Well folks, I write to you on our last night in Khanty-Mansiysk. My dream run has come to an end, after I lost the final rapid game to go down in the tie-break 2.5-1.5. Painfully, the loss was due to a brain explosion right at the death, while the ‘obvious’ move would have seen a probable draw and progression into the blitz play-offs. And wouldn’t that have been something – blitz tiebreaks against the former world blitz champion!
Unfortunately, it was not to be, and so Fi and I are packing our suitcases in preparation for the 6am bus to the airport tomorrow. Our exodus is, naturally, a bit depressing, but I can’t really complain too much. I got the chance to clash wits with one of the world’s best, and I managed not to embarrass myself too much (though anyone who watched the final rapid game will surely be asking, “Why didn’t you play …Rd5, Dave? Why?!?).
We’re going to miss this town, and I for one will certainly miss being able to rub shoulders with the world’s elite. Only this morning, Shirov (chess legend) came up to us at breakfast, offering encouragement for the play-offs in his enterprising Latvian/Spanish accent: “You have to win today, David, you know why? Only three of us brought wives or girlfriends with us here: me, Sasikiran, and you. Sasikiran and I both won yesterday, so you see, you must win!” (although I’m not sure that Sasikiran actually made it through in the end…so the debate about girlfriends versus chess performance continues.)
A shame that he was wrong in the end, but I’ve made a few friends, caught up with a few more, and had a bit of fun. Even more entertaining, Fi has achieved something of celebrity ‘chess WAG’ status, and was hungrily snapped up by photographers today. Perhaps it’s because she gives me a very public smooch before every game, or perhaps her enterprising spirit is a welcome warmth for the Siberian Winter, but she’s become a bit of a favourite with the chess crowd, and what’s more, doesn’t seem too put off by the hardcore chess side to my life.
We have tonnes of great photos from the tournament and from the town itself, and I’ll try and upload a couple from our next destination (Which is significantly more internet-friendly). After a brief stop-over again in Ekaterinburg, we’re heading to Helsinki for a couple of days being ‘normal’ tourists. Should Finnish grandmaster Nyback lose round two to Svidler, we’ll be catching up with him and his fiance in Helsinki. Of course, part of me hopes not to see him, which means he’s managed to upset the great Russian (and, bizarrely, cricket fanatic), but most likely we’ll get to meet up in Helsinki and swap world cup war stories.
That’s it for now. I’ll be following the rest of the world cup closely, and blogging about it, as well as a bit of an indulgent set of holiday updates from Fi and I. Apologies in advance, and thanks again for all of your support.