Thursday, May 25, 2006

Ermacora: All Things Considered

I'm about to quit for the day when this note from our man in Turin hit my inbox. Larry Ermacora talks about ex-commies, FIAT, Italian politics, and comes close to solving an Australian chess mystery. We name his day's memo after NPR's "All Things Considered".

Thursday 25 May. Daily Chat before 5th Round. First a weather report. It's been mostly sunny and warm here in Turin, with only a slight attempt at rain a couple of days ago. Last night it got rather cool but a maximum of 24 is forecast for today. We are very close to massive mountains (The Alps) where it was snowing yesterday, causing serious difficulties to the cyclists of the Tour of Italy who were climbing there. The Tour (like all F1 races) has a big following in Italy. Note that an Australian cyclist was in the lead in the early part. With all the publicity it is now getting here chess can aspire to an improved following, though the future of chess spectating is clearly on the Internet; someone will have to find a way of making the Internet viewers pay a small amount of money for the pleasure. FIDE perhaps could show some initiative there! Kirsan please note.

The players may well complain about their Spartan bedrooms. I myself am in a modest room (near the main rail station) and to get to it, in the absence of a lift, I have to climb 110 steps! At least I don't have to pay a gym to get my exercise! I have an attractive bar/caffé downstairs with good cappuccinos and a bewildering variety of croissants with various fillings. The place is called Malabar. I told them there is a Malabar in the north of Western Australia.

The FIDE presidential campaign is gathering pace here, competing with the Italian political scene still at boiling point. We get daily press releases. Kirsan Ilyumzhinov claims the support of 80 federations, including Japan. To counter the "FIDELITY" slogan of the incumbent, Bessel Kok, the Dutch rival candidate has come out with "The right move..for a Bona FIDE".

Italians witnessed recently a similar hard contest on a much grander scale. In the bitterest national elections, the centre-right lost government (PM Berlusconi) and the centre-left squeaked in (PM Prodi). A thing that amazes foreigners is how many red flags with the hammer and sickle are carried by demonstrators in Italy. Ex communists are now presidents of the lower house, the senate and of Italy. Their past admiration for the Soviet Union has not done much good for Italian chess unfortunately. The very place where The Olympiad is being held is at the heart of Lingotto land where the FIAT (Fabbriche Italiane Automobili Torino) car manufacturing plants once were, with very militant communist trade unions. (Fiat, after nearly going bust, is now recovering market share with their popular family cars).

Today I am preparing most of this at home on my old PC in the peace and quiet of my room. (If anyone wants to comunicate direct with me, my email is ) The computers in the Press Room all have Italian keyboards, at times a bit confusing, e.g. to do @ you have to press Ctrl+Alt+key next to L. Interestingly, those PCs are all Chinese Lenovo, i.e. ex IBM. They work well. There is a monitoring room to check that all the Olympiad electronics are working. Certainly the Olympiad requires a big organisation. The space available in the Oval (formerly the ice skating rink at the winter Olympics) makes the whole show very spectacular. The only similar covered space that I have seen in Oz is the Exhibition Halls at Darling Harbour in Sydney. So, find good sponsors NSWCA! Pity Frank Lowey has chosen to back Aust. soccer with his millions. Apparently he also has an interest in chess.

A curious linguistic difference I noted here is that in Italian they speak of Chess Olympics (Le Olimpiadi degli scacchi), whilst in English we persist with the singular The Olympiad. According to the experts Olympiad refers merely to the period between the Olympic games. So the name is better in Italian as it clearly associates it with the Olympic Games. Take note Kirsan! I see that FIDE also supports the new International Mind Sport Association (chess, bridge, draughts and go).

The open tournaments ancillary to the Olympiad have now started in the other enormous space adjoining the Olympiad Hall. I think he entry was E30 (just over $A50). They expected 400 entries: they may have got even more. Certainly the rows and rows of tables (one per game) with the players at the ready looked very impressive from the balcony where I was. They start these tournaments at 7pm after the Olympiad games are finished. That floor is so big it contains also tables for analysis and electronic display boards.

And then in the other large space of the entry hall, the World Computer Competition will get under way today. This entry hall area also has chess supermarkets, chess bookshops,etc as well as the FIDE President electioneering kiosk. A busy noisy area, but the computer competitors nearby will not complain of the noise.

I still have to see the results of the Olympiad fourth round, and the draw for the 5th, when I go to the Oval this afternoon -- I don't expect much good for Australia at this stage. But I could be pleasantly surprised. I should catch up with the fortunes of the Philippines, NZ and Italy as well.

I hope you liked at least some of the photos I sent yesterday, if nothing else that French Impressionist painting of a game of chess (MSP!). The Italian chess magazine Torre & Cavallo (Rook & Knight) for which Ian Rogers also writes, has an interview with the No1 Russian woman player Alexandra Kosteniuk. She has also worked as a model and sells her photos from $US 6 to 36 according to format. I include a free copy as free publicity for her.

I think I will end today's chitchat, before you throw too many virtual rotten tomatoes at me. Check out the games. Use your brains.

- Larry Ermacora

PS. I got here just before 3pm and placed myself near the Russian table very close to where Alex Morozevich was going to sit. Kramnik and Svlidler were already sitting down opposite their Armenian opponents, but Grischuk and Morozevich appeared only as the clocks were started. Very frustrating as Morosevich was only a metre away from me wearing the same jacket with the coat of arms, but I could not see it clearly. I am sure the mystery of whether it was the Australian badge would have been quickly solved if he had shown up a minute earlier!