Saturday, 29 September 2012

Equal first. 30.000!

Morning Round 7.30 am

Again rupees, so about $AUS350. My morning round was against the formidable Russian GM, Aleksandr Fominyh who I have already had the pleasure of playing about 10 years ago in Spain, twice. We won one game each and our score is still level. I had an advantage for most of the game but 34 Rd7 was a blunder leading to a draw. Rh7 immediately would have retained an edge and since he was very short of time, my chances would have been good as the position is hard to defend. Anyway, an exciting fighting game.

Afternoon round 10

This was a must-win situation so I played a risky line gambling that my opponent would not be familiar with it. The risk paid off and I won quite easily. The round started rather late as the electricity in Ilam was not working again so a generator had to be used. Nice sound for the final round.  

Closing Ceremony

The reason we had to start so early was so the prize-giving could start on time. Well, technical difficulties delayed it by about two hours anyway. What a surprise! :-)

Five players tied for first with 8/10 points. GM Alexandr Fominyh won the tiebreak. I came in fourth which suited me fine as the money was shared equally and only the first three got a huge trophy.

A more comprehensive report is planned when I get to a better internet connection. Thanks for following and stay tuned for a few days of tourism in Nepal.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Round 8 Chess Basketball and Bricks.


Conditions after being acceptable for one day, deteriorated again today. Several times during the games tracktors arrived to deliver trailers of bricks and then proceeded to unload them by throwing them on top of each other on the ground outside the playing area. But one instrument does a symphony not make so a basketball game was brought in for rhythm. The spectators, on the other hand were quiet by local standards although it is hard sometimes to get past them. Luckily they are all quite a bit smaller than me so I have taken to just barging through them. 

Back at the hotel things work differently than anywhere else as well. Every day at about lunchtime they run out of milk, amongst other things. Language is also a problem. Take a look at this sign as an indication.

A football game was in progress on my way back after the round. Far enough away not to be heard over the bricks and basketball

In the evening a Cultural program was organised for us visitors. I will show you some videos when I get back to an Internet connection that allows for large uploads. For now some pictures. The hall was packed out and we got the best seats. 

See the background? All for us :)

The game
I did not manage to create sufficient complications today and my opponent was just trying to draw. Noise and tiredness took their toll not to mention the noise.

As a coup de grace the organisers have put forward the morning round tomorrow to 7.30am they wanted to make it 7 but compromised. In a strange way they are doing me a favour, by reinforcing my resolution to never again in my life play in tournaments with double rounds or morning rounds let alone both. it is just torture. Why did I do it? Because I really wanted to see Nepal. Well, I haven't seen much after all due to the mind-numbing schedule. A reminder. If I ever contemplate putting myself through something like this again SHOOT ME!

Round 7 + food


I have neglected the topic of food a little, one reason being that the variety is not so great. The national dish is rice with some vegetables and daal. Many people eat this for lunch and dinner. Nepal is a bit like Cuba in this respect. The ingredients are all here but the food culture seems to be absent. Here is today's lunch.

This is called "Green salad :D

Since I discovered the vegetable patties with chilly, I have ordered them nearly every meal.

Unless you have razor sharp teeth don't order the Mutton skewer.

I overdid the aggro a bit today and if my opponent had played 19...Bb4 check 20 Kf1 Nc3 my...ahem compensation is not immediately spotable. After that everything went smoothly.

Three games to go.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Round 6 and markets

Walk continues

I wanted to leave some pictures for the evening post so here is part two. The tea gardens adjoin the bus station, where we arrived in town from Kathmandu. While taking pictures the manager of the Pokhareli guest house invited me in to show me his new project. I took this shot of the bus statin from his roof. The view is great.

The top floor apartment has a kitchen, two bathrooms and two bedrooms that can comfortably sleep five and the decor is classy. This apartment is available for only 5000 rupees a night, about AUS$ 55.
Your buck has a lot of bang in Nepal.

From the rooftop one can see the New Pokhareli hotel, owned by his brother, where I am staying. I was offered a few nights at the new one but I'll leave that until next time.

