World Championship Arbiter
IA Alex McFarlane of Paisley CC was arbiter at World Championship
Kazan Russia, May 3-27, 2011
All photos below from FIDE Photo Gallery
Arrival: I've arrived safely and have had an arbiters' meeting and a meeting with representatives of the players. The Opening Ceremony and the drawing of colours has to take place (in about 2 hours).
Got the VIP treatment at Kazan airport where I was met on the tarmac and taken by taxi to the terminal whilst my luggage was collected for me. I was also waved through security. The other passengers had to go on a bus and pass through security.
Fortunately, because of the location of the toilets and a smoking room I won't have to follow the players when they leave the hall as there is nowhere for them to go. They will be scanned for mobile phones etc when entering. Also the playing hall and spectating area have jammers to stop people broadcasting/texting.
Jana Bellin (Chair of Medical Commission) arrives on Friday to conduct drug tests. She spoke to me on Sunday at the 4NCL and I may be asked to assist with this. I know I hoped to get to know the players a bit better, but certainly not that well!
There are only three arbiters. Ignatius Leong (Singapore), Franca Dapiron (Italy) and myself. Surprisingly there are no local/Russian arbiters involved. Jorge Vega from Mexico is the Chairman of the appeals committee.
The area is currently awash with technical guys and labourers putting the final touches to the arrangements. Similar in many respects to the London Classic but there will be a mirrored screen between the players and the audience allowing the spectators to watch but stopping the audience from seeing them.
I did try to find out how I had been selected for this event but only got the throwaway line from Ignatius that FIDE was looking for new blood. Neither of the other arbiters have anything like my level of activity. (I'll leave that statement suitably vague other than to add to David that I think I now agree with what he was going to tell me when I returned.)
May 4, Opening Ceremony: The Opening Ceremony went off without a hitch. There was a military presence for security and I even noticed a sniffer dog. (Photo: Alex behind woman in blue).
It started with traditional folk singing followed by a speech in which the building of a chess palace was announced. The Candidates matches are being seen as the start of a period of international events to be held in Kazan including the Student Games in 2013 and some FIFA World Cup matches in 2018.
The Opening Ceremony then had the drawing of colours and was concluded with some opera and ballet with a chess theme.
20 invited guests (I was one of them) then had dinner. No player was in attendance as it was expected that they would be preparing for today's game which starts at noon BST.
The 5 course dinner was excellent though it required a knowledge of Russian culture otherwise you went hungry. Speeches and toasts were carried out throughout the meal. Being polite I stopped eating my salad starter during the first speech from the immediate Past President of the Republic of Tatarstan. The outcome of this was that I could not finish this course before the next arrived. I learned my lesson quickly and kept eating regardless of other activities. This proved to be a wise move as there were 10 speeches and 9 toasts in total. At least it was only the rabbit food course that went unfinished. The dinner was attended by 2 former republic Presidents, various local politicians and several FIDE officials at least two of whom are only here for the day.
We did a final inspection of the playing area this morning. The film cameras have now been positioned with one per board. As a result of the filming the presence of the arbiters on stage will be kept to a minimum though we will be able to see everything from our position in the wings.
There is now nothing much to do until just before kick-off, except possibly have lunch. As a counterbalance to the food I'm eating I am mainly walking up and down stairs to and from my 6th floor bedroom.
May 5, Quarters Game 1
Security was again tight before the start of play. There was a military presence at security checkpoints and at various other places around the hotel. Yet again this included a sweep of the playing area by a sniffer dog.
Whilst we are staying and playing in the hotel that doesn't give a very good indication of what the venue is like. Not only is it a hotel but there is also an up-market shopping mall on the first two floors with a cinema complex in a wing on the opposite side of the building to the playing hall.
I noticed on the ECForum someone stating that the playing area looked like a small room. This illusion is caused by plastic mirrored panels being suspended between the players and the spectators. On either side of this are two screens. One showing the four game positions and the other the pictures from the four cameras filming proceedings.
Whilst the chess went smoothly on day one there have been one or two teething problems. The phone jamming does not seem to have worked if it is in place as we were told. There were several spectator phones going off in the early stages and occasionally thereafter. I wonder if the blocking of phone signals was not possible because of the commentary. Spectators can get earphones which allows them to hear the live commentary. This also caused a problem as the volume from them was so loud that they could be heard, indistinctly, at the boards. The sound levels had to be turned down several times before an acceptable level was reached.
We will have plenty of signs in place for the start of round 2.
The mirrored screen also creates problems. The spectators have the impression of being in a separate room so noise levels can build up. The frustration to the arbiters is that we cannot see who is talking until we move to the other side of the screen. It is therefore often impossible to know who the culprit was.
The large spread of food for the players went, unsurprisingly, largely untouched.
May 6, Quarters Game 2
Only three hours into round 2 and we knew we were working on Sunday. The Aronian/Krischuk draw meant that at least one match was going to a fourth day.
No politicians in attendance today so therefore no military security or dogs. The soldiers being replaced by civilians.
