2 June 2019

Half-a-century Jubilee of Scholastic Battles

Dmitry Kryakvin’s report on the ceremonial opening of Belaya Ladya’s jubilee edition 

Dagomys is a fantastic spot! This event is a definite icing on the cake in a chain of Sochi tournaments for those lucky to be there. This time the famous health center is hosting a final of the jubilee 50th edition of the scholastic competition Belaya Ladya. Once here, you immediately realize this is no ordinary event. Still, young players and spectators in the preceding regional competitions are nervous to the extent that the air is stale pending the outcome of the matches. However, hundreds of relaxed children’s faces is something that immediately catches your eyes here, many of whom have seen the sea for the first time in their lives or are simply extremely happy to attend a legendary event celebrating a jubilee. Everyone is smiling – the children, coaches, delegates of the RCF congress – which is also true, albeit with mild fatigue on his face, about Belaya Ladya’s guest Georgios Makropoulos, this being his first appearance in public after hot clashes in Batumi. 

At the opening, the competition’s patriarch and one of organizers of the first edition in 1969, a Merited Coach of the USSR Anatoly Bykhovsky said that Belaya Ladya’s simple recipe of popularity is its exceptional democratic nature coupled with a unique team togetherness spirit. The project has been gaining momentum from year to year so that now not only does the starting list features 80 Russian teams from all regions of the country, but 26 foreign ones as well! 

Anatoly Bykhovsky

Anatoly Avraamovich revealed his dream of seeing Belaya Ladya gain a global scale in a few years from now. Let us hope that FIDE is going to back up the project since one of the tournament’s main honorary guests, FIDE Executive Director GM Victor Bologan, was present in the playhall. Before the opening, the famous chess player, together with the senior coach of the Russian women's national team Sergei Rublevsky, was seen signing autographs on the jubilee cards in the lobby and taking pictures with young participants of the Dagomys action. 

I happened to be a witness of the following funny exchange between a young player and a representative of the team. “Who is the man in a blue suit sitting next to Sergei Rublevsky?” – asked the young player. “This is GM Victor Bologan!” The boy had recently had a hot dispute with his friend as to who was older, Volodar Murzin (Volodar is Russia’s board one in Dagomys in the matchup vs. India) or Alexey Sarana, therefore he sized the adult up with a look of competence. “Do you not remember him being the one opting for 3.Bb5 after 1.е4 с5 2.Nf3 Nc6? We have had some games of his analyzed, haven't we? – added the adult with a slight trace of indignation in his voice. “Not only would he develop his bishop to b5, but also follow it by taking on c6?!” - and the young player's eyes lit up admiringly in the direction of the guest from Moldova. “Hurray! “Haven't I always claimed the knight's superiority over the bishop?” - and the excited boy was already on his way to stock himself up with an autograph. Let me add that Sergey was also known to be a proponent of bishop's development on b5, but whether the head coach favors the knight over the bishop remains to be clarified yet. 

Autographs given by Sergei Rublevsky and Victor Bologan

Besides Anatoly Bykhovsky, welcome speeches were also given by FIDE Executive Director Victor Bologan, Executive Director of the Russian Chess Federation Mark Glukhovsky and Deputy Director General of the Elena and Gennady Timchenko Charitable Foundation Igor Baradachev. The Russian President Vladimir Putin’s message of greetings was read out. Meanwhile, the second half of the opening ceremony was simply incredible. After the laser show and the mimes' performance, the hall was suddenly full of huge balloons and confetti flying everywhere, the latter then had to be removed from out of pockets and socks! The children then jumped up from their seats and staged an improvised volleyball match with balloons, sending them right across the seats of VIP guests. There is little doubt about each of them remembering this opening ceremony of June 1, 2019, for a long time to come yet. 

Sunday, June 2, is time to start the action. However, Belaya Ladya’s program is not limited to just one main tournament and the Russia-India matchup. In store for guests and participants is an extensive program with many additional events, not to mention the famous robot of Konstantin Kosteniuk’s, 12th world champion Alexandra Kosteniuk’s father, installed in the lobby for anyone willing to challenge. The robot's performance is just great, but when playing three boards at once it is known to make moves not as fast as it should; therefore, let me give you a little secret of how to fight a cyborg. You need to get a robust setup, preferably with pawn chains, and start marking time by moving your pieces quickly, waiting for the Terminator to overstep the time limit. I read about this algorithm in one Vladimir Barsky’s reports, and Rauf Mamedov seems to have been the one pulling it off over the board.  

I wish you good luck! Long live the jubilee tournament! Stay tuned for the next broadcasts! 

Photos by Dmitry Kryakvin