8 November 2017

Memorable Chips

Closing day of the Altai Rapid Grand Prix Stage. Report by Vladimir Barsky

All in all, the last day of the festival saw representatives of the organizing committee and the Altai Republic Chess Federation’s president, Arzhan Itashev, go to the village Shebalino to meet local chess fans. Even though we had a long distance to cover, the road was not tiring at all as all you needed to do was turn your head one way or the other to admire the scenery. Some forty minutes later a driver gave me a somewhat stern look:

– Have you ever been this way? This is a Chuysky Trakt (Chuya Highway).

The name Chuysky Trakt sounds familiar! It is a homeland of Shukshin, isn’t it? A know-it-all Wikipedia confirms: a great writer was indeed born in the village Srostki, located along the tract. Besides, it turns out that in 2014 the National Geographic magazine named the Chuysky tract one of the world’s ten most beautiful roads. It is true, the views are absolutely fascinating! Turquoise Katun river is of a turquoise color indeed; The mountain slopes are covered with birches and firs. Alternatively, it may well be a Siberian cedar - you will never immediately tell one from another. Enjoying these views, we found ourselves in Shebalino as if in no time. They told us, however, that this part of the road is not yet the most magical sight in Altai. "Beyond, where Putin's residence is, the beauty defies imagination!" Well, the president has a distant view from his high place; as for me, I got unforgettable impressions even from the light version of this beauty.

Equally striking was a warm reception given us at the school named after Lazar Kokyshev. Right on the doorstep we were offered a local version of bread and salt in the form of delicious balls of dough and a low-alcohol beverage of milk. Each of us was tied around with a beautiful belt as a gift, given tea to drink and taken on a tour of the school that bears the name of an outstanding Altai poet and writer. Chess tables were arranged in the gym with a variety of chess sets on them, many obviously brought by children from their homes. A little girl set up checkers instead as either chess was unavailable at home or else she did not know the rules.

A brief concert of national instruments and welcome speeches was followed by a simul, which featured a squad of children strengthened by some 5-6 adults. The role of examiner was performed by the President of the Siberian Federal Okrug Chess Federation Maxim Ivakhin, while Alexander Tkachev and I decided to take a walk through the village. The weather was wonderful, 15 degrees and a clear blue sky. However, they would not allow us to wander aimlessly, immediately redirecting us to explore the local museum. The museum’s permanent exposition narrates about Altai’s history and nature, while yet another exhibition has been organized to commemorate centennial of the October Revolution. Plunging into your Pioneer-Komsomol childhood felt funny; but only for a while.

Our visit ended with a good home dinner. All Altai products are known to be natural and homemade, being only namesakes with their Moscow counterparts. In general, the guests were very pleased, and I would like to think that the same is true for the hosts as well!

Meanwhile, a three-day battle for a million was nearing its end in the casino Altai Palaca. Maksim Chigaev was an uncontested leader with one day to go: in round 6 he outperformed his main rival Dmitry Bocharov and slowed down somewhat by making three draws in a row. In round 9 Bocharov caught up with the leader. Then Maksim pulled together to win both closing games, while Dmitry managed to win only one. This said, the ultimate round found him on the verge of defeat, down two pawns and his king under attack, but he succeeded in saving the hardest of positions. Moreover, the very end of the game presented him an unusual chance to win.

Vlassov Bocharov

Black has just attacked the white pawn, and White has checked the black king. Bocharov retreated 67…Ke7, and the game ended in a draw a couple of moves later. Meanwhile, he could have kept touch with the pawn, while setting a trap with 67…Kd5! Now an impulsive 68.e6?? runs into 68…Kc4! with a checkmate next move! While discussing the game, Nikolai Vlassov admitted not having been alert to the idea. He was likely to find it out, but anything is possible with flags hanging!

An awards ceremony took place in the casino gambling hall. A cocktail party had a jazz trio playing. More than half participants received prizes, some even two, while the Russian junior champion Alexei Sorokin even three: as a best junior, best representative of the Altai Krai and for the third place in the overall standings.

To honor the tournament, the casino has minted special memorable chips and handed them out, along with cash prizes and memorable gifts. Some chess players are likely to have put the chips into circulation without delay, but things like that are better left unsaid...

Pictures by Vladimir Barsky and Maxim Gazizov