The phone blocking seems to have worked today and the spectators were a lot quieter, so on only two occasions did I have to look like a dolly bird at a boxing match and walk around holding up a card asking for quiet. Although, for all the Russian writing I know I might have been walking round holding a sign saying “Look at this prat”.
Anyway away from the chess I went for quite a walk this morning. They seem to be fixing and painting just about everywhere. Many of the painters just seem to be tied on to high buildings and abseiled down with a brush and paintpot.
Health and Safety doesn't seem to have reached here. Even in the playing hall the cameras were mounted on platforms and the operators on stools. A few inches movement would have seen them fall off. There are cables everywhere around the stage, a few of them are duct taped down and in some cases (though not many) for more than two or three inches every 3 metres. Fortunately the players are in no danger, it is only the arbiters, the film crew and, for the first five minutes the press photographers. I think everyone has tripped at least once, though fortunately not during any time scrambles.
Back to my morning walk. The driving is even worse than I believed. I thought I saw someone turning into a one way street the wrong way, but no, he just encountered someone else waiting to get out who had used the other side of the road to avoid the queue. I also saw a road between the Kremlin and the Cathedral which was 2 broad lanes in Britain. This was turned into two lanes in one direction and one in the other by simply crossing the centre of the road and thereby claiming it for your side. At a slightly wider bit on a bend I actually saw someone just overtake the two stationary lanes and create a third lane!! This lane lasted about 20 metres until the road narrowed again. Lane markings are non existant and lanes seem to be defined by the position of the car.
They seem to be in the process of rebuilding quite a bit of Kazan. Apparently a great deal was demolished under the Soviet regime and replaced with concrete buildings. To some extent this is still going on but I notice that in some cases they are trying to preserve older buildings or at least the facade. There are still one or two shanty town style wooden shacks around on side streets. I wonder how long the authorities will allow these to survive.
The hotel seems to think I'm a chess player rather than an arbiter. On the first morning my room was made up by 10am but they now seem to leave it until mid afternoon. Obviously if its known that he's with the chess the assumption is that he will be in bed until mid-day.
I had all three meals yesterday and it was far too much. If I'm not careful, despite the extra exercise, I will come back even larger than when I left. I skipped the three course lunch today (though not the huge breakfast) in favour of a few savouries in the lounge reserved for players and arbiters. Luckily, play finished in about 5 hours today so I didn't have to wait too long for dinner. I have now tried several Russian dishes, I try to take at least one with a meal.
May 7, Quarters Game 3
For a city with a population of 1.2 million the streets are quite bereft of people. Kazan is trying to make itself the sports capital of Russia and in Russia sport includes chess.
The student games in 2013, the Olympiade, is going to have chess as one of the sports and the city is also bidding to host the 2018 Olympiad. With a bit of luck I might even get the chance to return here.
Having at least one play-off on Monday seems a near certainty following today's results. If all four games go to tiebreak we will have an interesting situation. The regulations state that the arbiter will record the moves during the tiebreak and that the player is allowed to see the arbiter's scoresheet if considering claiming a draw by repetition or by the 50 move rule. Now as any schoolboy will tell you 4 into 3 doesn't go! We arbiters may have to draw lots to see who attempts to record two games simultaneously!!!! Any play-offs will start at the usual time (Noon BST).
I thought I was going to witness a punch-up between two spectators today. When a game finishes it is normal for a significant number of spectators to move into the press room to hear the interviews which follow immediately after a game is concluded. One such spectator, in the view of another, was taking too long in gathering his stuff and thereby blocking his view of the screen showing the current positions. He was told this quite audibly, certainly loudly enough to attract my attention. The first spectator then decided to go to the other and presumably tell him what he thought. Fortunately, the seated fan remained so but unfortunately continued to express his annoyance before I finally halted his tirade. Presumably because it was a Saturday there were more spectators than usual. Certainly at one point the 160 odd seats were full with people standing or kneeling at the sides.
May 8, Quarters Game 4
Well only two play-offs to cope with tomorrow. The format is 4 games at 25 minutes with 10 second increments. If still tied then we have a match of 2 games at 5minutes plus 3 seconds per move. Five such matches are possible. If we are stilled tied after this then we have an Armageddon where White has 5 minutes and Black 4 with 3 second increments only from move 61. Black will qualify in the event of a draw.
It is interesting to see how the players act during a game. The playing hall from the players point of view has two adjacent doors leading off. One leads to a corridor which has toilet facilities, a nurses room and a smoking room (only one of the 8 players actually smokes) leading off. The other door leads to the players' lounge. Of the 8 only Topalov remains at his board whilst the opponent is on the move. On the few occasions when he does get up he usually remains on the stage either watching the other games or doing some stretching exercise. Gelfand on the other hand spends much of his opponent's time pacing around in the players' lounge. Earlier today I was in the lounge having some nibbles (I had again missed lunch) watching Aronian, Kramnik and Gelfand all parading around the room making elaborate patterns around the furniture and each other. It is possibly the first time I have ever seen synchronised walking. Inside the lounge we have food and drink at one end and a huge screen displaying the four games at the other. When a player realises from the screen that the opponent has moved they rapidly return to their board.