I was told it was market day and since I had finished my first round so quickly I decided to take a gander. My ankle had not started hurting yet so this way I could make sure it would later.

Must be chilly season.

The veggies are all organic I was assured.

Lots of local bananas were on sale.

What I really wanted was some traditional clothing but was unable to find any. The manager of my hotel has offered to help me tomorrow.

And right next to the market is the safari and local transport terminal. 

The Game

After my Alekhine's  defense debacle I decided not only to play sharp but also complex chess. The modern defense is one opening where white can not easily reach a simple position and play for a draw. And one is always ready to play a Hippo :)  I am quite proud of the fact that I managed to convert an ending only two pawns up.

Just before the game I noticed that I had in fact twisted my ankle and the walk to the playing hall just exacerbated it. I could hardly walk and was in pain throughout the entire game. Noticing my dilemma the organisers provided transport back to the hotel for me on the back of a motorbike and then suggested some "medicine" in the form of a local alchohol brewed from Millet called something like Kodokoroxi. After a couple of Panadeine  forte and three drinks I was feeling a whole lot better :D

Our hosts took us for a good night out.
Hast manjana amigo's

Round 5 and near-death experience

Strange day
I was woken at 5.30am by the incessant beeping of some bus this morning. Just one but it would not stop for what seemed like 10 minutes. Then something very weird happened. The noise stopped! I had pulled the cover over my ear to minimize it but suddenly there was none. Strange I thought. Was it a public holiday?

So I had a shower and the water was warm! Was I still dreaming? Ok, so down to breakfast I went, had some very hard "soft boiled eggs", instant coffee and roti and went back to my room to visit the gents and possibly enjoy another warm shower.  Then it happened. I slipped on the wet tiles and fell like a stone. My arm which is now bruised and badly scraped hit the edge you see below and broke my fall enough so that when my head hit the raised part I neither cracked my skull nor broke my neck.

I was now dizzy and completely disorientated and could only lie on the floor for about 15 minutes until I somewhat regained my senses. My jaw and the left side of my head still hurts a little but it could have been so much worse. Must pay attention!

The sound of silence
Now came the truly stunning thing. The tournament hall was absolutely silent! What had happened? The town was quiet, the tournament hall was so quiet one could hear the birds chirping outside. Some policemen arrived with shotguns. Were they there to watch the games? I had jokingly suggested to the organiser that some soldiers should be stationed outside the rooms to shoot to kill anybody who was talking. I was not serious! Legshot should do :)

As you can see the playing conditions, now that the noise problem has been fixed, are excellent. There is plenty of room, tea is brought to the table, water bottles are available and the view...what superlatives can I use?

The organiser, Mr Bidur Pd Gautam looking serious. Usually he is smiling.

The newly opened lavatory. It should be nice when finished.

I had a relatively easy game and then headed to the tea-gardens since it is such a nice sunny day today. I was unable to get a snap of one of the many bright coloured butterflies. They just teased me several times and then flew away

At the top of the hill is something that looks like a prayer area.

Paths criss-cross the huge gardens  

The game

Ok, not much to brag about, my opponent gave me the centre for free didn't castle or place his pieces usefully. I did stick to my resolution of playing as agro as possible. Only one point of interest, you may ask why 25...Nc8 instead of the more natural 25...Re8? Well, then 26, Re6 Be6 and the intermezzo 
27. Qh7

Getting back to the eerie silence for a minute, I did ask whether it was a public holiday or something. The exact opposite in fact. Thursday is market day. It should be noisier than usual. The manager of my Hotel told me yesterday that Ilam was going to introduce a ban on horns next year as they had already introduced a ban on plastic bags  and smoking in the town.

Could it be that they have brought it forward due to my constant complaints? Megalomania I hear you say. Well you don't know to what lengths  the Nepalese  will go to to make you feel welcome. There are no people anywhere more hospitable. Still Megalomania? Yeah, you're probably right...probably            :D

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Round 4

This afternoons game was a quick crush. I was paired up to another young unrated Indian boy who must be quite good to have made 2.5/3 but he misplayed the opening. He was also the victim of my new resolution to play as aggressively and quickly as possible just to get out of the tournament hall as soon as I can.
The organisers are trying their level best to keep the spectators away from the players and have reduced the noise to just the background chatter coming from all parts of the building. The very concept of silence seems to fall on deaf ears.
After the very quick game I went for a long walk in the tea gardens.

