Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Chess Gods arrive in town - my home town!

I was privileged to attend the 2011 Grand Slam chess tournament, the first leg of which was played in Ibirapuera Park, São Paulo - my home town. That's a misnomer of course, São Paulo is actually the largest city in Brazil, with a city population of about 11 million and almost 20 million in its metropolitan region (Wiki)

The world's elite were playing, including all three 2800+ players. So I was able to see World Champion Viswanathan Anand, World Number One Magnus Carlsen, Levon Aronian, Hikaru Nakamura, Vasily Ivanchuk, and Francisco Vallejo Pons (Chessbase)

As well as wanting to see the superstars in person, I was also pretty desperate to play some OTB games as my chess these days is exclusively played online. So I enrolled for a couple of tournaments (21 min games) which were organised alongside the main event. I should have paid my entry fee in advance through official channels but the organisers waived the rules. They asked me to promise to take the entry invoice to a bank and pay later. In broken Portuguese I said "You can trust me - I'm English!". How we all laughed! They were great, even printing off some tourney player lists for me whilst still in the middle of organizing the main tournament.

Anyway, when I entered these tourneys, I had no idea what I was letting myself in for. It turns out that they included IM's, even a couple of GMs! Not to worry. Who else did I play (and lose against)? Let's begin with Suzana Chang.

I was pleased with my effort against Suzanah because I somehow won a piece for a pawn. I had no idea who I was playing, still playing without fear. Retribution soon came. I still don't know how she managed to conjure up a double pin which seemed to come from nowhere. Oh well. Wish I had the game scores to show you but I knew that I had enough to cope with in playing OTB for the first time in years, without having to try and record all the moves of a 21 minute game as well. She was very gracious about it all and I very much enjoyed the game.

Later on her husband, Luismar Brito, and I had a hilarious 5 minute knockabout game, accompanied by lots of bantering and general hilarity. Great fun! Luismar is a FIDE Master, currently rated 2278 (click on his image below for more details).

As a consequence of playing in these tourneys, I am now in the same photo gallery as Anand and Carlsen on this website page! Possibly, through some form of osmosis, this will result in me acquiring new and terrifying chess superpowers? Um, maybe not.

Here I am in the black T-shirt, skillfully finding losing moves against Thauane Ferreira de Medeiros (FIDE rating 1805) - though she's out of camera shot in this photo. I had a strong attack against her but she defended brilliantly and, with seconds left on the clock, beat me.

Here is a photo where you can at least see her properly - playing against a gentlemen who you probably recognise! In fact, she was one of the last players to succomb to Kasparov's formidable powers in a simultaneous he gave in the "Teatro do Sesi", São Paulo against 20 youngsters on 1 September 2011.

So this obviously "connects" me to Gary Kasparov according to the theory of "six degrees of separation" ie the idea that everyone is on average approximately six steps away, by way of introduction, from any other person on Earth, so that a chain of, "a friend of a friend" statements can be made, on average, to connect any two people in six steps or fewer. Well, maybe!

Incidentally, if you are interested in "professional networking", you can link to me on LinkedIn. This "operates on the concept of how many steps you are away from a person you wish to communicate with. The site encourages you to pass messages to people in your network via the people in your 1st-degree connections list, who in turn pass it to their 1st-degree connections". Then you, too, will be connected, through me, to Kasparov :)

Amongst the many other friendly folk at the event who I had the privilege to meet to Paulo Cesar Costa (FIDE 2061) who is an active chess teacher and has captained the Presidente Prudente city teams with excellent results (image below, as well as in one of the above photos). I also met Jorge Roberto Gonçalves (FIDE 2042) - a gentleman and a haiku poet. Yes, before you ask, I lost them both!

My thanks go to Stephen Tavares Neto (chess journalist, trainer and international chess referee) for sending me some photos from his blog - it has many original photographs from the event in the form of a slide show, as well as a report in Portuguese.
YouTube footage is already starting to appear - here and here.

Latest info at Susan Polgar's site here.

Click on the image below for coverage at ChessVibes of the crazy third round in which "both the World Champion and the world's number one player lost. After outplaying his opponent, Magnus Carlsen first missed a win and then blundered a full piece and lost with Black to Francisco Vallejo".

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