Sunday, August 30, 2009

Day and Knight in Amsterdam

Yesterday I finally headed into Amsterdam for the long anticipated chess bloggers' international gathering. Okay so it was two Dutch and one American. It was still international in flavor. I also finally made it to watch some of the NH Tournament. Originally I was going to go Friday, but I got side tracked, and went to watch field hockey instead. Netherlands versus England in the semi-finals of the European championships. England won in 2nd sudden death, 2-1.


I took the train from Haarlem (No that's not a typo. That how they spell it here.) to Amsterdam Central Station. Amsterdam was full of peole, but not necessarily for chess. There is a large arts festival (Uit Markt) all over Amsterdam with lots of free concerts, exhibits, and shows. I did actually stop and listen to a couple of performances on my way to the chess tournament.

Platform in Haarlem train station.
Central Station - Amsterdam

Canal through Amsterdam. One of many!!
Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky Venue of NH Tournament

It was easy to find the hotel. It wasn't quite as easy to find the tournament once I got inside. The first person I asked didn't know where the tournament was. He asked one of his colleagues who pointed me to the stairs up to the second floor where the tournament was being held. The first room I found was the commentary room where Hans Böhm was doing the commentary. It was all in Dutch so I didn't get a whole lot out of it. I could follow the moves on the board, but didn't understand what people were asking.

Hans Böhm

Commentary room.
Playing room.

Next I found the playing room. It was a pretty impressive set up with flat screen monitors with all the games showing. Since I did not get there early enough I couldn't take pictures inside the room. The picture above I took from the doorway. Monday I intend to get there early enough to take pictures of the players, and a closer view of the playing area. I did get a picture of Hou Yifan of China after her game was done. She's the lone female in the tournament.She's 15 years old and is a grandmaster. She's been referred to as Judit Polgar's successor as the woman who will be successful in high level grandmaster competition. She drew in that round.

Hou Yifan
I wandered back and forth between the playing room and commentary room. At want point I'm standing outside the playing room and Hikaru Nakamura is coming back into the room. He did a bit of a double take, and asked "What are you doing here?" I explained that I was visiting friends in the area, and knew that he was playing in the tournament. I've known Hikaru since he was five years old, and tagged along with his older brother who was the chess player in the family. I could actually beat him at blitz when he was first playing chess and only had a rating of 750. I haven't played blitz when him since. Sometimes it's best to quit when one is ahead. I am 0-2 in simuls against him.

Later on during one of my trips between rooms, CMoB came up to me and introduced himself. We talked for a bit and went in and listened to the commentary. He said that Böhm is really good at commentary and explained some of what was being said. We left the room to see if we could find Tempo who was supposed to meet us there at 16:00. We didn't find him right away.

In the mean time I poked my head into the press room, and found a familiar face. Macauley Peterson of ICC was there. He said "You're awfully far from New York." He's another person I've known since he was a kid. He has my dream job. Getting paid to travel to tournaments, write about the tournament, take photos and videos, and do analysis. However he's much higher rated, and can do the analysis bit much better then I can.

Press room after one of the games was done.
Macauley is sitting in the middle in the white shirt.

Finally CMoB found Tempo, and then they found me. We hung out at the tournament for awhile and then decided it would be better to go some place where we could play chess. We went to Cafe Batavia 1929 which is very close to Central Station. It's not a chess cafe in the purest sense, but they do have sets and boards. People do come there to play, and they do host tournaments sometimes. We were the only ones playing chess. First I played Tempo. I was black and got to face his infamous "Polar Bear". It was an interesting game. I'm sorry I didn't keep score. He gave up a pawn, but got loads of counter play and eventually destroyed my king side and mated me. I put up a decent fight, but given that he out rates me by a good 300 points, the result was expected.

O-O-O versus Temposchlucker

O-O-O versus Chessmaster or Bust

Next I played CMoB. I think I had expended so much energy against Tempo that I didn't have much energy left. I tossed a pawn in the first 10 moves and then walked into a stupid knight fork on my queen and rook. The position went totally to hell and I resigned fairly quickly. That game was not one that would have been interesting to post, even if I had written down the moves. I was hoping my quick resignation would give me a chance to observe the unofficial Dutch blogger's championship. However CMoB had another engagement and had to leave.

Tempo and I went out for dinner, and decided that we really didn't have time to go find De Laurierboom which is another chess cafe in Amsterdam. We still needed to take the Metro to where he parked his car. Just like London the Metro stops at midnight. The Metro was it's own adventure. They had switched to a card system two days earlier, and they were still having problems with the vending machines. They had people helping out, so they let me in and told me to go to the other end of the platform and try those machines. No cards there, so those people said go to the next station.

One might think that since I was already on the platform I could just take a free ride. However you have to have a card to get out of the station too. We finally got a card for me, but it was unclear whether it was going to get me out since he had used his card to come back to the platform. Sure enough when we got to our stop, my card wouldn't let me out. I had to stay close to him and follow him through the gate.

Tempo had forgotten his GPS so it was bit of an adventure getting back to my friend's house. Fortunately I knew enough to tell him to head towards Haarlem, and then we would see signs for Bloemendaal. The real fun began once we got into Bloemendaal. When riding around with my friends I don't pay a whole lot of attention to which way we're going. I had small Google map of the town, so we fumbled around looking at street signs. I eventually saw a street I was familiar with and then finally found my friend's house.

All in all it was enjoyable meeting with fellow chess players and bloggers. If you are traveling and have the chance to meet up with other bloggers I highly recommend it. It's interesting to meet the person behind the writing.

My next post will cover my return to Amsterdam to watch the final round of the NH Tournament.


wang said...

Glad to hear of your adventures in Europe, I am only bummed that I won't see you this Thursday at the Marshall :(

Oh well, I'll have to wait until my next visit out east.

Polly said...

I'm back, but I'm probably going to be too jet lagged to think about playing on Thursday. I'll be down there on Wednesday for a meeting that I'll probably fall asleep at.

CMoB said...

Hey Polly! Glad to hear you arrived home safe and sound. Great report once again! And sure i wanted to play Tempo, but besides the fact that i had another appointment, the place was closing down as well. You probably didn't catch that since they mentioned it in Dutch ;)

So i guess you had a nice rest of the evening with Tempo?

And how about the rest of the pictures? I was curious to see how they turned out. Or are they that bad?

Could you email me them?

chesstiger said...

Pity i couldn't be there thanks to work commitments. Oh well, beter luck next time.

Has tempo crossed the 2000 elo mark??? I thought he was an 1800+ player but i can be mistaken.

Rocky said...

Great report! I always like seeing pics of the other bloggers you meet.

Polly said...

CMoB: I will send some of the other pictures along.

I guess I should have figured they were closing soon since the kitchen was already closed. I guess it's more a cafe then bar.

Tiger: You're right he's actually around 1875. I guess I thought his rating was higher because of the players he's been facing in tournaments. However in US we add 100 points to ELO FIDE ratings because they tend to be lower then the USCF equivalent. All I know is he plays better then me. :-)