 You have to climb to the top of the hill and walk down the other side to get some relief. At least the constant sound of car,bus,truck,bike horns is not omnipresent. Anyway, enough whining, over to the game.

Not that much to say, we got a queens gambit accepted with black having the extra move f5. I think he would rather have it back on f7. Anyway as I said, positional me has been sent home because he is a patzer. The mad axeman has been left behind. Motto, win lose or draw, just do it quickly.

So only three days and six games to go. I wonder if one can buy earplugs here?

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Round 3 disaster.


If I ever express the wish to play in a double round tournament where the morning rounds start at 8am, I have a request from my friends. Please sneak up behind me silently and put a bullet in my head. I seem to be incapable of learning that lesson so I need to be put out of my misery. Also I keep combining my desire to visit interesting developing countries with chess. Why? I am busy playing all the time and don't get to see anything.

I remember several years ago losing nearly 100 rating points playing in Asia. The last tournament was in Subic bay, Philippines, where I scored 2.5 from 9, my only win being against an unrated ten year old and scoring three draws against the rest, all but one considerably lower rated than me. I then went back to Europe and got them all back in a very short time


The lesson I should have learned a long time ago is to only play chess if the conditions are good. I am obviously a softie who requires silence and comfort to be able to think. True, it is a weakness but one must be aware of one's strengths and weaknesses. 

The latest disaster

Although my new hotel is closer to the venue it is also next to the main road and I am on the first floor with a window facing the street. There was some kind of party going on which woke me up a few times during the night but at sunrise, about 5.30am the noise started in earnest. Traffic noise here is different from what we are used to. People can't seem to leave the horn alone. Every car and motorcycle, truck bus, whatever, has the need to announce it's presence to all the world all the time. People shout into their mobile phones or at each other. Talking normally is unheard of.

So after another cold shower and a cup of tea I headed up to the tournament hall where the building work continues. Tractors, workmen scraping walls, hammering things and of course people shouting at the top of their voices into their mobiles just outside the playing room. The spectators crowd around the boards like sardines and today several of them moved the pen on my score-sheet to see the moves! The arbiters occasionally make token efforts to help but it only lasts a few minutes.

Anyway, my 1951 opponent played well and took advantage of my insipid play. I also had some extraordinary hallucinations. The funniest was thinking that a h+g pawn could force an outside past pawn against a g+f pawn.

Anyway, the organisers are doing their best, it is their first international open and they probably are so used to the noise that they don't notice it anymore. I will not spit any more dummies because I brought this on myself. Seven more games and I can go home, to a hot shower, a brewed coffee and most of all, silence. And I am serious. If you are my friend and you see me contemplating a murderous double round event in a developing country, please put me out of my misery without any warning. Seriously. I am not joking.

Ram Prasad Memorial Rounds 1 + 2

The Venue
Like so often in Nepal, things cycle between extremes. While the last playing hall was small and crowded, here in Ilam we have a whole building! While not completely finished, it was large enough to accommodate several tournaments in comfort. I must admit that I didn't start the day in the best of moods as my accommodation  had not been settled yet and I had woken up before 6am, which rarely leaves me in a good mood.

Another typical phenomenon is things not starting at the scheduled time. The first round got moved from 8am to 9.30 which meant that I could have slept a bit more. Fortuitously a Professor at the College offered to show us his house and beehive which took our minds off the delay  

A lovingly cared for garden

We did not get stung although we were a bit nervous :)

Finally we got started

A local dignitary and Mr Rajesh Hari Joshi watch top seed GM Alexander Fominyh play the first round.