Gelfand also likes to juggle with a piece. He spins it in his hand with considerable dexterity. It normally starts with the spare queen which is available but thereafter bishops or pawns are used as they are captured. This is done in view of everyone if the opponent is absent, but under the table if the opponent is there. Invariably, the piece is returned to the pile and a move played within seconds. It will be interesting to see how the behaviour varies in the tie-breaks.
I had hoped to mention something about the doping tests but as these are still on-going I will wait a bit longer other than to assure people that my duties end when I escort the player to the testing room. I take no part in the actual collection of samples. There is, what I assume to be, a doctor and male nurse present.
May 9, Quarter Final Play-offs:
What a day. I can only imagine how much stress the players were under. The arbiters too were feeling the pressure before the start of the play-offs. I found myself checking that I could reset a DGT XL, even though I have done it hundreds of times before.
A quick meeting before play and it was agreed that the penalty for starting an opponent's clock before replacing a displaced piece would be one minute. A third offence would result in the loss of the game. The rules already stated that a third incorrect claim of a draw would result in a loss also. The Rules also stated that the arbiters should record the moves and this was to be available to the players to enable draw claims.
I was allocated the Aronian-Grischuk game with Franca Dapiran doing Kramnik-Radjabov and Chief Arbiter Ignatius Leong ‘floating'. As things transpired, I got the easy option.
Before the start of play a technician came up to us to inform us that the Kramnik-Radjabov clock was not showing up with the electronic display. This often happens when the batteries are weak but not so weak as to give a warning sign. The clock was replaced.
The Rapidplay session duly commenced at 3pm local time. After some discussion it was agreed that we would give 15 minutes between games but would not wait to start both simultaneously as that could cause a large delay and there was anyway the prospect of a very long day – 4 Rapidplay, 10 Blitz and an Armageddon. My first game lasted longer than the other so my second started 10 minutes after the K-R one. However, they finished games 2, 3 and 4 whilst I was still on game three.
It was decided to start my game 4 at the same time as the Blitz game of the other competitors.
As I am watching this game I hear a bleep from the other clock as you do when it is being reset. I looked round to see both players indicating the clock which was showing 00 and the other two arbiters moving swiftly towards the incident. (Whilst we were close to the ‘action' we were a bit further back than normally would be the case when recording to allow more access for the film crews.)
It was immediately decided that the game should continue with a replacement clock set at the times which could be found either from the footage taken or from the display of the games. Obviously, there was some disturbance though not excessive under the circumstances. It was certainly enough for me to consider halting my game, but not enough for me actually to do so. There was a bit of a dispute with one player saying the game should be annulled and the other wanting to play on. A slight delay followed whilst the Rules were consulted to confirm that they did not cover the situation.
“They discuss the situation, while arbiter Alex McFarlane admonishes them to keep it down”
That is the caption underneath a picture on the Chessbase Website. Eventually, everything was sorted and the games continued using a third clock. I am not sure, but I believe part of the delay in restarting was to allow the players to compose themselves.
As my match finished first I then had to escort one of the players to the press interview and then for a doping test. I returned from that in time to watch the last blitz game and then repeat the doping performance with one of those players.
All in all a very busy day. One which I enjoyed but one that I hope will not be repeated. I hate to think what the situation would have been like if we had had three matches going to tiebreak.
Clock Failure I believe there will be a press release tomorrow from the Chief Arbiter about the clock incident. That should clarify the situation. It would therefore not be correct for me to say anything until that time other than that I was very glad I was in charge of the other game!!! According to Jonathan Hawkins Facebook I was observed to request Kramnik to keep quiet during the incident. Does that sound like me?
The reason for having doping tests in chess has more to do with getting chess into the Olympics than anything else. With very few exceptions there are no drugs which will give benefits to chess players without doing short to medium term severe damage.
There are two categories of test, in competition and out of competition. The latter seems to apply to anyone who has not started a game within 24 hours of the test time nor will play a game within the same period after. By this definition even players who qualified for the next round can be tested on Monday afternoon under the out of competition category. Confused, I am. Fortunately Dr Jana Bellin the chair of FIDE's Medical Commission knows the rules backwards.
The doping tests are arranged to cause minimum disruption. For this reason it was agreed that anyone involved in play-offs would not be tested on Sunday. So for each of the four games we were given, by Jana, a list of 3 possible outcomes depending on the result of the match. We were also given a quota for each type of testing just to complicate things further. This meant that the players to be tested and the category of test would be dependent on the order of finishing. Some of the players had recently been tested on a number of occasions and this was also factored into the equation.
The first two games were drawn so there was to be no immediate action on those players. The other two games did result in three people being asked to give tests under the two categories.
I had to stay with a GM who was to be tested during the press interview which follows every game. There were also a huge number of autographs to be signed. Whilst not as popular as the players even I have been asked on a few occasions to sign my name, though most of those have been on the restaurant receipts. Following the interview I had to then escort him to the medical room where, much to my relief, my duties ended. I believe that the players then had 30 minutes to supply the necessary.
The situation was simplified today as just before the start of play we were given forms to give to two nominated players at the conclusion of their games.
