Tag Archives: literature

My Passage to India

I arrived in Delhi this morning (Wed, January 7th) with a little bit of excitement. The first two legs of my journey went pretty smoothly, as Emirates Airlines lived up to its reputation in terms of service along the SFO – Dubai and Dubai – Delhi legs. The food was good, as evidenced by the masala dosa they provided for breakfast (and there was more of it than I usually see in airline meals)! The seats are also a bit unlike other airlines’, in that when you push the seat back, the seat bottom moves forward too, so that it makes more of a natural reclining chair.

I had about 8 hours to kill in the Dubai airport, but it wasn’t actually too hard to pass the time. Because of the layover, the airline provided a free meal in the Emirates buffet restaurant. I wasn’t too surprised to see a Starbucks and Burger King in the very clean and modern airport, but I was a bit surprised to see Baskin Robbin’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Cinnabon as well. While waiting, I finished reading A Passage to India, by E.M. Forster, given to me by Jesse before I left. It was a pretty good book overall – some moments where it gets a bit heavy-handed or the dialogue is more stilted than it probably ought to be, but it doesn’t detract much from the overall effort. I’ve still got Aravind Adiga’s Booker Prize winning The White Tiger and the Library of America’s collection of Raymond Chandler’s Stories and Early Novels. After my loss to Friedel in round 6 of the Berkeley Masters tournament, I read Chandler’s Trouble is My Business in the evenings, so I decided to finish up with the rest of his short stories and also finish some of his novels.

I got to my hotel in Delhi a bit before noon today. I had lunch at Saravana Bhavan, a chain of South Indian style restaurants that has a branch in the Bay Area. The food was pretty reasonable, although the utthapam was miniscule for the price. I had to order a second dish after seeing it. My company though, was rather amusing – thanks to the organizer Bharat Singh showing up at my hotel, he took me to lunch with GMs Krishnan Sasikiran, Koneru Humpy, Chanda Sandipan, Neelotpal Das, and IM Ravi Lanka. These players don’t all live in Delhi, but thanks to the Indian system of salaried jobs for chessplayers from big-name companies, they all were in Delhi for a company outing with their sponsor, ONGC. After lunch, we congregated outside for a bit, where to our surprise, we were joined by GMs Elizbar Ubilava (Anand’s former second) and Abhijeet Gupta (the current World Junior Champion, and winner of the 2008 Parsvnath Open with a massive 9.0/10). They had eaten there as well (but on the first floor, so we missed them) after doing some preparation for Corus. The restaurant certainly doesn’t get that strong a chess clientele in Sunnyvale …


Festival de Ajedrez de Benasque 2008: Rounds 4-7

Round 4: Black vs. GM Julio Granda Zuniga (Peru, 2599). My annual game with Granda – I had played him in Balaguer in 2006 and in Sort in 2007, both wins for me. This was an extremely disappointing game, and while Granda put up some resistance, the blame rests squarely with me for not winning this game.

The game can be replayed here.

The opening was a disaster for me, not so much because of the position, but because of the time I spent in playing the moves. I was not happy with my piece placement (for example, the dark-squared bishop might be better on e7 than on d6) and I burned up a lot of clock time trying to find a viable plan. In the end, I settled on 10…Ra8-c8 and 11…c6-c5, but my position looked dicey. However, all was well in reality, and when Granda excitedly banged out 14.e3-e4 and then 15.Ne5-g6, he thought he was winning. However, the exchange sacrifice completely turned the tables and soon I was better. I then whipped up a huge attack, but with only 1 minute on the clock, I was unable to find a knockout blow. And instead of bailing out with one of many perpetual checks, I kept trying and trying, only to find out I was in a lost position after some time.

The most prosaic win was 28…Nxd3 29.Qxh5 Qf6, when White is completely lost. However, playing for checkmate as I did, I would have needed to find 33…Be2!! in a minute to win the game. Of course the computer sees it right away, but we took a good amount of time later to find this. All in all, a disappointing game as this was one I let slip away.

Round 5: White vs T. Abhay (India, 2263). Like many Indian players, Abhay had virtually no games in the database. Of course, it wouldn’t have mattered because while I had jetlag problems in previous days and was not sleeping very well in general, I slept soundly before this game. Too soundly in fact.

I went to sleep at around 1 AM after doing some reading (Vikram Chandra’s 900-page tome Sacred Games), and then woke up to find the clock saying it was 3:15 PM. For a second, I thought it was a joke and I turned on my laptop to check the time there. Of course, the confirmation came and I rushed to shower and eat something before the 4 PM round. My roommate had let me sleep for a while, but when he got back from his own late lunch, he was relieved to find he didn’t have to wake me up.

The game itself was not particularly interesting – after 10…f6, Black was clearly worse. Black should have settled for a more normal position with 10…0-0, but the opposite-side castling only spelled his doom. My attack would arrive first on the queenside, and I later broke through in the center and then on the kingside.

The game can be replayed here.

Round 6: Black vs. IM Silvia Collas (France, 2370). Originally an Italian citizen, I think Silvia changed her locale and affiliation to France after marrying Didier Collas. This was a rather easy game as well, despite it being my first attempt at playing the Slav Defense. I didn’t know what to expect at all, as she plays 1.e4, 1.d4, and 1.c4, but I did expect her to play some sidelines of whatever the opening was. Thus, in the 6.Ne5 Nbd7 7.Nxc4 Nb6 Slav, she opted for the rare 8.Ne3. However, she then played rather insipidly with 9.g3 instead of 9.a5 (although neither move is especially dangerous for Black).

After that, 16…Nc8! was the move she overlooked, as Black will then execute a nice reorganization of his pieces with the knight on d6. She took the free pawn on b7, but Black’s compensation is without doubt and in fact, Black stands better in short order. The exchange sacrifice with 23…Nf5! only sealed the deal, and after that, it was “a matter of technique.”

The game can be replayed here.

Round 7: White vs. GM Vladimir Burmakin (Russia, 2625). One of my finest positional efforts in a while, and I might dare compare my play to Kramnik’s until almost the end of the game. The opening was a Schlechter Slav, a relatively passive system for Black. However, Burmakin played 6…Nbd7 which slightly misplaces the knight and I took proper advantage with 7.cxd5! and 8.Qb3!, putting pressure on the b7- and d5-pawns.

From there, it was all very smooth – with 14.Nc4 and 18.Qa2 being standout moves. There was a small hiccup on move 31, with Bb2 – this move is likely still winning, but a more “Kramnikian” sequence might have been 31.h3 Qc6 32.Qa3, with the bishop going to a1 and the queen to b2 to set up the powerful battery on the long diagonal. In any case, Black blundered with 32…h4? (instead of 32…f6, which continues to put up a good fight) and gets hit with a mating attack immediately.

The game can be replayed here.