Baku Olympiad 2016 – Round 1

We arrived in Baku last night at around 2am and the first impression of the organisation was very good – they opened a separate passport control point for us, then they ushered us to the bus, which took us to the Park Inn Radisson hotel. The airport was full of friendly volunteers who were ready to help with any issue that might have occurred.

After a good night sleep I woke up around 11.30am, took a short walk and went to eat lunch at noon. We were paired to play Guyana. I didn’t check the map, but I would have bet that country was in Africa. Wrong, as I discovered after the game – Guyana is a former English colony in South America, located between Venezuela and Suriname, on the north of the continent. It is the only country in South America with English as the official language.
The transport to the playing hall, the Crystal Hall (built for the Eurosong contest in 2012) was organised with buses that were covered with the Olympiad logo and it was supposed to leave the hotel at 13.45h, but as usual with such matters the bus left 15 minutes late. The surprising thing was that there was a police car with its lights on in front of the bus clearing the way and the whole traffic from the hotel to the hall was stopped to let the bus pass! For once chess managed to be a top priority!
The security control was very quick, probably because we were one of the first ones to arrive and we passed immediately. The playing hall inside is huge. A lot of space between the boards and very comfortable to walk around. There are a lot of refreshment points where you can get yourself tea, coffee, water, two types of cookies and even a soft drink that stimulates tranquility (an oxymoron, I know)! I only hope that the soft drink won’t trigger any anti-doping controls and sanctions!
In the best FIDE traditions the arbiter started to ask the players to take their seats at 14.45h, 15 minutes before the start of the round. Slowly the players started to sit down and then the President of the Republic, Ilham Aliyev, made the ceremonial first move on board one for Mamedyarov. And when the round was ready to start, FIDE with its stringent zero tolerance rules did what it was expected of it – it was late. For 16 full minutes. They gave some explanation about a bus being stuck in traffic, typical of FIDE to excuse itself and bend the rules when needed, I wonder whether they would have excused a player had he/she been late for the same reason.
Our match was easy, the only game that lasted a bit longer was on board 1, but we won there as well. A convincing 4-0 against players rated 1700-1900 does not give a lot of bragging rights, but it’s a good start nevertheless.
The favourites also won convincingly and now we’re waiting for the pairings of Round 2 to come out. We expect to play a strong team tomorrow.
I took some photos during my short, as you can see there is a lot of building going on in Baku, there are a lot of ccranes wherever you look. I hope to be able to walk around more in the following days. You can click on the photos to enlarge.

Alex Colovic
A professional player, coach and blogger. Grandmaster since 2013.
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