Before I forget, here were a few tidbits from Iceland that I didn’t work into a post about the tournament itself:
– Reykjavik is the northernmost capital in the world, and certainly the farthest north I have ever been. The entire country of Iceland isn’t very big, though – it’s population is about 300,000 of which about 60% live in Reykjavik. That is pretty much the combined combination of Fremont and Berkeley, in the Bay Area.
– The baggage handlers in SFO or JFK decided to search my check-in bag, but they forgot to put the lock back on. I had bought a TSA-approved lock some years back (so they can open the bag without breaking the lock). Sadly, it’s virtually impossible to reclaim that lock from them (they want to see the receipt, proof that it was on the bag in the first place, etc).
– I should learn how to drive with a manual transmission if I plan on driving overseas. Yury and I drove around for a while the day before the event started, doing a tour of the Golden Circle in Iceland (Geysir, Gulfoss, and Thingvellier). Yury at least had driven stick-shift before, although it took him a little time to remember and he hadn’t quite rediscovered the touch before we got back in the evening.
– Here’s a picture of Strokkur, the biggest geyser at the Geysir Park that erupts at regular intervals. Geysir itself, the namesake of the park, hasn’t erupted in many, many years. (Click to enlarge)
– The recession in Iceland is noticeable, as prices have supposedly come down quite a bit. It is still relatively expensive though – even after the decline, it is probably on par with Manhattan.
– The global economic woes also seemed to make its effect felt on the store shelves, where the only non-carbonated water I was able to find was from a brand called “Iceland Spring.” The strange thing was that the label meant it was clearly not intended for sale in Iceland. It reads: “Filtered over decades through basalt and lava, the water is imported from Iceland (emphasis in the original), a remote island near the Arctic Circle.”
I would assume that if Iceland Spring went under, they still would have sold off its inventory. I guess a company in the US that intended to buy these bottles must have gone under …
– The tournament was won on tiebreaks by GM Hedinn Steingrimsson, a 34-year old Icelandic GM. There was one amusing story about him (not sure if it’s true, as I couldn’t find it on the web), related by some Slovakian players. It seems he was an IM for some time, hovering around 2400 FIDE without playing much when all of a sudden he shot up. He played a GM round-robin in the Czech Republic where he was then accused of cheating, ostensibly because he was playing well and going to the bathroom quite often. Well, what did he do? Next time he needed to go, he went right on the stage, in the planter box holding some flowers! Indeed. In any case, the cheating allegations didn’t seem to hold water.
It’s not clear whether that incident prompted the following sign outside the playing hall at Cappelle la Grande in France: