Shanghai is a beautiful, if very crowded, city. Chip and I have been here for 4 days (it was our first trip to Asia, so we decided to include some sightseeing before the tournament). I'll try to upload some pictures of the places we visited tomorrow, but it's been a fairly long day today, so I'll just report quickly on the start of the tournament.
The venue is excellent - large, clean, well-organized. The Chinese have done a great job, providing a seemingly unending stream of smiling assistants to make life easier for the players. They bring coffee to the playing site, escort players to the restrooms (which are convenient to the playing area and actually large enough to accommodate everyone), and all in all make things run smoothly. We opted to stay at the attached hotel, which is very nice, although not as elegant as the Shangri La, a 5 minute walk away - if you don't get lost, that is - we heard of one player who went back to his hotel for a quick rest between matches and didn't reappear for the next one because he'd lost his way. As usual, there always seems to be something to get from the room at the last minue, so we're happy to be just a few steps from the playing area.
This is billed as the first ever "paperless" tournament. Of course, there's some paper still, but line-ups are submitted electronically, and all of the recording of bidding and play as well as results is electronic. The line-up submission has been amazingly trouble-free. Even with only 9 computer terminals for 66 teams, I've never had to wait to submit our line-up, and now that there is a wireless network set up, captains will be able to use their own laptops, so the terminals will be even less crowded. I think the fact that they let you submit line-ups for all three matches of the day has helped reduce the crowding. To submit the line-up, the captain or delegate logs into a closed network, using a password for his or her team. Then you click on the match for which you want to submit a line-up and are taken to a screen where there is a list of your players. It asks for the North player, then the South, then East and then West, then lets you see what you've put in before you click "OK" to submit the lineup. If the opposing team has already submitted their lineup, it appears on the screen. If not, you have to come back later to get it, or see it on a large screen in the lobby which cycles through the teams showing their line-ups.
The electronic-only scoring, being done by the people who are recording the bidding and play, has been a little less smooth. The recorders use bridgemate machines to enter the bidding, contract, play and result. Then the bridgemate transmits the result to a computer to do the scoring. As usual with computers, the quality of the input has a very big effect on the quality of the output, and it is a little tricky to get everything entered properly on the bridgemates (plus of course sometimes the recorder mis-hears the result). After the first match, there was a very large crowd at the scorer's table to correct their scores. It seemed to be better after both the second and third matches, perhaps because our scores were correct for both of those so I didn't have to join the group at the scoring table. Once all the glitches are ironed out, this should be a really great way to do the scores, and provide lots of interesting information for reporters and interested viewers as well.
When we first moved "across the river" from downtown Shanghai to Pudong, where the tournament is being held, this area seemed much quieter and more empty than where we'd been. Yesterday that started to change and today the Pudong area is jammed with people. This week is a holiday week in China (today is "National Day" celebrating the founding of the People Republic of China), and we were told that over 4 million Chinese tourists would descend on Shanghai for the week. That certainly doesn't seem to be an exaggeration from the vast influx of tourists here. Tomorrow stringent security measures will be enforced at the tournament - today they set up metal detectors similar to those we are used to seeing at airports in the lobby and there were signs warning that people would not be admitted without their identifying badges, and to expect delays getting into the venue. Those of us staying in the hotel are considering not going outside during the day tomorrow in order to avoid the metal detectors etc.
Despite the crowds, the restaurants at the mall across the square from our hotel weren't over-crowded, and we had a wonderful Chinese dinner there. Someone told me that there were 200 restaurants in the mall, which is huge - it's a 6 or 7 story building, with shops on the first 4 stories and restaurants above that, plus a movie complex someplace, and a grocery store and drugstore and housewares/appliance store in the basement. Like the streets, it's crowded today, after being fairly empty when we first arrived, but everyone is cheerful and orderly.
The Pearl Tower is a Shanghai landmark, and also an easy way to find the tournament site, which is right next to it. Here's a picture of the tower, thanks to Shawn Quinn.
Things continued to run smoothly today, in spite of the added security because the Special Olympics started and some festivities were held at the Convention Center where the tournament is being held. The people managing the metal detectors were smiling and efficient as many bridge players went through on the way into the playing area. The area around the convention center and hotel is even more crowded today than it was yesterday, which I hadn't thought would be possible. Even the grocery store and shopping mall were more crowded than they had been. But everyone continues to be cheerful and friendly, trying hard to help us even though we speak no Chinese and most of them speak no English.
Stacy Jacobs is writing a daily blog from here and she has done much better than I at taking pictures, many of which she's posted to her blog. I recommend a look.
The city and venue continued to be crowded with people today. I'm constantly amazed at how nice the crowds are - no pushing and shoving, no foul language. Pictures in the lobby were set up today for the Special Olympics and then taken down this evening (by the time we got back from dinner they were gone).
This is a view from our hotel room window at night - looking across the river at the Bund, an older part of Shanghai that's lit up every night, with some modern skyscrapers in the background that are also decorated with lights.
After watching our team lose a blitz to Argentina, we had a wonderful (too wonderful) buffet dinner at the Shangri La hotel where many of the players are staying. Then I spent some time and amazingly little money ordering silk blouses and pants from a tailor Shawn Quinn had not only found but convinced to come to her hotel room to take orders. Didn't manage any pictures today, but I'll try to do better tomorrow.