Paris 2010 by Nick Hawkins

Finally I feel I can express a few words about the battle of Port St Cloud at the Stade Pierre Coubertin. I never thought I would play at a hotter or sweatier venue than the British Championships at Swansea in 1994. This was known as the “great sweat” and one player in the championship scored 2.5/3 with an opening starting with 1 h4 ! which he christened “the sweaty” in honour of the venue !! The sickening tournament venue in France beats it hands down and shall be known by me as the “St Cloud sauna” from now on! The fact that there was no lighting in one of the rounds did not help matters! (I had the grey pieces and so did my opponent!)

Paris was magnificent, and Ian and I attempted to solve the following fundamental questions affecting the human condition:

1 What is the link between Ernest Hemingway and chess? 

2 What was the psychological reasoning for my Orangina advert fantasy?

3 Why was Ian doing an Akiba Rubinstein impersonation in the playing hall?

4 Why did Ian hate getting the philosopher Sartre out first ball every time in our game of fantasy radio cricket?

5 Who was the greatest artist of all time?

6 Could anyone understand “Camblais” the strange mixture of scouse and Esperanto spoken by Ian at times of stress?

Our days were spent wandering about looking at magnificent art and enjoying the spectacular views and gastronomic pleasures of Paris. Unfortunately, there was always the dread of the sweat soaked chess encounter to follow!

In round 1 I was accused by the organisers (including one person whose French was so strange that even his fellow Frenchmen seemed not to understand him) of not paying so I could not play! As I had just paid in cash with Ian this seemed a trifle odd, and the organiser who had my money weighed in on my side! My reward was to be given the  British highest FIDE rated 12 year old  British junior as my opponent! As his rating was 1968 I did not expect a pushover even though I was white, but I did not expect someone who would be playing opening innovations (“I saw Topalov play this once” ) early in the battle! I got a wretched position, but confused him into a draw with a combination of desperation and deviation in a couple of piece sacrifices. He beat two 2100 players in the tournament and must have GM potential. I was impressed and he and his mother were very nice people.

Following this I had seven French opponents aged 17-23 and rated around 1860-1940, and one old chap rated about 1850 (He arrived late, sweated profusely and I crushed him in 22 moves. This was not a tournament for mercy! See question 1 above)  My other win was quite a nice game, but in between exhaustion cost me several points as I let three clearly won games elude me, two into draws, and one into a defeat that must rank as the most insane of all time! The heat was playing havoc with my calculating ability (my strongest aspect usually!) near the end of the games. The opponents play better now than they ever did due to a combination of youth, stamina, and opening material being available electronically. In a couple of worse positions I  rallied and fought my opponents to draws. (My willpower is undimmed) I would have scored 6/9 in normal conditions but this was not normal! So 4.5/9 and a loss of 20 FIDE rating points. My 2 wins, 2 losses and 5 draws should have been 5 wins, 2 losses and 2 draws. Onto the naughty step for me!

I am sure Ian will say something about his games, but I will simply say they were fascinating for all of the wrong reasons, but our favourite Chessplayer is always incredibly “entertaining” at the board, particularly when the youngsters try and “crush” him! He is not amused! He found the young players a handful as well, but the heat and humidity were the real enemies!

Who cares when you have seen the works of Monet and Picasso!? C’est la vie!

Nick Hawkins

Answers to the quiz:--
1. The book "Death in the Afternoon" about bullfighting seemed very pertinent at the time.
2. I don't know and don't want to know.
3. I refused to sweat under the gloating eye of my opponent and retired to a cooler part of the building only making infrequent skirmishes in the general direction of my place.
4. Because Viv Richards would come in to bat after Sartre. N.B. Hawkins never came in to bat against "Whispering Death" also known as Michael Holding.
5 Either George Best or myself. On reflection, I'm a poor second for obvious reasons.
6 No.

Well, Paris was wonderful after we eventually arrived in a deluge and hold-ups at Speke including a 50 minute wait on the stand in John Lennon Airport. I'm sure the venue is perfectly acceptable in normal weather conditions but the tournament was held in temperatures often reaching the 80's and all the competitors were feeling the heat. It was literally impossible for a doddering old duffer with a bad ticker to play in those conditions and I didn't either. Not a single game worthy of the name. Day after day of clear blue skies and a hot sun made it a remarkable holiday and a perfect excuse to hide in some cool Art Gallery. The Louvre was mad so we headed elsewhere less popular. Sunshine, culture, good food and home with hardly a Euro left in this expensive city. The Metro is a lot lot cheaper than the tube in London and that's for sure. The picture below was taken by a bridge near the Invalides and I have a healthy tan. It was a great time if a pity about the chess.