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A hurray for what has been

April 3, 2012

As I expect many have noticed, I haven’t written anything in ages. I’m not going to in the near future either. However, if this is the first time you’re visiting my blog, I strongly recommend you to check out the archives. Even if my motivation has disappeared, I am very proud of what I did write.

At the moment, I’m planning to resume some blogging, but not here. My blog will be based in the chess.com community, and you can find the link here. No membership is required to read my blog.

I just published a bit about blitz chess on the internet. There will be more to read in the future!

At some point I discovered that blogging could be done much shorter. That’s what twitter and my profile there is all about. I try to make it a principle to answer any questions or comments tagged @gmjlh.

My best wishes to everyone, and check out the Norwegian National Chess Team’s site!

St. Louis

August 27, 2011

On the very same night as the prize giving in Dubai, I got on a plane headed for London Heathrow. My ultimate goal was St. Louis, Missouri, and the US Chess Championship. Needless to say, travelling half-way around the world is tricky (and tiring) business. That’s precisely why I was so happy to see Sam Shankland greeting me at my final destination, the Chase Park Plaza hotel in St. Louis – I would finally be able to sleep horizontally instead of various uncomfortable seats! Hopefully I’ll stay clear of 30 hour trips (33 including the delay at Newark) in the near future – at least until I’ve mastered the art of sleeping on a plane.

I was in St. Louis on vacation. Having spent so much time on tournaments in the spring, it felt really good going to a well-organized chess tournament with lots of fun people, but without the hassle of having to play myself! I did play in the blitz tournament though, and it would seem some 4 days off had done wonders for my game, as I was playing quite well. Unfortunately, I met my match in the last round with black against Hess – a game I needed to draw for untied 2nd, but lost.


To be honest, I expected something extremely extravagant. In reality, the CCSCSL (I still can’t manage to put those letter together without looking them up) is cozy and big at the same time. It’s extremely well decorated, and it has some fantastic, minor touches, such as the NiC-magazines in the restroom! Here I am with my brand-new very water-resistant Championship jacket, which came in very handy, as there was a lot of rain during my stay. Photo: Dirk Jan ten Geuzendam

My primary goals in St. Louis was to hang out, experience the chess club there had been so much talk about, and, shop! It should be said I had plans to help out Sam with preparing for his games too, but when I booked my tickets, I didn’t actually think he’d qualify beyond the primary stage, the 8-man round-robin. As it turned out, I arrived the day before Sam’s decisive last game of the RR, in which a draw would secure rapid playoffs. With surprising ease, Sam disarmed Onischuk’s white, and two of them got another crack at eachother in the rapid on the very next day. Of course I was happy for Sam, but I was unsure how he would fare in such a pressured situation. To say the least, my fears were unfounded. Cruising through another black game to make a draw, he decided the two-game match in a very exciting final game. As I ran from the analysis room in the basement to the playing hall on the 1st floor, I ripped out the handrail from the wall. Luckily, the good folks at the chess club understood it was an accident resulting from a burst of joy, and to my knowledge, I’m not yet banned from the club! Though I was told not to run in the stairs again!

With Sam qualifying for the final four, it was clear that what I thought would be six quiet days instead would become monopolized by opening preparation and tough decisions. I liked telling people Sam ruined my vacation, but truth be told, it still felt like one, since I  actually didn’t have to make any stressful decisions on the board. I left that responsibility to Sam, although watching him make them (and especially wrong ones) was fairly nerve-wrecking.

As the tournament progressed, it became clear it would be a huge success. After losing the semi-final to the eventual winner Kamsky, Sam had to play for the 3rd place against fellow junior Robert Hess. Their match became one of the most exciting ones in the entire championship! After two drawn games, the rules stated there would be no rapid, and everything were to be decided by an Armageddon game. In the fascinating system, the players were to bid for the black pieces, with a base time for white of 45 minutes. Sam insisted on bidding very low, whilst I insisted he be prepared for white too. With Sam bidding 20 minutes, and Robert 19 minutes and 59 seconds, Robert got the black pieces with a single second’s margin! I was very afraid this extreme circumstance would disturb Sam, and make him lose focus on the game. Yet again my fears were unfounded, and Sam won a very good game – and the reward: a completely unexpected 3rd place!