May 10-11, The Rest Days
I don't know about the players but after the drama of the play-offs I needed some recharge the batteries time.
I found this grave in the cemetery a few hundred metres from the venue. I'm now trying to find out who it is. At times like this I wish I could read Russian. It would also help when shopping. Few shops have any windows, the bigger ones do have screens up which indicate what they are, but in most cases I'm waiting for an open door to see in!!
At least one of the eliminated players is wondering how he will pass his time until the prizegiving. All the players are expected to attend the closing ceremony.
At least we have pleasant surroundings and there are some trips organised.
Hopefully the final will be decided in the 6 classic games and will not require a play-off.
May 12, Semi Final Game 1
Play resumes after the 2 day rest period, well 2 days for one pair of semi-finalists and 3 for the other. Hopefully we will see a bit more fighting chess.
Yesterday, being a rest day I spent the afternoon looking for a bar that was (a) open and (b) not playing loud ‘music'. I failed in my task and ended up buying a beer from a stall. On my constitutional this morning, of course, I came across 5 bars meeting my requirements.
Investigating the grave I found the Russian translates to be Rashid Gibiatovich Nezhmetdinov who won the Soviet Chess Championship 5 times from 1949. Orphaned at a young age he moved from Aktubinsk in Kazakhstan to Kazan. FIDE awarded him the IM title in 1954 for his second place finish to Korchnoi in Bucharest. But he was never to become a GM. It is impossible to believe nowadays that someone who wins the Russian title 5 times would not be a Grandmaster. But things were different then. Indeed the Bucharest tournament referred to above was the only time he was allowed to compete outside the Soviet Union.
He also served as a Second to Tal in his World Championship matches against Botvinnik. The Kazan Chess School is named after him. I may try to find this school. He was born on 15 December 1912 and died on 3 rd June 1974.
I certainly seem to be getting my 15 minutes of fame. Thanks to Dave Hewitt's Caledonian Mercury pieces I have now featured in the Susan Polgar Blog and ChessCafe have linked to the Cal Merc stories on two occasions. I shall not let fame change me. I'll still be as unpleasant and grumpy as ever.
May 13, Semi Final Game 2
Did I say play resumed? It looks almost as if the players had another rest day. Just over 4 hours play in total. Kramnik used less than 11 minutes. Hopefully with the White pieces he will have more of a go in the next game. Having been generally regarded as fortuitous to have survived the previous round going for four draws would seem a perilous strategy for him to adopt.
The players all seem focused. Of the original 8 only Aronian regularly entered with a smile and said hello to the officials. Gelfand is the next most friendly. He goes straight to his board however and only then smiles a greeting as he leaves the stage on the first of his perambulations. The others are, understandably, more concerned about the chess than social graces.
Fortunately everything ran smoothly (well there wasn't really time for much to go wrong!). Today being Friday 13th , for those superstitiously inclined, may be a total disaster.
Having visited a cemetery on Wednesday, I encountered the start of a funeral the following day. The open casket was led down the street by a couple of clerics and placed into the back of a minibus/taxi. A canvas like shaped lid was then put in place. Not wishing to intrude further on the families grief I backed away.
I've been investigating the Chess School further and it turns out that the Principal has been a regular visitor to the Matches. We may be able to meet and discuss how the school works. I believe they are coached by GM Andrey Kharlov.
May 14, Semi Final Game 3
Still both games drawn in round 2 of the semi-finals but at least we had some fighting chess.
The filming of the Candidates matches has been given some favourable comments. There are 4 cameras and three cameramen used and these continue to be used even though we are down to 2 boards. There is also a director deciding what shots are used and when. It has been said that the cameras are a bit invasive and certainly the players have, from time to time, noticed the position of a camera being changed. Whilst the cameras have encroached onto the stage periodically they are certainly not in the players faces and are probably never any closer than 2 metres away.
The camera crew were a bit bored today when both Grischuk and Kamsky were giving considerable thought to a move. Gata made his move and stood up. All three immediately shot into action to follow his movement across the stage. From what I can gather one of those filming is definitely interested in the chess, a second may be. The third seems bored out of his skull.
The going rate in Britain for a cameraman is £1425 for a 50 hour week. Therefore to have a three person crew cover an event like the British Championship would cost almost £8.5k and that is without a director/editor so you are probably talking about £12,000 and that is assuming you don't have to cover their accommodation costs as well. Perhaps the London Classic is the only event in Britain that could consider this level of filming.
And here's one for the lawyers. From the regulations:
3.6 Conditions of Victory
3.6.1 Each match of the first or second round shall consist of four games and the winner of a match shall be the first player to score 2.5 points or more.
3.7 goes on to explain what to do if the scores are tied after 4 games.
But let us take a hypothetical situation where one player is leading 2-1 going into the last game. Both players are late in arriving and are defaulted. So the final score of the match is 2-1. Neither player has managed the magical 2½ and the match is not tied so no play-offs and neither player apparently qualifies. Does this mean the winner of the other semi-final would automatically qualify to play against Anand?
