"Left is on the left, right is the left
right is on the right, left is on the right"
The highlight of the day is the picture below: we were all hoping for a certain chess superstar to be a guest of honour at the 50th World Juniors (U/20) and 29th Girls' Championships opening ceremony in his hometown of Chennai, but as we sat down and the starting time of the ceremony grew closer and closer, the prospects didn't look good. But minutes later the 15th World Champion of chess, Viswanathan Anand, did arrive in the auditorium!
|Anand: What's happened to the World Juniors since I played in it?|
Going back a bit in time...
Moulthun and Junta arrived to Chennai in the early hours of the 31st. An episode in their Hi-Speed train trip from Amsterdam to Brussels occurred when they passed a flag. As Junta remarked it was the Belgian flag, Moulthun declared it was the German flag. As Junta pointed out that the train is moving through Brussels, which is in Belgium, Moulthun declared Brussels was a German city. Moulthun sounded so confident Junta was unnerved, but a while later, after making a deal that the loser would pay for dinner (and have their failure posted about), the Belgian theory was confirmed. Junta 1-0 Moulthun.
After being picked up at Chennai Airport after a 10-hour flight, the ride through the majestic city of Chennai was a heartstopping experience for Junta and Fedja (though it was nothing compared to the taxi ride in New York 4 weeks earlier which had Junta sweating) as busses and trucks, cars and rickshaws, motorbikes and bicycles, and pedestrians all converged on the dark roads, and there were beeping of horns every few seconds.
Moulthun was unmoved, as it seemed to be just like other parts of South-East Asia he was well acquainted with (in fact, he has driven a rickshaw in Cambodia where conditions are apparently worse!). Later, we were all a bit too excited for the tournament to start, so much that there was some blitz beginning at 3:30 am, after attempts to go to sleep were futile.
We spent the day relaxing today, to get ready for the gruelling 13 rounds starting tomorrow, but around 4:30pm we were taken by bus to an auditorium in the city where the opening ceremony was held. As the program commenced, the audience was dazzled with a diverse range of Indian cultural dances and performances by 87 children from a local school. Although the volume of the music was deafening (maybe 2 months' worth of sound in the 2 hours) and we felt thirsty in the humid, full-capacity auditorium, the children were splendid as each and every one of them had smiles on their faces during the performances.
Of course, for us players, the highlights of the ceremony were Anand arriving, Anand executing a move on a large chessboard for the tournament inaugaration and Anand giving a speech near the end - you do not get many opportunities to see with your own eyes and hear with your own ears the world champion in the game we all love. His presence and words have given the three of us extra motivation for the tournament, though the other countries' players must have also gained some inspiration.
Round 1 begins tomorrow, with games at 2pm daily (6:30pm AEST) and a rest day on the 8th between Rounds 6 & 7. When we had a look at the playing hall this morning, it seems that live boards are...on every board!
The field for the Juniors has 126 players, with no less than 18 GMs and just as many IMs! The top three seeds are GMs Matlakov (2632) and Sjugirov (2629) of Russia, and Salgado Lopez (2626) of Spain. Moulthun and Junta are up against 2050's, while Fedja faces Indian IM Priyadharshan (2376).
The field for the Girls has 69 players, with 5 WGMs and 13 WIMs.
The top seeds here are WGMs Paikidze (2416) of Georgia, Savina (2398) of Russia and Cori (2376) of Peru. Emma Guo (ACT) and Savithri Narenthran (VIC) will be flying the Australian flag.