My unrated Indian youngster was giving me some problems and I spat the dummy again! There were no toilets open in the entire building and  the one I was led to in the adjacent block was unusable for a spoilt westerner. Finally I have something in common with the late great Bobby Fisher. This was quickly fixed. The ones in our building were unlocked. They were not completely finished yet and therefore clean and spacious.

 As  far as the game is concerned, If my opponent had just played the simple 17 f3 instead of Qe2, then I am not sure how black should proceed.

The second game was a bit easier. Black did not seem to have a clear strategy and made a few inaccuracies like 12....Nd5 ceding the centre and 21..Nac7 (better is 21...c5). For my part I feel I should have played d4 a move or two earlier.

Everything has been arranged :)

So I went to dinner with 2/2 at my new Hotel which is closer to the Venue and the playing room for the top 10 boards had been moved next to bathroom. The president of the Nepal chess federation came by, we had a beer and a nice friendly chat and bridged what remained of our communication issues. In the end everything has been arranged and to the best of my knowledge everybody is happy.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Ilam. Opening ceremony

First day

I had a good sleep after the 25 hour trip of horror but still woke up feeling like jelly. I needed a walk shake out the cobwebs. My first stop was a temple. A nice old monk invited me in, put red paint on my forehead, gave me a piece of presumably blessed coconut and chanted some mantras for me.

I wandered on aimlessly and came upon the tea-gardens a little while later. This is quite a large are and very pleasant to walk around in as many people do.

Students from the local college

Meanwhile in town preparations were under way for the tournament. Banners like this one and flyers were everywhere. I went to the tourist office next to the bus station to try to get a map of the town. At this point any local would start laughing. A map? But instead they went one better and assigned me a guide for the day!

So we went to see some more temples etc...

Saran, my guide for the day.

Opening ceremony 

Now things started to get unreal. Suddenly I saw a procession heading through town the size of which stunned me.

I then switched to Video mode and filmed for five minutes as children from different schools marched towards the square. No chance of uploading it here. I then joined the procession with some other players.

First we were treated to a local tribal dance while the procession continued to do a circle around the whole town.

They then ringed the packed out main square.

More chairs were being brought in from everywhere and people were standing on steps, cars whatever they could find to get a glimpse. The speaker of the Nepalese parliament was the guest of honour as were all the local politicians and local business men. The president of the Nepal chess federation also turned up, fashionably late, and gave an inspiring speech in which he mentioned me several times apologising that Nepal did not have the 5 star facilities to offer me that I was used to. Although we obviously still have not solved all out communication problems, we all went to dinner together and a few glasses of local scotch did help somewhat.  

It seems that the tournament is only a side event to the opening and perhaps the closing ceremony.

As a final note, I was woken up this morning by one of the organisers trying to talk the two tourist girls living next door to me to play in the tournament. "Oh chess, that sounds interesting." 

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Charikot to Ilam, 25 hours of torture (don't worry, everything is arranged)

Charikot to Kathmandu

When travelling it is important to keep cultural differences in mind. Concepts such as time and comfort vary from country to country. When the president of the Nepal chess federation, Mr Rajesh Hari Joshi, invited me to play in Nepal, he painted a very flowery picture as any good salesman does. I am writing this post to enhance translation between Australian and Nepalese concepts.

Time. Nepalese time is very different to Australian time. The ratio is about 1-2.5. A two hour trip, like from Kathmandu to Charikot takes five hours. I would still have gone, but could have prepared better. 

Hot water. When we say "there is hot water" it is implied that there is constantly hot water. Here it
means that there is sometimes hot water. Same goes for Wi-fi. It is not that we cannot live without these luxuries, we just prefer to know. It makes it easier to plan ahead.

Details. Speaking of planning ahead, that is also something we like to do. For this reason we like to have some details about future planned events. When I last asked Mr RHJ about the next days travel plans he said " don't worry, everything has been arranged". When I persisted trying to get some detail, radio silence. I was not asking to be a pest. I was asking so that I know what to pack where. Like, should I get snacks? An extra t-shirt in my laptop bag, etc etc.

