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Jennifer Blogs on Arrival in China Print E-mail
By Jennifer Shahade   
October 2, 2008
Jennifer kibitzes at the Chinese Chess match.

So far, seven out of a delegation of 13 American chessplayers have arrived in Beijing for the 1st World Mind Sport Games. In her CLO interview with Jerry Hanken, World Women's Champ Alexandra Kosteniuk said the MindSports might be the "key to bringing Chess to the Olympic Games." Go, Chinese chess, Bridge and Checkers are also represented in Beijing.  In the picture above at a park near the Forbidden City, I am watching a frozen Chinese chess match. Although I don't know yet the rules of xiangqi, you hear Chinese chess pieces slamming all over the sidestreets and parks of Beijing, and I'm motivated to learn: it looks very violent! 

Iryna Zenyuk, Josh Friedel, Alexander Shabalov, Abby Marshall and I somehow were booked for a flight four days before the event began, even though most of the participants are arriving today and tomorrow. It was probably a blessing in disguise, cause many of us are very jet-lagged and more likely to get over it by the tournament start on October 4. 

On our first day in China, we were all exhausted but excited to be in Beijing, so we set off at 10 AM to visit Tiananmen Square.  Zenyuk thought it would be a good idea to visit there because October 1 was Chinese National Day. We asked the doorman how to walk there and he laughed at us, incredulously, using a combination of gesture and basic English to indicate that no guests walk to Tiananmen. Well, five hours later, we sure showed him! Even Alexander Shabalov, who is normally not given to straightforward praise called it an, "impressive journey." I think we all left the area thinking we'd never seen so many people in our lives. Unlike most crowds, this one did not fizzle out after five or six blocks, but went on for miles. What was most incredible was that there was barely a push or a shove let alone a stampede. 

On to chess: the first event is a blitz event, and the time control is unusual: Three minutes with a two second increment. I was practicing this last night with Abby Marshall, and found it very different than 5 0. My main observation was that cheapos are not as effective in 3 2 as in 5 0 cause there's always a chance someone will take your offering and quickly rebuild time on the clock. A totally winning endgame is actually a win in 3 2. The quality of the games is definitely higher than 5 0 would be, or even 6 0 or 7 0, probably because having a clock manage your time in blitz allows you to relax a bit more and play chess. But I'm sure it's more popular among arbiters than players- isn't the fun of blitz knowing that no matter how terrible your position, your opponent can think a bit too long and then you can just flag them? I doubt that all the 3 2 blitz games will be recorded, but I will see if any of the players remember their best games and post them here.

Here is a selection of photos from my trip so far, some portraits of the tournament and some travel shots. The internet is speedy enough here but the firewall blocks some sites. Thankfully uschess.org is up. I also have no problems logging on to the Internet Chess Club, gmail, chessbasechessninja,gameknot, Elizabeth Vicary's blog, chesscafe or most surprising to me, facebook. Susan Polgar's blog, uschessleague.com and jennifershahade.com are not accesible though. 

For now, enjoy my first gallery and look many more pix and updates in the next week!


Iryna Zenyuk with Varuzhan Akobian, who looks very serious in this photo... 

And not so serious in this one...
Abby Marshall

GM Alexander Shabalov in the National Day crowd

Iryna Zenyuk and Josh Friedel puzzle out a map

Shabalov strikes a pose

Abby Marshall watches Mah-Jong, a popular game that according to a Chinese teen on the plane, is permissible to bet on in China for "small amounts" like 100 yuan/ about 15 dollars.
On the other side of this shot, thousands walked for miles toward the festivities at Tiananmen Square to celebrate National day, commemorating the 59th anniversary of the People's Republic of China on October 1, 1949.
Beijing is filled with contrasts of the rapidly developing and poverty.