I did get to do other things than chess too. I went to my first baseball game in 11 years, I bought a great pair of jeans, and had oatmeal at a (breakfast) restaurant. All in all, let’s just say I’m tempted to repeat the trip, circumstances permitting!


The organizers generously arranged for an excursion for everyone to a St. Louis Cardinals baseball game. Fortunately, knowing the rules was not a requirement for tagging along! I got considerably better at the rules during the game, although I must admit I spent more time eating strawberries inside our private quarters than watching the game!

The main reason I understood more of the rules: Maurice Ashley took the time to teach the foreigners (Sabina Foisor and myself) using pieces we’d surely understand – the chess pieces! In the picture, Maurice is explaining the purpose and responsibilities of  the first-base-man, here represented by the black rook!

My ego likes to think I speak English fluently, so I got seriously bummed out when this guy approached me and said, “You must be from Norway, I recognize your accent!” In the background, you can see the completely empty stands. Why empty, you might wonder? Due to a tornado warning, everyone was told to go inside! Being unaccustomed to tornados, the warning freaked me out, and with good reason, as the airport was hit the same night, causing serious damage, but fortunately no causalities.

With a tornado outside, it’s best sticking to familiar territory! Ray Robson playing Alisa Melekhina, with Yasser Seirawan and Robert Hess kibitzing.

With a medal safely in hand, I was happy to secure myself the biggest ice-cream cone available! Sam was happy with something less extravagant.

Dubai!

April 9, 2011

Okey, so being outside for more than ten consecutive minutes is not really to be advised. At least not for such a pale Norwegian such as myself. But still: You don’t have to be outside to think this place is magnificent, rather the opposite! As opposed to Aix-les-Bains, they really appreciate the value of cool indoor oases. (read: they have air conditioning!) And while the Internet price is steep, it’s brilliant for cutting down on useless surfing, and writing blog posts offline instead! For the first time, (or maybe second, if I’m generous to the Faroese definition) I’m staying in a suite. Basically it’s two normal rooms with a shared entrance, but let’s not dwell on details. My room mate (aka suite mate) didn’t arrive yet, and when asking the reception about who I’m sharing with, they honestly answered “We don’t know.” Here’s hoping for luck in the suite mate lottery!

Packed4Dubai

I swear to Gosh, this is not an orchestrated photo! I brought a single (additional) suitcase for success in Dubai: Straw hat, white shorts and a water bottle! It might get filled by some shopping on my way home though.

Sign

Cultural differences combined with American(?) opening hours.

CityCentre

My favorite place in Dubai! The Deira Shopping Mall is a five minute walk away from my hotel, and offers – well – everything! Not to forget, the temperature inside is somewhat better than outside :)

I will fix

April 9, 2011

If you ever hear the phrase above, don’t get your hopes up. Aix-les-Bains was an amazing location for the European Individual Championship, but unfortunately, neither the organizers nor the reception at our hotel had foreseen that air condition might be necessary. As a consequence, the players were cooked alive at the Congress Center – the venue for the top 100 boards. I am told the Casino, which hosted the rest of the games, was excellent. Too bad you had to lose your games to get decent playing conditions! At some point, I joined forces with Pelletier and Edouard in begging the arbiter to keep the doors open, in order to get some fresh air. He seemed very understanding, but claimed his hands were tied as another participant had asked if he could keep the doors shut. So here’s the thing: Keeping the doors open would cause disruption for many players, as every single bird in France (or at least in Aix-les-Bains) had discovered that it was summer, and celebrated with some major tweeting (I do NOT mean the social network!) I learned that very early on, as I got woken up at 5 am one of the first days! So, to sum up: Very hot, no A/C, lots of birds. Luckily, I asked the reception at my (supposedly) four star hotel to help me. This is were the “I will fix.” comes into play. As it turns out, he had absolutely nothing he could do, as the air conditioning was not working. Still, he left me with false hope for many days, right until the 5th time I complained – after which he suddenly came clean and said that there was nothing he could do. Essentially: Burn in hell.

