June 06, 2011 • General
Greetings to everyone from Madrid, Spain on this slightly overcast Monday morning. Since I last blogged prior to my departure from Saint Louis, several things of importance have happened and as I currently have several days off before heading to Romania, it seems like an opportune time to update everyone.
I arrived here in Madrid on the afternoon of June 3rd and was greeted at the Madrid Barajas Airport (make sure to not have tight connecting flights as there are simply too many terminals) by GM Pablo San Segundo whom I first had the pleasure of meeting back in 2009 when I won my first major international tournament in San Sebastian, Spain. At the closing ceremony of the tournament, I was also fortunate enough to meet his father, Martin as well. Since then, we have communicated several times via email about the possibility of a simul in Spain. Due to my very busy schedule, (I will update the events section of my site shortly to reflect my upcoming events) we were unable to pull it off in 2010, but Martin emailed me in March, and this great event came together.
Before I talk about the simul, I feel compelled to talk a bit about the fabulous Club de Villa Campo de Madrid. I googled the club in English (There’s a lot more on google.es) and there is very little info which does not do it justice. The day before my simul, Martin was gracious enough to show me around the country club which has two world renowned golf courses in the black and yellow course which was designed by the late Spanish golfing great, Seve Ballasteros. Besides the fabulous golfing, there are also a multitude of tennis courts as well as equestrian activities. There are also several pools on the grounds which are extremely extensive and allow one to get a great view of the financial district of Madrid. Unfortunately, I forgot to bring my camera so I do not have any pictures.
The simul featured me playing against 30 players who belonged to the club as well as several players from the Madrid Chess Federation. The setup was very professional and two of the games were shown on DGT board to the spectators and (I assume) an internet audience. I also did a short Q&A session and spoke a little bit in Spanish (one of the more terrifying and exhilarating experiences!) to thank everyone for coming out. Unlike most simuls I have given before, (all in the United States) only a couple of players blundered early, and it took me close to 2 ½ hours to complete all of the games with a score of 28 wins, 1 draw and 1 loss. All the players were extremely friendly and the atmosphere was perfect for everyone involved.
After sleeping for most of yesterday, I took part in the finals of the inaugural Internet Chess Club Open. For the last ten years, ICC had held the renowned Dos Hermanas tournament in which many of the strongest chess players from around the world competed in. Unfortunately, this event stopped after I won it in 2010 (what is with events stopping once I win — ie Mainz?) and this new event appears to be the replacement. Although the top prizes are significantly less, amateurs have a chance to compete for much more. One of the major issues in recent years is the rise of technology which makes it a lot easier for computer cheating to occur. This has largely rendered online tournaments obsolete as there tend to be many cheating accusations regardless of the outcome.
The field for the finals started off with 16 players playing 4 games matches against each other and the field being reduced in half each round. I started by squaring off against Armenian IM Levon Altounian (Albert) who has not been active much lately, but is a highly talented chess coach in Tucson, Arizona. In this match, my play was incredibly shaky, and I almost certainly should have lost the first two games. However, I managed to get lucky in large part due to the clock and was able to recover and win the first match 2 ½-½. In the second match, I cruised very easily, defeating Armenian GM Robert Hovhannisyan(Armcomposer) 3-0. This set me up with a final match showdown against yet another Armenian in GM Simonian Hrair (Erebuni). After jumping out to an early 2-0, I let it slip away by losing the 3rd and 5th games while drawing in 4 and 6 respectively. After this debacle, it setup a tiebreaker featuring two more games of 3 minute blitz in which I was able to clinch the match with a win and a draw and a final match score of 4 ½-3 ½ . Thus I won the inaugural event as well as $600. Ordinarily, I probably would not have chosen to participate, but it seemed like a good chance to stay sharp ahead of Bazna, and a payday is always helpful no matter how much.
For now, I will probably spend the next few days first and foremost adjusting to the time zone. At the same time, I will be annotating two of my games from my match with Ponomariov for Europe Echecs and the Spanish chess publication, Jaque. Most importantly, I will be rooting my heart out from afar as I continue to root for the Vancouver Canucks in the Stanley Cup Finals! The city of Vancouver and Canada deserve to have the cup back home after 18 long years in the United States.