The President of the Republic of Tatarstan was in attendance today as was the head of the Russian Chess Federation (pictured right). The former's presence ensured that once again security was tightened and that there was a military turnout, or perhaps it was because of the appearance of the latter. It can be difficult to say who would be more important in Russian terms.
We had a phone ring just before the end of play, the first since the phone blocking was activated for the second games. There had been some obvious problems with the jamming at the start of play today which lead to some last minute tinkering being done. The repairs seemed to have been effective until near the end of play when …..
The poor old codger whose phone was ringing was so engrossed in the position on his pocket set that he had no idea it was his mobile until told so in no uncertain manner by hotel security. He then got it out and as he was trying to switch it off, a task he seemed incapable of completing, his phone rang again. Two burly security staff then simply grabbed it off of him and took it outside, leaving a totally bewildered gent who, by the look on his face, thought he had been robbed!! I did not try to comfort him.
Well 50% of today's games were hard fought. It was interesting that Kamsky spent more time away from the board than usual and Gelfand more time at it. Certainly this is the first time that I have seen Boris seriously behind on time so that may form part of the reason. Kamsky seemed to show a lot of indecision during the game. On several occasions he had his hand poised over the board for many seconds like one of those amusement arcade claw cranes that never quite allows you to win a prize. Indeed on one occasion (move 23) he hovered above the h1 rook, slid it along to e1, held it there for a second or two and then brought it back. This must have confused the DGT board into thinking a move had been played because Gelfand came out of the players' lounge at his usual lick of knots. On looking at the board he stopped in his tracks noticing that the rook was not on e1 but back on its original square. He was then reassured to see that it was Gata's clock that was running.
Tomorrow sees the midway point of the tournament and barring miracles Monday will see the Semi Final Play-offs.
May 15, Semi Final Game 4
I woke up this morning to discover that markings had been painted on the road outside the hotel. They even have a bus lane. Now all that is required is to explain to drivers that they are supposed to do the majority of their journey between two sets of dotted lines. (Subsequently all of the major roads now have lane markings)
The Grischuk Kramnik game was a fair old tussle. Kamsky's preparation seemed to have been enough to take that match into the play-offs as well.
Looks like being a long day tomorrow.
May 16, Semi Final Play-offs
I had an interesting conversation with Chief Arbiter Ignatius Leong before the start of today's matches. There can be no doubt that there have been a lot of drawn games. Much has been made of the fact that with only 4 games then a mistake is fatal not just for the game but for the match. Another contributing factor is the computer which has meant that openings are analysed to a far greater degree than was possible before (the 1000 monkeys producing the works of Shakespeare scenario).
Fischer Random is obviously a way round that but it is really a different game. Ignatius was suggesting changing the scoring system to 1 point for turning up and a further two points if you win. His feelings were that this would induce a more attack minded culture as lose or draw you would get the same score but a win would be well rewarded. Obviously this would not have any effect on match play but would in Swiss tournaments. He was also advocating that some of the Laws of Chinese chess should be adopted, for example no draw by repetition and you could not give check with the same piece three moves in a row. Elsewhere a suggestion that pieces should be allowed to capture en passant was also advocated.
In a reference back to Scotland, Ignatius' favourite game is his Olympiad win against Jonathan Grant.
I was lucky enough to get the Gelfand v Kamsky games to arbit. Manually recording blitz games is fun!! However, regardless of personal preference for one player over another (if any existed), as soon as a player goes one up in the Rapidplay games there is a feeling that you want that player to win if for no other reason than it may save you embarrassingly making a mess of recording the blitz. Remember the player may need my scoresheet when considering making a draw claim. Ignoring that purely selfish attitude it is better for chess to have decisive games in the Classic play sessions and only if needs be occasionally move on to the Rapidplays. There is certainly a strong feeling that deciding such important matters on Blitz games is not good for the image of chess. That feeling is coming through strong and clear from many quarters.
May 17-18, Rest Days 3 and 4
I don't know about the surviving players but I was nowhere near as tired on Rest Day 3 as I had been on Rest Day 1.
Decided that I should buy some presents. I HATE shopping when I have no idea what I want to buy. So I went to some local markets hoping to find appealing local products. Brilliant if I wanted food, a new bathroom, clothes or even toys. In desperation I tried the largest mall. 5 floors - although one of them was a cinema with associated fast food outlets and a shop selling movie associated products. On entering, the first outlet I saw was a Hallmark. It didn't improve much thereafter. Arrgh!
My search for something that conveyed Russia but wasn't touristy trash was unsuccessful. I guess I'll need to buy everyone a bottle of vodka, though how that will go with the parents of a 14 year old I hate to think. The parents of the 20 month old will probably welcome it with open mouths.
Talking of shops, there must be hundreds of kiosks. Every street seems to have at least two and on main streets they are every 20 metres or so. The majority of these sell magazines, cigarettes, soft drinks and beer. Some additionally sell toys and a surprising number cat food. A fair number of these are open 24 hours. There are also a surprising number of kiosks which sell vases, flower pots, plastic flowers and bedding plants. Even some of those are 24 hour. Now whilst I can understand someone wanting a drink or a cigarette at 3 in the morning I fail to anticipate any great demand for a bunch of plastic dahlias at that time.