Casino

The casino: Reportedly excellent playing conditions. I never got the chance to experience it for myself Smilefjes som rekker tunge

Park

Garden

Idyllic surroundings! Home of loud, unidentified birds.

I must admit, I tend to be very critical, especially when the chess doesn’t fulfill my gigantic expectations. Truth is, apart from this major but, Aix-les-Bains was amazing. Well worth a visit, but you might wanna talk to your hotel about air conditioning, as well as what Radisson’s “100% Satisfaction Guarantee”. I kinda just assume it’s just a joke Smilefjes

The tournament got a sad ending, as I squandered a lot by losing two straight games after the rest day. On the final day, I played ‘über solid’-Smaids, but nevertheless felt I was outplaying him. Unfortunately, I burned ridiculous amounts of time in the early stages, and let any chance of a win go in the process of making up for lost time (blitzing with 8 minutes left). As it turned out, I wouldn’t have qualified even with a win, as the tie break on chess-results – which I assumed was wrong, based on the fact that it seemed to be some completely random number – was indeed the right one. Thanks to my win against my highest-rated opponent (Sutovsky), I never stood a chance. I was very well aware of what the ECU rules stated in the early rounds of the tournament, but I simply didn’t interpret it the “correct” way. I thought it meant that the highest and lowest rated were to be cut from calculating the average of opponents. Cutting the result too (which was ECU’s reading of the rules) is just ludicrus, and incomprehensible to any sensible person. After all, the reason people need to be separated is because they had the same amount of points, why would you then suddenly remove their points?! You could just as well use the “ECU-rules” as the scoring system! That might get some people to react quickly! I personally helped GM Nielsen of Denmark to calculate his tie break (according to my interpretation), so it feels extremely sad to see his spot in the World Cup possibly lost because of this system – And which is why I am somewhat biased in the use of certain (not all) adjectives. We should have protested before the event (although that would very probably have been futile), but our imagination simply didn’t allow us to spot ECU’s creative intention.

Room mate

Determined room mate. Getz completed all his IM-norms! Apparently my presence is enough to boost a person’s playing strength!

Soccer alternatives

April 6, 2011

Playing soccer is usually lots of fun, but it’s really not as great when it’s minus 20 Celsius outside! That’s why Norwegians are crazy about skiing in winter time – Well, some of us at least. I’m not one of them, but I try to get a couple of trips a year. Getting the motivation to go out into the cold voluntarily is the tough part, as it’s surprisingly fun once you’re in the wild (apart from the hundreds of other skiing maniacs) outback. This year, I teamed up with my Aix-les-Bains room mate Getz – a somewhat dubious decision, as he’s very well trained! Keeping up is usually my main goal!


Ready to go!


For future reference: Proof that we actually made it to our destination! I swear my Photo-shopping skills are nowhere near the ability to fake this stuff!


Back at Sognsvann, I’m still full of energy after our little work-out. Well, or it might be before we even started – who knows?!

Soccer mania

April 6, 2011

For some reason, almost all chess players have a close relationship to soccer (otherwise known as football, but you’ll excuse me and my bad habits, picked up by learning English in the US). The Icelanders were no exception, and during my stay in Reykjavik, I got the opportunity to join them twice – in addition to playing in the prestigious Iceland versus the rest of the World! It must have worked wonders for my chess, as I nearly got a clear first place in the tournament!


About half of the players after an intense hour of play.

More and more tournaments organize side events, including soccer matches for the participants – so for your next tournament: Remember your soccer boots/cleats! (I’d actually say boots, so I guess I’m not all-American after all!)

Nightly departure

March 18, 2011

Reykjavik has become a major hub as a connection between Europe and North America. Unfortunately, this means that Icelandair’s schedule is somewhat crazy. In order to get home, loads of chess players were up at 4 am to catch a bus to the airport. A picture of Luke McShane trying to juggle four pieces of luggage while walking (if you can call it that) would have been somewhat hilarious, but unfortunately I was too slow on the trigger. Instead, all I got for waking up at 4 am was this picture of a snowy, windy and cold Reykjavik morning – Well, that plus the fact that I actually made my flight!

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