People and personalities – photo retrospect (part two)

2/14/2008 – Tomorrow – February 15 – the Super-GM in Morelia and Linares starts. We have survived our 30-hour journey to Mexico and are preparing first reports, while settling down in our hotel and getting communications up. The press conference is coming up, with the opening ceremony tonight. To bridge you over here is part two of our pictorial retrospect of Wijk.

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Wijk aan Zee 2008 – People and Personalities (part two)

Pictorial retrospect by Frederic Friedel

We start with an apology (and end with a different one). In the first part of our pictorial report we misplaced one of the players of the 2008 Wijk aan Zee tournament:

Etienne Bacrot, the former child prodigy, today France's top GM, was not playing in the A Group. We mechanically included him in the portraits of players from this group (a) because of his 2700 rating; and (b) since we have seen him up there with Anand, Kramnik and the rest for such a long time. Playing in the B Group? What happened, Etienne? On the other hand this group was a category 15 with an average rating of 2618. And he came in second (together with Nigel Short), with a 2722 performance.

Ivan Cheparinov, Bulgarian GM and extraordinary talent, who apparently came up with the novelty that gave his boss Veselin Topalov a much-needed boost against Vladimir Kramnik, Topalov's enemy-for-life: a resounding win in round nine. Cheparinov achieved world fame during the Wijk 2008 tournament by refusing Nigel Short's proffered handshake, a misdemeanour that has so far been watched by 130,000 on YouTube. Cheparinov was forfeited the game, apologised, was allowed to replay it on a free day and got severely thrashed by a hyper-charged Short.

Nigel Short, the hero of this drama. On the eve of our departure from Wijk aan Zee the distraught English GM was determined not to appear for the game on the next (free) day, and in fact abandon the tournament instead. Steve Giddins and I went through the arguments – and a couple of beers – with Nigel in our dune-top hotel, but he would not budge. Things looked very bleak when I left the next day.

On my drive back to Hamburg I briefed a colleague on the events in Wijk: Nigel refuses to play and has abandoned the tournament... "But he is playing Cheparinov, and he is better!" my colleague informed me. Cellphones and the Internet – the marvels of modern technology. Nigel played one of the best games of his career: he crushed Cheparinov and came out of the hall with a well-prepared soundbite: "There is a God, and he is not Bulgarian!"

Amador Rodrigues, a Cuban grandmaster now living and working in Spain. I remember many years ago when he used to write us reports from his island nation, handwritten on paper, using ink. These would be shipped across the Atlantic Ocean and hand delivered by state-trained human couriers. Today Amador does multimedia recording and broadcasts like you and I drink soda.

Grandmaster Efstratios Grivas, whose speech sounds disconcertingly like that of FIDE Deputy President Georgios Makropolous. Not that surprising, since both hail from Greece. And both have the same aggressive style of humour – which I find quite addictive. A warning: beware if Stratos invites you for a drink and a philosophical discussion around midnight: it is hard vodka and he is a mean debater.

A German and a Greek engaged in metaphysical discourse? Hmmm, for some reason the famous Python sketch springs to mind:

What's in a name?

Back in 2004 we explained how South Indian names worked, and in the Wijk 2008 pictorial by Fred Lucas we applied this to two highly talented Indian players in the B-Group. This generated some protest from at least one reader, and so we consulted the players in question to set the record straight.

About Pentala Harikrishna, 21, rated 2664, we wrote: "His name is Harikrishna, Pentala is his father's name. So call him Harikrishna if you know him well, or Mr Harikrishna if you don't." To this we received the following message from Prasahanth Mukkala from Hyderabad, India: "Although that holds true with some people who are born in the state of Tamilnadu (like Viswanathan Anand), in this case Pentala and Koneru are family names or surnames, but definitely not fathers' names. Just to give you a feel of that, the name of Humpy's father is Koneru Ashok in which Ashok is the first/given name and Koneru is the surname."

It is true that Pentala is not Harikrishna's father's name, but it is still not used in formal or informal address. As Hari wrote us: "It is Harikrishna, and Harikrishna only. Thats my name. Your report was absolutely correct."

About Koneru Humpy, 20, rated 2612, we wrote: "Like Harikrishna her name is Humpy or Ms Humpy, not Koneru, which is how you address her father." Again a correction: her father is Mr Ashok, or just Ashok if you know him well. This young lady would be addressed "Miss Humpy" by the Indian Prime Minister and just "Humpy" by her friends. Miss Koneru is weird, as is "And now Koneru played a lovely combination...". Humpy did.

Aviv Friedman is an Israeli FM who writes columns for the official site, and plays blitz in the chess room. Until last year Aviv was a very portly gentleman, but he has lost more pounds than Michael Dale Huckabee and looks trim and fit these days. Damn you Aviv, how did you do it?

Gert Ligterink is a Dutch journalist who also writes columns on the official tournament site – unfortunately only in Dutch. It looks like this: "Vorig jaar keek een prominent lid van het toernooicomité na afloop van de eerste ronde ontevreden naar de verlaten borden in de speelzaal." But not to worry, we have the Babel Fisch Translation site, which in a trice will convert it to English: "Previous year looked at leaving a prominent member of the tournament committee after the first round dissatisfied to the borden in the speelzaal." Come to think of it, the original Dutch is clearer...

