21 February 2019

Emergency Opening

A false start at the Aeroflot Open 2019, reported by Eteri Kublashvili

Aeroflot Open is a long-awaited tournament in the Russian chess calendar. Famous, competitive chess players convene to battle for prizes and an invitation to Dortmund. Women and juniors compete for awards in their nominations and often take out a grandmaster or two. The list of sportsmen to had played at this tournament is illustrious: Carlsen, Caruana, Karjakin, Grischuk, Svidler, Gelfand- it’s impossible to name all of them!

This year, the festival commenced on 19th February. The Cosmos Hotel, which traditionally hosted the tournament, was the victim of a bomb threat on that day- alongside Kazansky railway station, the Ostankino TV tower and other large objects. 

Your correspondent showed up at Cosmos at 15.30 and had time to take a few shots. I was just about to go to the B tournament, when the message about the emergency came through. At most 45 minutes passed since the start of the round. At first, arbiters and players treated the voices booming from microphones as something of a harmless distraction, but a serious-looking woman who was the hotel manager appeared and said that the games must be interrupted and the building evacuated. All obeyed, but there was no crush at the exit. 

Many had time to collect their coats, but some evacuated near the Charles de Gaulle monument without them, so some warm blanketswere soon brought to them. The players and guests of the hotel were pushed back to a safe distance from the entrance, the hotel was surrounded and police, firefighters and military vehicles appeared. 

The players showed no signs of panic, discussing chess and other topics. Grandmaster Marina Guseva even had time to talk about women’s chess to RCF Executive Director Mark Glukhovsky. When it became clear that the situation was serious, many dispersed to nearby cafes. Multiple people went in their blankets- it is February after all. The Indian and Chinese delegations remained stoic. 

The Organising Committee decided to cancel the first round. The games will be played on February 20th. One of the days there will be a double round.

I hope that at the time of this writing all residents of Cosmos have returned to their rooms and that the tournament will continue without any mishaps or emergencies. 

At the end of the day, for some reason, I wanted to listen to Brothers in Armsby my favourite Dire Straits and share it with the readers. 

Below one can see the photos from that extraordinary day to feel the atmosphere of it.