Saturday, September 5, 2009

2nd Day and Knight in Amsterdam

Having learned my lesson about FIDE photography rules from my first visit to the NH Tournament, I made sure I got there early enough to take pictures of the players. I got there perhaps a little too early since there were no players to be seen. However it gave me a chance to check out the venue, and get the insider view of the playing site. The view below is similar to the one I had taken on Saturday, except this time there are no people around, except the hotel guy stocking the players' refreshment table behind the screen.

View of the playing hall from the back.

Scattered around the room they had framed pieces of chess art work and posters. Below are a couple of examples of the art work.
Star Wars Chess

Glass pieces.
People who have glass chess sets should not throw stones?

Video monitors where games are displayed.

They had two sets of these monitors in the room. People had two choices of where to look at a particular game. When a game was completed then the monitor showed the moves of the game over and over again. It was nice for spectators who wanted to see the moves of a particular game.

Playing room with more of the monitors right in front of the ropes.

Player's table

Each table was set up with a DGT electronic board and chess clock. These boards and clocks are connected to a computer, so that as soon as a move is made it immediately is displayed on the video monitor. They had a few of these monitors in the press room so journalists could follow the action from the press room. I wish I had one of those boards then I would actually have all my moves when I've stopped keeping score. Unfortunately between the price and the lack of portability it makes it impractical to own one. When somebody makes a portable one that doesn't cost an arm and a leg I'll be at the front of the line to buy one.

What happens behind the screen? Refreshments for the players. Periodically one would see a hotel staff member come in with sandwiches and other goodies for them.

Chief Arbiter Geurt Gijssen and Assistant Arbiter Peter Goud

When I asked Mr. Gijssen about picture taking and when would the players arrive, he said anywhere from 1 to 15 minutes before the scheduled start. Most players seemed to arrive about 5 minutes before the start time. A couple arrived after their clocks had started. I guess they weren't using the draconian FIDE rule regarding arriving late to the board. In a Scheveningen team format tournament one can't exactly be forfeiting players who show up one minute late. Personally I think the rule is overly harsh.

Some of the players did arrive well before the start of the round and could be seen talking amongst each other. Below the two elder statesman of the Experience Team, Ljubomir Ljubojevic of Serbia is chatting with Alexander Beliasky of Slovenia. My guess is their common language was Russian. Though they could have been speaking in Greek for all I know.

Ljubomir Ljubojevic and Alexander Beliasky
"So did you hear the one about two chess players go into a bar...."

Fabiano Caruana

Hikaru Nakamura

Peter Svindler

Time's up! No more closeup pictures.

Once the tournament games got going I figured I go do a little sightseeing around Amsterdam, come back in a few hours and catch the end of some of longer games. I was speaking to Ian Roger's wife Cathy suggested I go to Van Gough museum. I wanted walk there instead of taking the trolley. She helped me map out a walking route, and suggest that when I got the Begijnhof that I go check it out. I wasn't familiar with it, so when I got there I walked through the courtyard. Check out the link I included because it has an interesting history.

Hanging out with a knight mime in Dam Square

Courtyard of the Begijnhof

There are two churches there. One is Cathlic and the other is Protestant. I go into the Protestant Church where they have a information card and you can do a self guided tour of the church. There was a piano recital going on, so I sat in one of the pews and started reading about the church. It's English Reformed Church. I'm reading this card and thinking to myself, "I think this is where my best friend got married. It was an English congregation." I went to the back and asked if there were any other English churches in Amsterdam. Sure enough it was where the friends that I stayed with on this trip got married. I was there in 1997. I would have never found it on my own, but Cathy's recommendation led me to somewhere I've actually been.

After leaving the church I had lunch a little cafe in the alley leading to the Begijhof. After lunch I headed towards the museum, and stopped in the flower market. It was there I realized that I had left my sweatshirt back at the tournament. I didn't care that much about the sweatshirt, but I had one of my chess pins from my collection on the sweatshirt. I made my way back to the hotel, and found my sweatshirt in the press room where I had left it.

When I got back the tournament was done. I was kind of surprised, but games finished up fairly quickly. There were only a few people left in the press room. I poked my head into the lounge where players had been analyzing after their matches.
Hou Yifan and Peter Nielson were going over their game. Fabiano Caruana was also there. I watched the analysis. English was the language everyone had in common, so I was actually able to follow what they were talking about.

Hou Yifan and her second

Hou Yifan, her second, Peter Nielson and Fabiano Caruna. I'm not sure who the fifth person was, but he took the photo below for me.
Hanging with some strong company.

