Monday, 25 March 2013

London Candidates Tournament: A Spectator's View

London Candidates Tournament
A Spectator's View

The Candidates Tournament features eight of the world's best chess players. They will play each other twice and the tournament winner will challenge World Champion Anand for his title later this year.

Organised by FIDE in conjunction with AGON and sponsored by SOCAR (The State Oil Company of the Azerbaijan Republic) it is fantastic that such a tournament should be held in London. I took the opportunity to visit the event and watch the seventh round.

I was unable to take any photographs. My press pass failed to materialise and I was on the 'wrong side of the ropes'. Indeed, cameras, phones and similar items were not allowed in the playing hall. Everything had to be deposited in the downstairs cloakroom in return for a raffle ticket. After that, every person entering the playing hall had to step through an airport security style scanner and then be scanned again by a hand-held object. Returning from a trip from the toilet or a spell in the commentary room meant a further couple of scans. Maybe such things are necessary. Or perhaps it's all pomposity. Either way, at £30 per daily ticket (not even real tickets either - an email print out was swapped at the desk for simple sticker with the relevant date stamped on) I felt the procedure could merely alienate the general public.

Once inside the playing hall, it was easy enough to find a seat. The venue was roughly one third full, so the statement made on the booking site that one may not be able to obtain a seat for all of the games was (in a way) optimistic.

Tablets were on some seats. The audience could use these to follow the games and there was even a facility to submit one's own analysis. As this meant submitting one's name and email address also, I didn't feel like utilising the facility and I don't know how many people actually did.

The view of the players was poor in some respects. The layout of the room was spoiled by some basic errors. It was impossible to see all four games at the same time as wooden partitions were inconveniently placed. It was possible to watch two games for a while and then switch seats to see the other two, but that meant disturbing people (the seats were tight, like in a cinema). The most central view of all gave an obscured view of the big video screens relaying the moves, due to an unfortunate placing of some lights.

Future events will hopefully correct these errors.

Three of the four (drawn) games were exciting battles. Ivanchuk vs. Svidler was the exception. Despite early promise, the game just fizzled out to a draw.

Gelfand didn't look to be making any progress against Kramnik's Nimzo-Indian Defence but a late slip (19 ...Ne8?) allowed a momentary chance (20 (either) N-g5!) - which Gelfand missed.

Aronian, sharing the tournament lead with Carlsen, seemed to be making progress against Grischuk but the latter defended very well and held the draw.

Carlsen looked to be in real trouble against Radjabov but the latter couldn't break through.

The tournament will continue until 1 April. Follow the action over at the official tournament site.

All of the photographs in this report were taken by my friend, Ray Morris-Hill and are reproduced here with his kind permission. You can see more of his superb collection (and it's not just chess!) on his website.

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