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Balls Out in Bilbao

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The Grand-Slammingest tournament of the year begins tomorrow in Bilbao, Spain. It's Anand, Ivanchuk, Topalov, Carlsen, Aronian, and Radjabov in a double round-robin. Or, as I call it, Linares Minus Losers. The field is the top six finishers in Linares, with Leko and Shirov truncated. Since Carlsen's rating has shot up so high since then, Bilbao is a Category 22 event (2775 avg.), or a Category 5 on the Saffir-Simpson scale. They are playing in a glass cube in the middle of Plaza Nueva, right in the center of the old city, but, as Aronian tactfully put it, "for this kind of prize money" such curiosities can be overlooked. The moolah the Armenian was referring to is €150,000 for first place, then 70, 60, 50, 40, 30. (-24% taxes.) That's nearly $50K just for putting your shoes on and making it to the board for ten days, not bad at all. And the first prize being so much more could inspire a slugfest. Kudos to Grand Slam originator Silvio Danailov, the Bilbao organizers, and the folks at Corus, Linares, and M-Tel for finally making this happen. Honestly, I had my doubts. (Above pic by the real Paul Truong Susan Polgar.)

With an innovative outdoor playing area and such a prestigious roster of participants, of course they set it up and tested the playing conditions well in advance. Just kidding! As of a few hours ago they were still building it!

2008 US Chess Journalist of the Year(tm)(c) ___/\___\o/____ Macauley Peterson (pics above and below) is in Bilbao for ICC Chess.FM and says they are still cleaning up the glass and doing what looks like heavy construction work with less than 24 hours to go. The players came by for a tour and weren't exactly impressed by the state of readiness. There's a big tent-like roof construction over the whole thing so they don't end up frying in there like bugs in a sadistic seven-year-old's Easy Bake Oven.

I'll start the caption contest off with "My idea, what do you mean this was my idea?" Or how about "You heard me, I said pick up a hammer."

Impossible to pick a favorite on more than form and fancy in such a powerful event. Topalov hasn't shown his teeth in a while and I expect a good result from him. Is the Super-Topa of 2005-06 gone for good? He's supposed to have a candidates match with Kamsky later this year and so like Anand has reasons for avoiding/conserving some of his best prep. As WCh and #1 Anand always deserves the respect of favorite. He hasn't played classical chess since winning Linares way back in March. Carlsen, on the other hand, has played constantly. He had a bit of a downturn (for him) in his last event in Biel. Ivanchuk plays even more and is coming straight from consecutive supertournaments in Sochi and Moscow, winning the latter, as well as the blitz. This will be a test of stamina as much as anything else for the Ukrainian. Radjabov came second in Sochi but still loses more than he wins against his fellow top-tenners. Aronian finished last at M-Tel but just won the Sochi Grand Prix. He's the biggest wildcard in the field with serious flame-out potential.

Much has been made of the tournament's use of a 3-1-0 scoring system, with three points for a victory and one for a draw. In the past such experiments have usually proven irrelevant so I'm not going to make a big deal out of it. I'm not a big fan but generally approve of experimentation. If one player wins four and loses four he will finish equal with someone who wins two and loses none, which makes me queasy. I know the point is to encourage aggressive, risk-taking chess, but my view of such ideas is dimmer than anti-short-draw regulations (which are in effect in Bilbao). Yes, we would all love the +4 -4 =2 guy, but draws are part of the game. This risks decreasing the quality of the games even further when it's already suffered from faster time controls (and the loss of adjournments, but those had to go). Having the players in a "nothing to lose" mentality sounds good until it's actually true. You don't want garbage on board. Players at this level aren't going to pay much attention to the scoring system. They care more about their ratings and not losing. But if that giant first prize is on the line, we might see at the very least more aggressive opening choices. The ability to score six points in the last two rounds means nobody is out of the running. We'll see, and hear what the players think afterward. The control, btw, is the speedy M-Tel 40/90' + g/60'.

