly running FIDE

Well, actually the FIDE office in Elista, from where she looked after the operations of the World Chess Federation – and did HTML pages and pictures for the FIDE web site in her spare time. Today Kema works for UEP. Her team won the bowling match in Elista, much to the annoyance of Peter Leko (the competitive one), who claimed that all the "friends" Kema had brought along were semi-professional bowlers.

The President and associates in the relaxed atmosphere of the Kalmyk bowling alley. Incidentally, the man on the right next to Elmira Mirzoeva entreated us to publish this picture with him in the same frame as Ilyumzhinov. We do so now, with an almost three-year delay.

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