Not too surprisingly having witnessed the standard of driving there are also a significant number of 24 hour car mechanics.
The English language station I sometimes tune into seems to have changed to a Russian one and it's showing – Big Brother! Now if ever there was an argument against capitalism. The Russians obviously have no advertising standards authority. I've been watching an advert that says if you take this product called Magnesium Zinc Calcium you will grow tremendously. To back it up you have lots of people with white lab coats and images of the same person standing next to himself. In one he looks 6 inches bigger and his clothes fit. In the other he appears to be wearing the same clothes but they are much too big for him. A Garnier product miraculously cures all skin blemishes.
Anyway the final starts tomorrow. It will be interesting to see what strategies the players engage for these 6 games. Will it be play it safe and try out an innovation at the end or will it be hammer and tongs from the beginning. Time will tell.
May 19, Final Game 1
There was an extra buzz around the tournament hall today. It was caused by a wasp which managed to evade the security systems and landed on the board, fortunately early in the game. It initially hovered over the board for a brief period before settling on a central square leaving Gelfand, who was considering his move, with a bit of a dilemma as to what to do. Fortunately this extra spectator's appearance was very brief before heading for the cameras and then the audience area.
It was a hard fought game today which augers well for the rest of the final. Grischuk plays poker professionally and as such his facial expressions give little away. I sincerely hope that Gelfand does not play poker, for I fear he would not have a lot of his Candidate prize money left if he allowed his face to display his thoughts and emotions to the extent that he does during a game of chess.
There were still 4 cameras in use today, but only one cameraman at most. I say at most because even he seemed to disappear about half way through the game only to reappear at the conclusion. With only the one board the cameras had been set up so that little manipulation was required.
And here's one for the conspiracy theorists …. Communism is still alive and well in Russia and predicting the outcome of chess tournaments. You don't believe me? Look at the hanging at the back of the players. In round 1 all the winners are shown in red. Now look at the two finalists. Both are on the left. Red and Left now what picture do these two words conjure up to those of a certain age!!
May 20, Final Game 2
A strong military presence, including sniffer dogs, again this morning but I assumed it was for an exhibition which is taking place in the hotel, rather than the chess. The staff are obviously affected. My request for a black tea (as opposed to green - nothing to do with whether I take milk or not) during breakfast produced the interesting result of my being poured a cup of coffee and given a teabag to put in it. Much to the embarrassment of the waitress I returned the cup. The next 5 minutes were filled with a mixture of her apologising and laughing.
From the information panels which, almost amazingly, are in English I assume this exhibition is to attract foreign business into the area. Apparently current foreign investment is 81% German and 16% from Luxemburg. This may account for the only western flight direct to Kazan being from Frankfurt.
It turns out that the security is for the President of Austria who is visiting the hotel. As a result, and in anticipation of his visit, the numbers spectating are limited to 20. The front row of seats has to be left empty.
The game starts, and what a game. Both players seem to be up for a fight and the time spent away from the board is much reduced by both. It is unfortunate that the best game of the Candidates matches so far has been played in front of a restricted audience.
About 3½ hours into the session and we hear singing and music from the hall above. The door to the toilet corridor is quickly closed negating the worst of the problem. I am told that the noise we heard was a welcoming performance for the President. Unfortunately, despite the door being closed there are times when the sounds can still be heard.
Fortunately neither player seems unduly concerned. Half way through the second session and I am aware that a significant number of people are entering the spectating area. There is much clicking of camera shutters and the President arrives and takes his seat. After a couple of minutes the hall empties again. The photo opportunity has ended or moved elsewhere, possibly back for the termination of the musical extravaganza. The brief silence is followed by some rapid scurrying sounds. When I look round the partition the front row has again been occupied, this time by the real fans.
Another interesting day. Despite another two draws the tournament has certainly come to life.
May 21, Final Game 3
After yesterday's game today was a bit of an anti-climax. No music, no singing, no Presidents and no chess some might say.
I must say that when I started the clock at 3pm I was optimistic that the fighting chess of the previous two games would continue and possibly produce a positive result for one of the players.
Alas it was not to be. Gelfand's ninth move seems to have been unexpected by Grischuk. He certainly thought for a while about it and 5 moves later offered the draw which was accepted.
I had been watching the clocks run down and just thinking that a real time scramble with both players thumping out moves was a real possibility when Gelfand stood up without making a move on the board and nodded into the players' lounge. ½ -½.
The upside – the match was finished in time to allow me to listen to the Scottish Cup final on Radio Scotland via the Internet.
May 22, Final Rest Day
The final rest day and I take a trip out of Kazan to visit a monastery and the Mother Church of Georgia. It is allegedly 40 kilometres away but still part of the city of Kazan. The distance between Kazan and the monastery is basically one huge forest on one side and trees on the other!!
We pass a village where again there is modernisation going on but the old wooden houses seem more likely to survive here according to our guide as there is plenty of land to build on without having to demolish.
