And by 'grind' I mean coffee and lots of it -- big and black like my television. Yes, I'm here again. My one-month sabbatical from the Dirt has been slightly truncated by my receiving an offer I couldn't refuse from Chess.FM to go on the air for the NH Tournament in Amsterdam, starting tomorrow (Thursday) at 1330 local and 7:30am EDT. Yes, seven thirty in the morning, which is where that coffee comes in. And the defib paddles. That's around the time I've been going to sleep since coming back from vacation on the West Coast, so this is going to take some getting used to.
The Rising Stars youth team member with the best score gets an invitation to next year's edition of the legendary Melody Amber rapid/blindfold tournament. The NH itself is no walk in the park. It's a much stronger event this year and it will be even better if top Star player Hikaru Nakamura doesn't get leprosy and have a finger fall off when he bangs the clock. Nakamura was horribly ill at last year's event and that, combined with a solid performance from eventual winner Jan Smeets, kept the American from a much-anticipated clash with the super-elites at fast time controls in Nice. (Little-known story: One of Pillsbury's syphilitic fingers fell off during a crucial game against Lasker. Cool as he was, Lasker picked up the finger and smoked it right there at the board.)
Nakamura is joined on the Rising Stars youth team by a veritable who's who of who's young and highly rated. (Little-known fact: "The Young and the Highly Rated" was a popular soap opera in the USSR, following the hijinks of two teenage Grandmasters.) Caruana, Giri, So, and Howell have all had impressive results to go along with their impressive Elo. To match this squad, the Veterans have continued last year's trend of poaching healthy-if-paunchy middle-aged Grandmasters still enjoying life on the sunny side of 2700. This shift from grandpas to dads resulted in a rare win for the Veteran team last year. Svidler and Nielsen are back again, and they brought reinforcements. World Cup winner Boris Gelfand, enjoying a renaissance at 41, is now the top seed. Loek van Wely is there and then a real veteran, Ljubo Ljubojevic, now the only player in the event born before the Summer of Love. Fun and fact-filled bios of the players at the official site.
Joel Benjamin, Alex Yermolinsky, Jan Gustafsson, and Larry Christiansen are your Chess.FM analysts for the first half of the event. Sounds like a party I'd like to be invited to, so I'm glad I was. Hot topics for the slow game days: Joel, is Omar Minaya your Facebook friend? Jan, 100 years from now how will we remember Coolio? Larry, why don't we just open the borders completely? Yermo, is it wrong to talk about the USSR as "the good old days?" Should be fun. Those should beat the quality of my usual chess trivia questions, which have gotten thinner than Christina Aguilera's wardrobe. ("SafeSearch is off." Well, duh.)
I figured Dortmund would be as boring as usual this year so it was a good time to take my first real break. Oops on that one. That and I'm up to my bloodshot eyeballs in the FIDE election every day, which leaves me somewhat disinclined to rehash it all here. Especially since these days you need to run everything from a press release to a trivia question to 1.d4 by a lawyer before you post it. I'll be glad when the Lausanne verdict comes down because I've got a month's worth of muck to rake. (Well-known fact: working with lawyers usually isn't fun, even for other lawyers.)