Turtle soup and the chess robot

Vladimir Dvorlovich Cup, Moscow

In 2014, I was selected to represent India at an invitational tournament for Under 17. The team consisted of three boys and one girl (Visakh, Vignesh, Krishna and I). It was unlike the normal World and Asian events. Never had I played such event before, so everything was surreal for me. Also, I had never been to Russia before. It is still considered the strongest chess playing country. You shouldn’t be surprised if you see people playing the game on streets. Chess is a national sport and is taught in schools and has produced more than 243 Grand Masters.

There were 8 teams in total. Four people each from eight different countries along with one coach who would help us in strategy and team planning. It was a round robin type of event where every team would play against each other and then the team with the best final score would win.

In the morning we would have breakfast, then some discussion about how we would play the games, helping each other with the opening preparation and finally going to the match. Post the game we would analyze the games with the team we played against while having lunch/dinner on a round table. It was a great culture sharing experience. We would discuss about the games and so much more. If we played against the Armenian team we would have lunch/dinner with them. Also, we would learn about each other’s culture and traditions.

One of my games where I had sacrificed a piece for attack. White to play and win.

Once, I was late for the lunch as my game finished late at around 1:40 pm and all the team members were waiting for me and my opponent, even the team we were playing against. Which was a very sweet gesture I felt. That day there was not much left and being a vegetarian back then was a bit of a problem. The organizers were kind enough to provide vegan meals to players, but there was some confusion and I had turtle-mushroom soup instead of the normal mushroom soup. I didn’t realize it until someone from the other team told me, and the whole day I couldn’t believe I had a turtle. Usually in India we never really eat such food, but well it was one experience that I won’t ever forget.

Usually in a few tournaments, there is a rest day where you can relax, go around and prepare for the coming rounds. The tournament was going okay for our team, neither good nor bad. We prepared a bit and then we went to the Gorky Park Cruise Ride and it was one refreshing experience. It is always fun to roam around and get to know the culture and history of places.

We later went to a chess club where there was a chess playing robot. One could play against it and it would do everything, from picking the piece to capturing them and also pressing the clock/timer. I was in awe and tried playing a game. It defeated me in 17 moves. My team mates also tried their luck but it easily defeated everyone in minutes. The sun set around 10-10:30 pm and we were back after having dinner.

I was waiting..and waiting… behind this person to have my shot at a game against the robot.

Overall the performance was okay, since we were at the 7th position in the initial standings, and ended with a 5th rank. The prize distribution was short and sweet. We said goodbye to all the fellow participants and came back to our hotel. We then parted ways to head back home.

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