The building which used to host the Kazan Chess Club is pointed out. I have walked past it a few times and had seen the plaque to Lenin but hadn't thought anything of it as the city is proud of the time Lenin attended university here. It is purported that both Lenin and Tolstoy played chess in those premises. I have not seen the current chess club but have seen the statue in its public garden. The statue appears to be of a statesman.
The news today tells of the Icelandic volcano Grimsvotn erupting. Hopefully it will not have anything like the effect of the last volcano which brought air transport in Europe to a halt. The rail journey to Moscow alone is 10 hours.
If we are grounded perhaps we can extend the Candidates final from 6 to 12 games!!
May 23, Final Game 4
I've heard ‘start of match delayed because of rain', I've heard ‘start of match delayed to allow crowds in', I've heard ‘start of match delayed because of traffic congestion'. However, this must be a first – start of match delayed because of 1000 Russian Women! Today's start was put back half an hour to allow a women's business conference to finish in the hall above before play started. And just as well because the noise at 3.25 was considerable as the meeting ended with a song and a cheer. Regrettably, today's match finished with neither. An hour more play and a few more moves than round 3 but not really what the spectators were hoping for. Who do you blame for the high number of draws in this competition? It is easy to blame FIDE for the format, it is easy to blame the players and accuse them of a lack of effort. Perhaps it is just that with the players being so closely rated and so strong and ‘booked' up that draws are an almost inevitable result at that level. If this is true though it is not good for the future of chess as it currently is.
On the social side, I got up early this morning to go to the zoo. It is at the far side of the lake and was built in 1806. It does show its age and reminded me of Edinburgh Zoo when I was a boy (so more than just a couple of years ago). As with the rest of Kazan, there does seem to be quite a bit of modernisation and improvements going on. There is no doubt from what I witnessed that the keepers cared for the animals but you do have to have some concerns about animals so far removed from their natural habitat.
Anyway, tomorrow's another day and hopefully game 5 will have us all talking about whether the loser can make a comeback in the final game.
May 24, Final Game 5
Well today's game lasted more moves than the previous two combined. Having said that, this one to my inexpert eye looked much more drawn certainly from the midway point than the previous ones when they concluded. I won't name names but one of the players on walking on to the stage headed for the wrong side of the table. Perhaps he has spent most of his time planning a brilliant and conclusive strategy for tomorrow's game. One can but hope.
Horse meat for dinner last night. I'm ready now for the 1000 Guinness or have I spelled that wrong. In either case, I'm up for it. Actually the meal was quite pleasant. Maybe the French have something after all. But of course any nation which a certain section of the English detest with such vigour must have something going for them
The exhibition in the hotel today is for dentists and this wing of the hotel actually smells like a dentist's surgery. My teeth are on edge just walking past.
Looking like play-offs will be necessary. My worry over this is “Do I have another clean shirt?” I can just hear ‘She Who Must Be Ignored' muttering, “Buy another one!”
May 24, Final Game 6
Well it's all over – and no play-off necessary. Boris Gelfand is a worthy winner. The omens were there for this to be the final game. At breakfast part of the background music was a slow version of Auld Lang Syne and as I walked past the restaurant again on my way to the tournament hall for the game the same tune was playing. No other tune marks the end of something like this one does. And so it proved to be.
Mixed feelings on my part. It is good that a tournament of this nature was not finally decided in ‘extra-time'. It makes the validity of the winner so much greater to win under classical conditions rather than in rapidplay or blitz. But, of course, I actually got a buzz out of doing the play-offs in the earlier rounds and would have liked to have been involved in another one.
It is easy to be critical of the format. There should have been more games at each stage, each round should have been held separately. Both opinions have merit but would lead to an even longer event and probably an even longer challenger cycle. One of the major complaints is that the world championship cycle is already too long.
Anyway, prizegiving tomorrow and with the wind in the right direction I should be home on Friday evening. With the wind in the wrong direction I may have a protracted stop-off in Brussels. Anyone got Paul Motwani's address?
There is no doubt it has been the experience of a lifetime. From a chess point of view it is disappointing that there were so few decisive games – 90% drawn in the ‘classic' matches. I now have an even greater regard for the amount of effort that the players put into the preparation for the matches. You hear about the teams but until you actually see them ‘hunting' as a pack you don't really appreciate the bonding and trust that is required to be successful.
From a personal point of view it was astonishing to see the regard with which the arbiters are held at this level of event. We are described as being amongst the Principals and our passes allow us access to all areas, including the VIP area. In many British events the arbiters are regarded as a necessary evil. Here, whilst obviously not as important as the players, the arbiter has a much higher status.
There was another official dinner to complete the event attended by about 16. The two finalists, FIDE President, the current deputy Prime Minister and former President of the region, the arbiters and a few others. I lost count of the number of toasts this time, into double figures – which might explain why I lost count. I do know that for the meal I used 6 forks and knives and a soup spoon.
For the journey home four of us were given a ride to the airport. The journalist and cameraman were dropped off at the main terminal. The Chief Arbiter and myself were taken to the VIP lounge. Yes, they know how to look after their arbiters abroad.