Steve Giddins wrote daily express reports for us, usually before dinner, and more extended report for the British Chess Magazine. Subsequently his BCM boss John Saunders perpetrated the Horrendous Chess Pun. Not wishing to be outdone Steve an I have been searching for something even more atrocious. As a warm-up we practiced some material from the English radio series "My Word". In this show the contestants were given a saying or proverb and had to explain how it originated. I remembered one and Steve the second. Both come from that great master of the dark art of wordplay Frank Muir.

My contribution: Muir goes into a convoluted narrative on how a load of bakers yeast and a consignment of gentlemen's clothing are being transported by rail, in trains headed towards each other at high speed, on the same track. But not to worry, there will be no catastrophe. For, as the saying goes: Yeast is yeast and vest is vest, and ne'er the trains shall meet!

Steve told an even more painful one by the same Frank Muir: Nero and Cicero had rose gardens next to each other. The tender of Nero's garden had a mishap and destroyed a whole row of roses. So he sneaked over to Cicero's garden, stole a row from there and replaced the ones missing in his master's garden. However, they were white, while the ones in Nero's garden were pink or "rose-colored". When Nero saw this he wrote a note to the gardener: "Our roses are rose. Is a row Cicero's?"

I know that most of you will go "huh"? My own reaction, when Steve told it to me, was "Go on...?" But that was it, the pun was finished. Took me some minutes to get. It will be understood only by a small percentage of a small percentage of a small percentage of our readers. I will probably include an explanation somewhere below.

We tricked a lot of folks with a quiz asking "Who is this grandmaster" while showing an artificially aged childhood image and some true but misleading biographical details. The Grandmaster was Fabiano Caruana, born in Miami, Florida, in 1992, who lives in Hungary and plays for Italy (his parent's home country). He is currently the second youngest grandmaster in the world, and in Wijk he displayed his class by winning the C Group with two points more than anyone else – 10.0/13, performance 2694. Fabiano is a whisp of a boy, quick-witted and with a maturity that seems incredible in a 15-year-old.

German GM Jan Gustafsson who, like so many other GMs, finds it much more profitable to play online poker than chess tournaments, but who occasionally cannot resist deploying his 2607 chess playing strength.

Chess fans following and analysing games in the De Morian pub. There are quite a few notebooks open, but also plenty of chess boards, where people are usually playing blitz. Above was the smallest chess set in the pub.

Our hotel, Hoge Duin, High Dune, built on the highest (and windiest) spot in Wijk aan Zee. It is right on the sea-side and a few hundred steps takes you to the beach.

In summer it is idyllic, in winter cold and windy. The sand is whipped up by the traditionally gale-forced wind and has your teeth gritting all day long. On the beach we met a brave Spanish lass who will be introduced a little later in this report.

Brave Spanish lass approaches the North Sea in what is perhaps not the optimum footware for such expeditions. Heavy boots and Antarctic clothing are called for.

The sea attacks, our Spanish lass wisely retreats.

This is Aruna Anand, arriving at the playing site, suitably attired.

She is greeted by Pilar Molina Esposito, the Spanish lass in our pictures above. Pilar is one of the organisers of the Linares tournament and also looks after players and press in the Morelia segment (where this year she is sadly missing). You may remember the two above from such memorable photo reports as this, or this, or this, or even and especially this one.

The two are joind by Sofi Leko, the wife of Péter, hailing from Armenia, fluent in so many languages. Sofi explained to us her miracle diet: don't eat anything after 7 p.m. Until the next morning – that is the trick.

I swear one day she will open them so wide they will fall out of their sockets

Aruna is interested in the diet, but not for herself. The Slim One must try to keep her husband in shape.

Pilar and Potkin. GM Vladimir Potkin has seconded Levon Aronian, but in Wijk he was training the New Kid, Ian Nepomniachtchi. Vladimir was also sporting a new goatee and a sweater that had my eyes trying in vain to find a focus.

Said Ian Nepomniachtchi, the New Kid, 17 years old, fluent in English, 2600 in playing strength. Ian came in fifth in the B group in Wijk 2008, with a rating performance of 2646.

Pilar gets a gift, a chess key-chain, from one of the game's great players: Vlastimil Hort, 64, originally a Czech national, who was one of the world's strongest players during the 1960s and 1970s. He reached the Candidates stage of competition for the world chess championship, but was never able to compete for the actual title. A few years back I introduced him to the young Kateryna Lahno, who did not recognise the name – until I pronounced it correctly (in Russian): Gort!

Thai supper in Wijk. This has been a tradition for more years than I can remember. When Vishy Anand wins we go to the Thai restaurant in the neighboring town of Beverwijk to celebrate. In the picture you see Aruna, Anand, his second Peter-Heine Nielsen (from Denmark) and your reporter Frederic Friedel.

The treasures of the East bring solace to the long, cold days on the Dutch sea coast.

The solution to the atrocious pun, with apologies to the 95% of our readers who will not get it: Frank Muir was asked to explain the origin of Gertrude Stein's famous adage "A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose." Now if you read Muir's line "Our roses are rose. Is a row Cicero's?", remembering that in British English the "r" in "our" and "are" is not pronounced (both words, when spoken quickly, can sound a bit like "a"), and if you mutter the line quickly, many times, you can get it to sound exactly like the Stein sentence. Oh dear, nobody likes is? I am sure only two Russian players will appreciate the pun. One is Peter Svidler, and the other isn't even Russian, he's Uzbek.

Frederic Friedel


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