Alternatives. There are flights apparently for about $50. I would have gladly paid this to avoid the horror that I am now about to describe. Many westerners are a bit softer than easterners and are happy to pay, what for us is a small amount to avoid a whole night getting our internal organs rearranged on a dangerous potholed road. The plane-trip takes 45 minutes, the bus-ride 16+ hours. (just that leg) 

I hope these clarifications will improve communication in future. "Don't worry, everything is arranged" is NOT a satisfactory answer to an enquiry.  Anyway, on to the trip.

We left Charikot at 9am, only an hour after the scheduled departure time. An hour seems about standard. We had the same vehicle as the previous day for our trip to Kalinchowk. The driver was also the same guy which put me at ease as well. The first part, 6 hours, was not pleasant because of the lack of suspension, potholes, sections of dirt road and the near death experiences as trucks constantly try to pass each other on what is not a complete one lane road. Looking at the 1000metre drop right next to you can also be disconcerting if  one is not used to it. Luckily the view was very distracting. 

Waterfalls punctuate the landscape every few hundred metres and while slowing down the journey, do enhance the visual experience 

Another nice spot and a welcome stop. Being shaken around for hours on end and watching trucks approach at break-neck speed in the wrong lane down a steep hill only to turn at the last moment is exhausting.  

One of the reasons the 138km journey takes an average of five hours is because we are constantly going up and down mountains. I was authoritatively told that Charikot is only 32km from Kathmandu as the crow flies. Here we are at one Mude, the highest point, about 2400meters above sea level.

Finally we reached the valley where two big rivers meet, one from the mountains and one from China. We were not far from the border and had to pass several checkpoints as smuggling is rife in this area apparently. 

Kathmandu - Ilam
Now the true horror began. We were running late so didn't stop for any photo's. Unless you like pictures of garbage and waste, you are not missing much. Kathmandu valley is similar to the other valley's except it is heavily populated and garbage is just discarded everywhere. I did not see a single rubbish bin anywhere but plastic shopping bags full of refuse form little mounds all along the highway. Buses and trucks spew black smoke directly into the faces of pedestrians while young children run between cars to sell water and snacks to passing motorists. Kathmandu city is the most vile place I have ever far. 
I did not have to wait long break that record. For those readers who don't know me all that well I should point out that I have been travelling all over the globe since I was a child. We reached the buses area, not a station as such, at just after 3pm. The bus to Ilam was already waiting for us. Being a seasoned traveller I decided to visit the public facilities before jumping on the next bus. The only way you can possibly visualise what I saw next is if you dive head first into an open sewer. At this point I decided I would not eat until we arrived in Ilam. Nothing in, nothing out.  

Now we jumped onto the " Deluxe, Luxury Bus". There we met an old friend, Russian Grandmaster Alexander Fominihk, who was already thoroughly annoyed as he had not been met at the Airport by you Mr Joshi, as promised. Long story.
The seats were not all attached as required and the bus was many decades old with only emergency repairs ever performed. Anyway we made the best of it and patiently waited to reach the National Highway. We would call it a neglected country road.
 Our driver was a complete psycho. In the picture above he is harassing an ambulance in front of us by incessantly beeping and flashing his lights trying to overtake with trucks coming the other way. Naples drivers are pussies compared to the road-warriors here.

For the next fifteen hours we were shaken like popcorn in this old monstrosity while our psycho driver tried to overtake anything he could, braking when a speeding truck appeared in the approaching lane, swerved back into our lane, should I say, side of the road because it was all unmarked of course. We had a few little breaks either at official stops, comprising of stalls and a public cesspit or the side of the road.

Finally, the next morning a few people got off at the end of the highway, the town of Birtamod, near the Airport of Bhadrapur. From here it was a relatively painless three hours more into the mountains on an acceptable road. By this time we were all numb anyway.
We took a last break at the border of Ilam province, two hours from our final destination, Ilam city.

It is said that the road to heaven often leads through hell and this trip was definitely hell. Ilam on the other hand is heavenly.

As a final not I have just been informed that MR Rajesh Hari Joshi is arriving tomorrow, by plane of course. Don't worry, everything is arranged.