Kazan itself, variously described as the ‘Third Capital of Russia' or the Sports Capital of Russia' is a strange mixture of new and old. There are many historical buildings and many new buildings, some built in historical style. A tremendous amount of regeneration is going on which in the past was demolish and rebuild but more recently the idea of refurbishing the interior of a building has been recognised. I am glad to have had the opportunity to visit Kazan with its unique mixture of old and new of both buildings and cultures.
The driving in Kazan is the most adventurous I have seen and I've been to Rome and New York. The police seem keen to enforce drivers to give way to pedestrian when turning right and not to have (overly) tinted front windows and yet I have seen innumerable cars with broken headlights, no bumpers and cracked windscreens with no apparent action being taken. Indeed one bus even had sticky back plastic over the bottom half of the driver's crazed windscreen.
It has been a long tournament. The highlight was probably being in charge of the Gelfand/Kamsky semifinal, particularly recording the blitz games. A total adrenalin rush. Surprisingly, it has not been too tiring. I suppose it's a bit like comparing a one day allegro/rapidplay to a weekend congress where the former always leaves you more exhausted than the latter. Something like the British or the Scottish I've found takes much more out of me than this did.
Am I glad to be going home? You bet. Would I do it again? In a shot. Will I get to do it again? Who knows? Only time will tell.
Preview: I leave on the 3rd (need to be at Newcastle Airport before 5.30am having been at the 4NCL in Leicester the day before.) I return on 27th.
Ignatius Leong from Singapore is the Chief Arbiter the only other arbiters I know off are from Italy and Mexico but I expect there will be one or two from Russia.
Staying in Korston Hotel which is also the venue for the matches. Meals provided. Car and driver available to arbiters for their leisure time. Definitely a bit different from anything in Britain I've done. The hotel has free Wi Fi so I hope to stay in touch. AM
IA Alex McFarlane of Uddingston has been invited by FIDE president Kirsan Ilyumzhinov to act as referee at the four Candidates final matches which take place in Kazan, Russia, May 3-27.
Retired schoolteacher McFarlane has been chief arbiter at the Scottish and British Championships for several years but this will be the first time he will control an event outwith the British Isles.
The four Candidates matches are Topalov (Bulgaria, 2775) v Kamsky (USA, 2733); Kramnik (Russia, 2785) v Radjabov (Azerbaijan, 2744); Aronian (Armenia, 2808) v Grischuk (Russia, 2747); Gelfand (Israel, 2733) v Mamedyarov, (Azerbaijan, 2772). Alex has been invited to referee during the round 1 stage which will reduce the field to a final 4. The eventual winner will challenge reigning champion Vishy Anand of India in 2012.
When and why did you take an interest in being an arbiter?
I started organising at school but only started serious arbiting in 1980 when I volunteered for the Glasgow Congress and sat the Arbiters' Exam there. The reason for this was that my club (called Ciba-Geigy) at the time was planning to run a congress the following year and it was thought that one of us had better have a bit of experience first.
I was asked to become an SCA Senior Arbiter in 1984 but refused because I objected to various people who were holding that post. By 1993 things had changed a bit and I had been asked by the English to become a Senior Arbiter there. I therefore became a Senior Arbiter in Scotland and England that year or 94.
In 2007 I became the Chief Arbiter of the Chess Arbiters Association. At the last Olympiad it was agreed that I should join the list of those qualified to train FIDE Arbiters. There are only 42 on this list. (This almost feels like I'm writing my own obituary!!)
Which big events have you officiated?
I have yet to control an event outwith the British Isles but have done events from Stornoway to Torquay and from Douglas to Norwich.
I was the Chief arbiter at the Open event in Stornoway and am currently Chief Arbiter at British Championship and Hastings Masters. I have also been Chief Arbiter of Scottish.
I am therefore involved with the world's oldest continuous chess event (Scottish) and the one claiming to be the oldest International event (Hastings).
I have 'done' the European Team Championship when Poly hosted CSKA in 1989(?)
What is your opinion of the torrent of legislation that players have endured over last few years ie default time, writing before moving, mobiles, drug tests etc. Should it apply to hobby players etc.
Of the Laws you mention, I actually agree with the one about only writing the move after it has been played. There are two reasons for this. (1) It stops the score out try again, score out yet again player who it is difficult to say is not referring to notes. (2) If players can write the move down before then the arbiter has to wait an extra move before being sure that blitzing is taking place.
Of the others you mention, I have to say that FIDE do seem to have gone a bit over the top and some of those should have been less draconian or reserved only for FIDE events.
However, whilst I would like the arbiter to have more of a say in deciding the penalty for a ringing phone (possible warning at start of game to death sentence if during a time scramble) a number of people don't appreciate that many phones could have chess engines running. I've actually thrown spectators out of the hall for attempting to set up a position from the game they were watching on a phone. I've also had to deal with claims that players were being texted moves from people watching the games on the Internet.
So I can understand why some of what appear OTT rules have come into force. I do accept that there should be some relaxation for social chess. But having heard of a recent Glasgow League match where not only did the same player's phone go off twice but he answered it both times, you have to wonder if some players have any consideration for others and if this has to be enforced on them. For league matches I understand the need to have phones on but don't understand why they can't be on silent.