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Full tilt

Jun 26, 2014, 1:32 PM 3

0-0-0. Queenside castling - again!

I'm in Växjö, a sleepy little Swedish town. Well, it seems sleepy, although I'm told it's a lively student joint outside of the summer. Just my luck: you can have the sun, or fun, but not both.

I'm here for a cozy little grandmaster-norm round robin. Again, I'm the ideal attendee: a weak, amateur, foreign GM just ripe for the beating. And the beating, unfortunately, has commenced. Besides the obligatory three GMs, the tournament's other seven participants are all young, talented IMs from Scandinavia and Germany. I was hoping enough time had passed since my horror loss in the last round of the Batavia tournament, but apparently I could have done with a few more months. My first game was a real shocker: with White, in a nondescript exchange French, I was lost after 15 minutes. A loss with White in the first round is of course the worst possible start, but after messing up a very promising position in my second game, I suddenly found myself alone on the bottom of the table with 0/2. Thus, I had managed to lose my last three games - 0-0-0.

This was the third time this has ever happened to me, and I can't begin to describe how horrible it feels. It's applied somewhat when you're alone in a foreign country and know that the two-round-a-day slugfest will continue, whether you want it to or not. Unlike most grandmasters, who can maintain their professionalism and composure game by game, I've always been a momentum player, prone to epic rolling highs and inescapable lows. Liable, in poker terms, to tilting. That definitely was the case in the third round: I had the shakes for almost the entire four hours, absolutely convinced that every move I made was a blunder, despite my most thorough attempts at calculations. I wanted to be anywhere else but playing chess.

Fortunately, my opponent also got nervous, and in a double-edged time scramble I came out on top. Well, 'fortunate' feels a little generous: Quinten, a talented Dutchman, most probably won't have a shot at the norm now, but the GM title can't be far off for him. I'd say the same for my first two opponents, too - good thing I'm keeping up my end of the bargain by shedding points.

I'm definitely not out of the woods yet: tomorrow morning I've got black against the top seed, GM Tiger Hillarp Persson. But the bleeding has stopped, for now.

The tournament, I have to say, is really great. If I was a Scandinavian junior on the hunt for a norm, this would be the perfect opportunity. There are two IM-norm round-robins going on alongside the main event, and everyone is eager and playing aggressive, fighting chess. The venue is also really cool: it's held right next to the town's beautiful concert hall, in a building from the early 18th century that used to be the city baths. The players are very well taken care of, and there's a nice display and commentary room for the spectators. It doesn't change the fact that I wish I was on a beach somewhere and definitely not playing chess, but it's great for the rest of the players, and makes a tilt just a little bit easier.


The back entrance to the playing hall
The back entrance to the playing hall


No concerts during the tournament, unfortunately
No concerts during the tournament, unfortunately


The city is littered with modern artwork and statues wherever you look. These ladies greet us at the hotel entrance.
The city is littered with modern artwork and statues wherever you look. These ladies greet us at the hotel entrance.

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