Typically that’s how I think of opening/closing ceremonies, and to some extent press conferences in the world of chess.
Generally you assume that nothing too exciting is going to happen, so why bother even trying to score an invite. You can plan on hearing the same accolades and the same platitudes so what’s the point?
However, for the Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz my feelings are pretty much the polar opposite of that. Why? A few reasons. First, the CCSCSL typically puts on a pretty good event with these. Who can forget Caruana’s answer to what he was going to do with his prize money in 2015 when he replied “Yeah, I think I’d buy a goat. I think I could afford it with the money I earned, and this goat I think could see tactics better than me.”
Second, Maurice Ashley is a pretty good MC for these types of events. He has a wicked sense of humor and is able to hold his own in the quip department. He also has a sense of passion and enthusiasm for chess which easily comes across when he speaks.
Lastly, and let’s face it, far more important that anything else that could be mentioned, the return of Garry Kasparov was the main driving force for my desire to attend this event.
So I applied for media credentials and was initially told that the event was completely invite only. I then was told by one of the players not to worry, that I would be going with him, so I figured I was in. Then the club re-contacted me to clarify that they were allowing all media members who wanted in to attend so they would put me on the list.
So I went and I have to say that it did not disappoint.
First of all before the event began I was able to chat with Czech GM David Navara. I told him that I visited Prague last year when I played on the Chess Train and that I can’t wait to go back some day and see the city again, hopefully with more time to enjoy the sights.
He said it was his first time in the US and that he hopes that it’s not his last. He seemed quite excited to be in the States for this event.
I was also able to talk with recently retired NFL player John Urschel who is visiting with his friend GM Robert Hess. John seems like a genuinely nice guy. I had a chance to talk with him a bit at the chess house on Friday night and his love of the game and desire to play more shines through when he speaks.
All of this while enjoying a nice glass of red wine and some hors d’oeuvres that were being circulated by the friendly wait staff.
Then it was time for the ceremony itself to begin. You can watch it here. Skip ahead to the 27:35 mark for the actual beginning of the event. Some highlights included Hikaru getting in a little trash talk on Garry (who responded in kind!) and Rex and Maurice digging at each other a bit.
So far this trip has been amazing. Tomorrow is my final day, and I’m expecting it to be exciting as I will get to see Nakamura – Kasparov in round two!
Til Next Time,