Tag Archives: Tolkien

Name Changes, Openings, Predictions

The Tata Steel (formerly known as Wijk aan Zee, before being called Corus) super-tournament is underway now. The field is pretty much as good as it can get in my view. No “boring” 2700s were invited this time around. With two rounds already in the books, it’s a bit late for predictions, but I did think Anand might finally break his tournament-non-winning streak this year. For the B and C groups, I’ll go with McShane (I have to admit I was influenced by his 2/2 start) and then a tie between Bluvshtein and Vocaturo.

Anand did get off to a good start with a solid win as black against Ruslan Ponomariov. Back in Bilbao and Shanghai in late 2010, he played the Berlin every time against 1.e4. But in London, he played the Sicilian in all his black games, and he repeated his once-favorite Najdorf against Ponomariov. I remember Grischuk said something to the effect that “Ruslan doesn’t understand the Najdorf,” but I think that was mostly in regards to Pono on the black side.

The opening choice was also notable because a couple weeks ago, I had dinner with Hikaru Nakamura, Patrick Wolff (Anand’s former second), and John Donaldson. Hikaru contended that the Sicilian had been largely replaced at the top levels because it was no longer tenable for Black. Maybe Hikaru will change his mind, although I’m sure he’s focused enough on other openings. Grischuk actually said something similar about the Najdorf about a decade ago, but then he decided to make the Najdorf a central part of his Black repertoire …

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En España, de nuevo

Yesterday evening, I arrived in Spain after a 30-hour trip from San Francisco that began on Tuesday afternoon. I’m here for the Sevilla Open, which begins on January 8th – the first of four tournaments I will be playing on this trip (the rumors of my imminent retirement have been greatly exaggerated).

My trip went from SFO to Amsterdam to London to Seville. There were delays on each flight, but nothing too serious. The first one was delayed because the KLM plane from Amsterdam was late (because of the enhanced security measures at Schipol Airport), while the flight from Amsterdam to London was delayed because London has been receiving record snowfall these past couple weeks.

Once I got to Heathrow, I was a bit worried that I’d be grounded there. British Airways had cancelled all their flights to Spain that afternoon and evening, and I was desperately hoping that the Iberia flight I was on would not meet the same fate. Luckily, it didn’t and we got off the ground about 45 minutes after the scheduled take-off time.

I did have a couple strange security experiences along the way. In San Francisco, after passing the metal detectors without any problems, I had put my laptop back in my backpack and collected my belongings. But just as I was taking my bag off the belt and walking away, I received a little tap on the shoulder, and I was “randomly selected for a further screening.” I’ve occasionally been selected when I’m still in the area, but this was the first time I had been randomly selected as I was about to leave the roped off area.

In Amsterdam, I was already past the main security checkpoint, but they had another one set up at the gate. However, they didn’t have security personnel at the gate 2 hours before the flight, so people just filed in and sat inside the “clean” area. Once the security guards came, everybody had to leave and they did a reasonably thorough search of the formerly clean area, taking apart the garbage can, crawling along the floor to look under the seats, and so on. They probably could have saved themselves the trouble had they just closed the area off for passengers when nobody was around to check them.

They did another strange thing when they scanned our carry-on bags. I had bought a water bottle inside the terminal, so I should theoretically have been able to bring it in, even if I hadn’t declared it. I didn’t think it would be a problem, so I didn’t pull it out of my bag. And when I got to the other side of the metal detectors, there was no problem. However, a guy further behind in the line had to throw out his water bottle. Did they just not see the bottle when they scanned my bag?

Finally, in London, they were quite professional. I’ve been through Heathrow a dozen times over the past couple years and it seems to me that the security guards there seem to enjoy their job a bit more than they do in other airports. Anyways, one guy kept calling out “Do you have anything in your pockets? Anything left in your pockets?”

Somehow, the word “pockets” was repeated often enough that I was reminded of the scene from The Hobbit where Bilbo escapes from Gollum by asking Gollum what he has in his pockets. By the time I got to the front of the line, I was chuckling at the imaginary scene of the security guard hissing “Have you gots anything in your pocketses?”

I’ll try and post some updates as the tournament rolls along.