Rest days are Sunday the 7th and Thursday the 11th. The games start at 1700 local, 11am EDT. Last round an hour earlier. With the quick control that means zeitnot before 2pm New York. I'll be rockin' the mic like a vandal on Chess.FM with GMs Joel Benjamin, Nick de Firmian, Larry Christiansen, Ronen Har-Zvi, and Gregory Kaidanov. We've got trivia and mucho más with a chance every day to win a one-year subscription to New In Chess magazine. Plus Macauley will be doing his Spike Jonze thing with interviews and more video from Bilbao. John Henderson is also there for the ICC, so expect lots of good pics at chessclub.com. And stories about getting lost. If you prefer to watch in silence and confusion, the official site's live broadcast is here. They also have a webcam link, which worked surprisingly well at M-Tel.


Caption contest submission:
"Did you say that I gained weight!? Apparently my vertical lined shirt is useless."

Caption contest submission:
How do we run the cable to the rest room ?

"Relax Vessie, I have it on the highest authority that glass does not block wireless."

"Chucky, I like you, I really do, but 3 hours in a non-ventilated glass cage? .... It's never been more imperative for you to maintain a healthy bathing regimen".

Cynical Gripe,

That's Danailov. :)

"If one player wins four and loses four he will finish equal with someone who wins two and loses none, which makes me queasy."

I don't know why that makes you queasy, i find that perfectly normal. What I find queasy is a guy with 8 draws scores the same as a guy with 4 wins and 4 losses.

Spike Jones, I approve! Blinking text? Not so much!

"This time my main man has seen to that there will not even be built toilets!"


"Jesus, Veselin, you didn't need to beat em THAT badly"
"Look at the devastation your novelty has wreaked"
Go Ivanchuck!

I'm impressed, all players actually have a chance to win this event. They all play interesting chess. It's been a while I could say this.

Just because of recent successes: Go Ivanchuk!!

I am rooting for Veselin Topalov.

I am rooting for everyone except Veselin Topalov.

I am rooting for Danailov.

Any news on when the board upgrade promised a year and a half ago, that would have added an Ignore feature that really works is going to be loaded?

Topalov: "Do these white jeans make me look fat?"

i dont get it, Qb5 and draw?
how was he on the clock?

this is why i hate non-incremental time controls!
players like chucky seriously suffers by that type of nonsens. its stupid.

"I warned Vlad not to smoke when I fart!"

Anand should have let his clock run down to 22 seconds, and then blitzed it out with Ivanchuk.
Then half the time he'd get 3 points and half the
time 0, and each of them would have a better
expectation than what occurred.

Does "guapísima" mean groupie in Spanish ?

"I ask for a nightclub stroll in Moscow with Vlad, and you give me garage sale-ing in Bilbao with Magnus?!!"

"Does "guapísima" mean groupie in Spanish ?"

"guapa" means pretty, good looking, attractive woman. "guapísima" is the superlative.

What does means "groupie"?


Look up your word at "urbandictionary.com." Looking up "plastercasters" might also broaden your knowledge of our rich language.

Greg's caption gets my vote!

Greg is such a rude and humourless fellow.

Hardy Berger, the word "humourless" does not hold the meaning you likely wish to convey to us. And as you have already displayed a singular rudeness by your outrageous previous post regarding Topalov, you cannot expect to be trusted in matters of decorum, honesty or wit.

For remedial assistance you may also wish to look up the terms "Mighty Thor" and "Faerie Dusting" on urbandictionary.com.


You obviously missed the point of Hardy's clever (and humorous) "rooting for Topalov" post.

"to turn up the soil with the snout, as swine."

greg koster-you causing truffle again?

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    About this Entry

    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on September 1, 2008 4:46 PM.

    Ivanchuk Triumphs in Moscow was the previous entry in this blog.

    Bilbao 08: Aronian Tanks is the next entry in this blog.

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