29 May 2017

Grandfather Mazai and Rabbits

The U9 Russian Championship in Kostroma in the review of Vladimir Barsky 

The U9 Russian Championship among boys and girls is hosted by Kostroma for the seventeenth consecutive year, during which time the process of managing kids has been fine-tuned to the smallest detail by an experienced team of organizers headed by Andrei Beletsky. All in all, arriving in the ancient city on the Volga river are not only the eight-year-old "veterans" with one or two or even three performance experiences in the national championships, but also five/six or even four-year olds who will easily lose their bearings should they find themselves without people they recognize. However, nothing of the kind ever happens at the Concert and Exhibition Center Gubernsky because children feel the care, attention and kind attitude from each adult (be it arbiters, secretaries, or volunteers) engaged in the tournament.

There is nothing doing without the loudspeaker

About 30-40 minutes before the start of the round, the spacious lobby of Gubernsky would be populated to resemble a whirlpool with kids, parents, coaches circling inside. Certain heroes would even go over their opening lines using computers or chess boards, but they are in the overwhelming minority. Having tidied the girls' hair and the boys' collars yet another time, parents then bring their children to a kind of "watershed divide", where they are taken over by an arbiter holding a loudspeaker in his hands. Parents are not allowed further. Deputy Chief Arbiter Anatoly Lebedev lines the kids up in rows of fours, and then there comes a chief arbiter Andrey Beletsky to take them further into the playhall area. A picture you see is taken as if straight from the cartoon Grandfather Mazai and Rabbits. On the way to the playhall, Andrey Vasiljevich would stop to explain about lavatory rooms for boys and girls, as well as about proper behavior during the game.

Anatoly Lebedev is lining the kids up in rows of fours

Chairman of the RCF Children and Youth Committee Andrey Beletsky in the role of Grandfather Mazai

The playing hall has arbiters holding participant lists in their hands and doing a fantastically quick job of guiding young players to their tables. It would not be out of place to add that each kid wears a chest badge bearing personal data and region's name that he/she represents; this simple tool does a great job of simplifying the process of personal "identification". Having finished a game (it takes from 15 minutes to over two hours), the children would again approach the "watershed divide" and an arbiter would make a loudspeaker announcement for parents come and pick them up.

Round one started with children finding chocolate bars on their game tables

The number of participants has exceeded a half thousand for the second year in a row: the last year's 526 versus this year's 530, including 376 boys and 154 girls from as many as 70 regions of Russia! You will find some familiar names here: Goryachkina Oksana (Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug), Fominykh Milana (Krasnoyarsk Krai), Akhmetov Mark (Moscow), Zavivaeva Evelina (Nizhny Novgorod Oblast), Zverev Lev (Moscow), Minko Alexandr (Moscow), Svyatopolk-Chetvertynskaya Vasilisa (Moscow; frankly speaking, I have never heard this surname before, but it sounds nice indeed!). Misha Osipov is, of course, among them: although the TV star is modestly ranked No.130 on the starting list, the mass media attention is drawn to him nonetheless and Misha has already made his appearance on the local TV news.

Misha Osipov (Moscow)

A four-year old talent, who had made draws with Karpov and Karjakin on TV, had the following game in round one (Misha playing Black): 1.e4 c5 2.Qf3 d6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Bb5+ Bd7 5.Bc4 Nc6 6.Qb3

Black to move

6…Nd4 7.Qc3 Ng4…

A couple of moves later the queen travelled to a3 for reasons unknown only to fall victim to the black knight taking on c2 with check, then the f2-pawn and the h1-rook were also gobbled up by yet another black knight (because the king stepped to d1 in response to the first check)… The kid's appetite seems to be OK, his eyes are smart, his memory excellent; should he be allowed to grow naturally without jumping ahead of the normal course of events, he is likely to grow into a decent chessplayer.

Meanwhile, the tournament pace is set by elder and more experienced kids; their strongest representatives perform as strong as category one. Small professionals are trained by serious coaches, suffice it to mention some names of those who have come down to Kostroma (and there are definitely many more who I have never chanced to meet): Vladimir Wolfson, Pavel Lobach, Alexey Kim, Baira Kovanova, Irina Zakurdjaeva, Anna Dorofeeva. Besides, the body of arbiters consists entirely of experienced coaches (the above-mentioned Beletsky, Lebedev, Alexey Moskvin...) sharing many areas of responsibility.

Coaching grandmasters Irina Zakurdjaeva and Baira Kovanova

A cultural program is in store for children and parents: a boat tour along the Volga, a visit to the museum of nature and famous Ipatiev Monastery, from which Mikhail Romanov was called up in 1613 to start ruling the Tsardom of Russia. Kostroma is famous for its unique structure that features the sculpture of Lenin mounted on the pedestal of the monument erected in honor of the 300th anniversary of the Romanov Dynasty. Not far from this place the Kostroma Kremlin is being renovated. It is no coincidence that Kostroma belongs to the cities that make up the Golden Ring of Russia: you can enjoy its numerous sightseeing attractions, especially if you try to combine it with introducing your child to the game of chess.

A view opening from the "Snegurochka" hotel window

Given below is a small album where you can see a few pictures. To download a picture that is of interest to you, position the cursor right over its middle (a handle-shaped cursor turns into an arrow-shaped one), then right-click and select "Save image as". I wish you pleasant viewing!

Pictures by Vladimir Barsky