As all of you probably know, the tersely named Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland has been spewing ash into the air since this past Wednesday, and it has wreaked havoc with travel plans in and to Europe. Many thousands of flights have been cancelled (or delayed indefinitely, if you prefer), and alternative travel plans have proved almost equally difficult to achieve. Even the President of the U.S., with all the technological resources afforded him by Air Force 1 and the travel rights available to him thanks to his office, was unable to travel to the funeral of Polish President Lech Kaczynski.
Against this backdrop, Viswanathan Anand tried on Thursday to fly from Madrid, Spain to Sofia Bulgaria, but got stuck at his stopover location in Frankfurt, Germany. He's still stuck, and with the match's opening ceremony scheduled for this Wednesday (the 21st) and game 1 scheduled for Friday (the 23rd), Anand's federation has understandably asked for a slight delay in the start of the match, of three days. It isn't like they're playing in some sort of open swiss; it would be normal to give the players time to acclimate.
In a remarkable display of goodwill (...not), Bulgarian Chess Federation President Stefan Sergiev said this:
We believe Anand's team is here. If Anand had called or warned about the possibility, or at least for the time of his arrival, earlier, we would have made everything possible to arrange alternative transportation to Sofia. I have a feeling the Schmitt coming earlier and checking in all rooms could be a trick.
Topalov was also in Spain on an island, but managed to come on time, Anand is looking for excuses and reasons. No World Championship has ever been postponed.
Wow, this guy has class. To tell you the truth, this is one of those times when I kind of wish I didn't have a kids-friendly policy regarding language. So (composing myself), let's deal with this garbage objectively. Was Anand supposed to have foreseen the volcano's eruption coming ahead of time, and placed his travel plans in the hands of the Bulgarian organizers? And when did Topalov get there? It probably isn't quite a world-class achievement if he made it there before the volcano interrupted everyone's travel.
As for the last sentence, what the heck is Sergiev talking about? The most famous title match ever, Spassky-Fischer in 1972, was delayed over a week. In any case, what precedent is there for a volcano grounding air travel over an entire continent? For the hard-hearted powers-that-be in Bulgaria, here is a precedent to follow, albeit only at the level of the Candidates matches rather than the World Championship:
[Boris Spassky] triumphed narrowly in extra games in his first Candidates' match over Vlastimil Hort at Reykjavik 1977 with 8.5/16. This match saw Spassky fall ill, exhaust all of his available rest days while recovering; then the healthy Hort, in one of the most sportsmanlike acts in chess history, used one of his own rest days, to allow Spassky more time to recover; Spassky eventually won the match. [DM: This happened when Hort lost on time, when he had more than enough time to make the move, in a completely winning position.]
I wonder what Anand has to look forward to once he's actually in Bulgaria. What a terrible blunder he made, letting them host the match!