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A visit to the Staunton Memorial

August 16, 2009

On Friday, I went down to the Howard Staunton Memorial tournament for a few hours. It was easily the strongest chess tournament I’ve been to. All in all, a mixed experience:

The good points:

  • Entry was free!
  • Being in the same room as 3 world championship challengers was  a first for me. Especially being in the same room as Korchnoi was a privilege.
  • I moved a lot between the playing hall and the bar area outside where people outside could discuss and analyze the games being played.
  • When David Howell blitzed out 28.Qh8+ against Sokolov, Nigel Short, who had been sitting on a couch, jumped up and said, “Wow. I need to go get myself a drink. I didn’t see that coming.” What a thrilling moment!
  • Watching Korchnoi play against Timman was like going back in time. More than any other player in the hall, you could feel the energy emanating from him. It was incredible to see a 78 year old man focus on the board for more than 5 hours without for a moment resting his eyes. In fact, about 3-4 moves before Timman resigned, you could spot a gleam in Korchnoi’s eyes and his fingers started playing with a couple of the captured pieces. Even if you knew nothing about chess or you couldn’t view the board, you knew this wily warrior had victory in his grasp.

The bad points:

  • The playing hall was very spectator unfriendly. The boards were positioned so that the spectators couldn’t get a good view of most boards. The salvaging fact was that the closest table to the spectators was the Timman – Korchnoi game.
  • To add to that, the boards on the wall (meant for the spectators) were way too far and way too small. While I could see there was a white piece on e4, I couldn’t identify the piece.
  • Out in the bar area, a laptop was used to project the games onto a screen. Unfortunately, only one game could be viewed at a time and one of the organizers would periodically cycle through the games. It surely can’t be that hard to have more games up simultaneously.
  • It would have been really nice if they had someone to provide master commentary and analysis and channel some of our discussions.

Random observations:

  • The two players who never even got up to view the other games in progress: Korchnoi and Adams.
  • If I had any doubts before, I have none now. I am definitely going to the super-tournament in December for at least 2 or 3 days!
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