Afterward I set out to find Cafe de Laurierboom. That was the place that Tempo and I never made it to on Saturday night. The hardest thing about trying to get somewhere using a map is figuring out what dirrection you're heading in relation to the map. I've been known to take maps and turn them upside down in order to get myself oriented. It's hard to do that when the map is on a sign and the map in my hand doesn't have the street name on it. I'm trying to compare the map on the sign which does have the street name on it, to the free tourist map I had in my hand. The "Your are here" marking on the sign map did not help my orientation. I went the wrong direction. Eventually I found the place.

Cafe de Laurierboom

I was kind of disappointed. There were two people playing blitz, and trash talking in Dutch the entire time. I couldn't understand what they were saying, but the body language and tone needed no translation. People would come over and watch, but I could not get anyone to play with me. They were far more interested in watching these two play. I found out afterward one is master from Belgium, and the other is master from the Netherlands. They were playing crazy openings and making some wild moves, so I had no idea they were that strong. It's hard to tell how good players are when they're playing crazy, and you don't speak their language.

The last time I had been in Amsterdam I had visited the Gambit Chess Cafe. They closed after the owner passed away. What I liked about that place is that was dedicated to chess play, and they found me an opponent when I came to visit. Laurierboom seems to be more like a smoky neighborhood bar where people come and sometimes play games. They run all sorts of different tournaments for scrabble, chess, etc. It's not a chess cafe in the truest sense. Nobody would play with me, and nobody seemed interested in finding me an opponent. I've not had that problem when I've played in other cafes in Europe.

After an hour or so of watching the masters drink, play and trash talk, I headed back to my friends' house. I played chess with their nine year old son, who looked me straight in the eye and said, "I'm going to beat you." That did not happen. I knew when he opened 1. a4, it would be more of a lesson. The chess set and board were rather interesting. It had been made by my host's great grandfather. The pieces were done on a lathe, and were hard to tell apart. However it was a neat old set. We figure it was over 100 years old. The picture below doesn't do it justice.

Old hand made set.

The next day it was the end of a very nice trip, and back to New York. It was really nice meeting my fellow bloggers and getting an opportunity to watch a very strong tournament. Hopefully I'll get to do another trip like this.


chesstiger said...

Maybe finding some sponsors (and a journalist degree) could help make your dream of becoming an international chess blogger come true. :-)

Rolling Pawns said...

Yeah, your photos look very professional and reports are really interesting. And you like it, it's important too.

CMoB said...

The fifth person... You mean the guy with the grey hair? That's GM John Nunn. And i guess an "i told you so" is in order concerning your visit to the Laurierboom. So where are the pictures you would send me?

Great report once again! Keep up the good work!

r. schock said...

Great story!

I had visited "the Gambit" in '04 and found the place to be one of the hi-lites of my trip! the people in that place were so cool and laid back - i had gotten a bit too inebriated on the local dutch beers and Tal the bartender (who also soundly thrashed me on the chessboard - i'm a bit of a slouch) had kindly saved my money and other items that i'd left there.

i came back two days later and all my stuff was in a neat little envelope.

Menashe was quite a character too! I stumbled into that place quite by accident, and hadn't any idea that he was the owner. he let me buy him a glass of wine (well, i bought the house one actually) and i think that overture sort of made up for my lack of chess-skillz, and that's why they let me stay. hah!

anyway, i was happy to read your article here. i hope you achieve your dream of becoming a chess journalist!

Polly said...

CMobB: You have the pictures now.

schock: That's a wonderful story about the Gambit Cafe. My visit wasn't quite as lively. I had gone in the afternoon, so there were not many people there. However I had delightful afternoon of playing blitz and drinking good beer.

Anonymous said...

you do know that its Yifan Hou, not Hou Yifan...Hou is her last name.

Polly said...

Anon: Tell that to the organizer. I copied the spelling out of the program book. They have her listed as Hou Yifan. I even double checked the booklet when I saw your comment.

Anonymous said...

i see yifan's name and other players with last name first while others in same tournament is first name first, don't know why. i think your photos are excellent and they always have been a main visiting focus to your blog, and your coverages of tournaments are just as great. now if we can only get YOU up to GM status... :)

Polly said...

Anon: Often with Chinese names they go by the family name not surname. This may be true in other Asian countries too.

Thanks for your kind words regarding my photography and writing. I enjoy doing it. In terms of becoming a GM....maybe in Tae Kwon Do if I stick with it long enough. Though even with that I probably started too late.