Henrik Carlsen on the Nanjing Tournament

by ChessBase
9/30/2009 – It took them 22 hours to get there – door to door. But after a quick acclimatizing the two, father and son, have settled down in the splendid hotel and are thinking chess, table tennis and Chinese food. Magnus won his first two games in the Pearl Spring Tournament, with his father Henrik watches, as usual, anxiously from the sidelines. Here's a first installment of his Nanjing blog.

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Henrik Carlsen's Chess Blog from Nanjing

Courtesy of the organiser, we flew Star Alliance (Magnus has a SAS Gold card) Oslo-Frankfurt-Beijing last Thursday, and it took less than 22 hours door-to-door. This may sound like a lot, but taking into account the distance, it isn’t bad at all.

Oslo Airport, the start of a long journey from Norway to Eastern China

During check-in it is always advantageous to have your boarding card handy

The 22-hour trip half way around the globe

The trip went fine and with little sleep on the plane it was early bedtime on Friday. After a long night's sleep Magnus was on "Chinese" time already on Saturday.

The opening ceremony took place in the sports hall (gymnasium) of the Nanjing University, located in the Pukou District on the same side of the city as the venue. Thousands of spectators followed the show, and the quality of the entertainment – dance, ballet, acrobatics, singing, Kung Fu demonstration, etc. – went far outside anything we have experienced in the chess related spectacles in the past. It was very impressive and Magnus enjoyed himself thoroughly, which is not always the case with openings ceremonies. The entire session supposedly was broadcast live on regional television.

Many journalists have good-humouredly relayed some of the English translations from the show and at the tournament website. It often might look more like creative lyric than meaningful translation. Having just read (and discussed with Magnus) “Miss Chopsticks”, a Chinese novel by Xinran Xue about peasant girls finding work in Nanjing, the introduction highlights the enormous challenges involved in translating Chinese to English due to the different structure of the languages. The Chinese language obviously uses more symbols and pictures, and several characters have multiple meanings depending on the context. With this in mind, Magnus and I have felt enriched by reading some of the beautiful prosaic “translations”.

Sample text from the bulletin

Hungary famous player Leko firstly battled 32 rounds against Azerbaijan
chess player Radjabov in Sicilian Defense, and also created the unchanged
repeated situation and drew with each other. After two battles, Carlson 
won two games after two competitions, and led alone.

Through his work with Garry Kasparov, Magnus is better prepared for this tournament, compared to the past, and the preparation as well as their announcement of the cooperation in the news might have given him a psychological boost.

Garry Kasparov and Magnus Carlsen working together in Croatia earlier this summer

Magnus is of course very happy with the initial victories and is looking forward to the continuation of the tournament. His first round victory might have looked easy, but it really takes a lot to beat a player like Leko. Peter spent nearly an hour on the opening phase, and due to his preparation Magnus was far ahead on the clock throughout most of the game. Still Magnus spent nearly all his available time before move 40 to stay in control and avoid any unpleasant surprises.

Against Topalov Magnus probably was slightly better when Topalov blundered the a-pawn, having miscalculated the 21…Na8 variation. Magnus steered the game into victory fairly comfortably, although he was slightly annoyed having missed 37.Qh3! He felt he couldn’t spend more than maximum a minute on move 37, and discovered Qh3 the moment he had played Ne3.

  Position after 36...hxg5

Magnus is very low on time and misses the immediate clincher: 37.Qh3! (threatening 38.Qh6+ Kg8 39.Nf6 mate) 37...Nd2+ 38.Ka2 Rh8 39.Qxh8+! Kxh8 40.Rh1+ Kg7 41.Rh7+ Kxg6 42.Rxd7 and White is a whole rook up. But White's zeitnot move is also perfectly adequate: 37.Ne3 Nxe3 38.Qxe3 Qa4 39.Qxg5 Qxe4+ 40.Ka1 Re8 41.Rc1 1-0.

The press conference was covered by tens and tens of journalists, and followed by interviews with TV and a journalist. Magnus spent well above 30 minutes in press room after the game. It is nice to see such incredible media interest.

The hotel and playing hall, which is located in the hotel, are first class, and Magnus enjoys the comfort and quality. The staff and organisers are pleasant and helpful, no end!

There are a number of recreational opportunities here, such as a tennis court on-site and a great park with a zoo close by. But so far we have only tried the table tennis downstairs. With several of the tournament participants playing it gets a little serious, so joined by Ian and Cathy Rogers I went into Nanjing to buy a couple of European style (smooth surface) rackets for both forehand and backhand maximum spin. With their special grip the Chinese generally use a racket with a short handle and a smooth forehand surface only.

The bus ride back and forth was a nice opportunity to observe local life and the suburbs of Nanjing. Amazingly it cost a tenth of a Euro each way.

Regarding food we’ve had a similar experience as in Mexico. Tasting food you like at the origin surely is something special. It seems our appreciation of local food to some extent is proportional to the distance from home.

Henrik Carlsen in Nanjing


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