First Impressions of the FIDE World Cup

This is a guest post by Chessable developer Pavel Lint. 

Have you ever been to a major chess event? Me neither. So when my colleagues asked me “Hey, do you want to visit the FIDE World Cup?”, Christmas came early.

The FIDE Chess World Cup is a huge knock-out tournament, and this year it is held in my hometown of Sochi, Russia. If you’ve never been to Sochi, it is nothing like the rest of my freezing country. On the contrary, it’s quite hot here, with palm trees and tropical flowers living their dreams.

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How hot it is in Sochi

So I charged my phone and went. I took a train from central Sochi to the mountain part of it, Kasnaya Polyana. In about an hour I was there at the train station.

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View from the station

As I approached the venue, things got more and more exciting.

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Road to the venue

When I arrived, the feeling of something big happening instantly hit me.

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Tournament venue entrance

You could feel it in the air. People speaking all languages. Orders of coffee in Chinese and chats in Español. Everyone was talking quietly, charging the air even more. 

I arrived two hours earlier so I could witness final preparations and players pouring in. This was where Grischuk, Jobava, Andrew Tang, and Magnus himself would be fighting for the title. All the cool guys I’ve been watching online. Hey, why don’t I check out their toilet!

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That’s me!

Toilet selfie: done ✅ Now to the main venue. 

Players and viewers are completely separated from each other, with the games taking place on the 2nd floor, and viewers and commentators occupying the 3rd floor.

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Audience area

As a viewer, I was only admitted to the 3rd floor. Accessing the players’ area is much more restricted, even if you are a player. A number of rules apply, including a fresh negative test for coronavirus.

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Audience area overview

The viewers’ floor was well thought out. There are two separate areas for English and Russian commentators, with chess legends Nigel Short and Sergei Shipov doing the broadcast. Chairs are set further apart for safety. There are two main broadcast screens and a myriad of small ones to follow the player you choose.

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Follow your favorite player

Let the games begin! And they did begin and ended only six hours later. The classical time control is something special, isn’t it?

The organizers put three chess tables in the viewers’ area. I think their intention was for the audience to play casual blitz. What ended up happening was that fans and team members analyzed the current position of their favorite player’s game. Fascinating to see.

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Chess sets for viewers with chess clocks

Free wifi, chess sets, and a ton of chess content. High tension in the room. Fathers and coaches glued to the screens. Is this the perfect chess event? Could be. I have nothing to compare it to. It was super inspiring.

On my way back, I was thinking how surprisingly well this was organized. They did their best under very harsh circumstances. The event is COVID-safe, which I thought was impossible to achieve.

There was one safety breach though. This cat was occupying two seats at the bench which is totally against the rules. You can’t do that, silly cat. Can’t you read the sign above? Well, I guess it does have a human icon on it…

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This cat doesn’t care

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