Romanian Chess Leagues – Home Sweet Home
By Alina L'Ami
Brasov – “Probably the best city in the world” – if you are a real ChessBase fanatic, you most probably vaguely remember my previous report on this beautiful Romanian city and its proud slogan. I am not so sure about the ‘best’ part, but for some of us, at least for the moment, it is the best!
The main reason behind the positive vibes I feel right now for Brasov is the gold medal achieved by our ladies team Politehnica Iasi, in the National Team competition! I know I don’t sound very modest, but after a long and tiring fight, spread over nine rounds, in a round robin event, we finally managed to reconcile the bad relations we had in the past with our beloved Caissa...and our team is officially happy!
Our team: Politehnica Iasi
The main rivals on the left - Aem Luxten Timisoara, Pia Cramling, Cristina Foisor,
and her daughter
Between 8-16 October, Brasov was the host of the Romanian League, one of the most interesting editions we had so far. Since the word ‘interesting’ can take such a wide variety of meanings I will limit myself to just a few. First of all, this year the competition was stronger than ever. Names like Gata Kamsky, Baduur Jobava, Andrei Volokitin, or Pia Cramling and Anna Muzychuk (apologies for not mentioning everyone that deserves it), were on everybody’s lips, giving the tournament a more professional note and a dash of interest from the local media.
They don't need any further introduction: Gata Kamsky.
With our well-known GM Mihail Suba. It is very refreshing to speak
with him, as the conversation will always be sprinkled with witty
remarks, just like his books: "Chess is a game of luck"; "Women
and chess..." - and you can fill in the blanks.
It is wonderful to see the chess movement growing in your own country and I truly hope the progress will continue, seeing the ‘big guys’ in action, who inspire us to aim higher.
Another reason I find this event so appealing is the mere fact of being a…team competition. In these type of tournaments, when all individuals and egos are brought together to form a team, emotions, stress, frustration, envy and bigger or smaller ‘problems’ are likely to appear. Not to mention the very thin line between despair and ecstasy for the ‘poor’ coaches or team captains, alternating between pulling their hair out or hugging the players, depending on the circumstances. It’s difficult to relax, difficult to forget an important lost game, especially if the team is silently (or not!) blaming you. I am sure that for an objective observer, it’s kind of an interesting sight to watch – a chess microcosm that mirrors life itself.
The playing hall with the unmistakeable ponytail of Nisipeanu to the right
Team members closely watching
What is also special about the Romanian League is that we have two separate sections, as you might have already spotted: six boards for men and three boards for women, plus reserves. In both cases one board was occupied by a junior player, under 20, as the rules stated. In the past we had used the league formula adopted by the Dutch or German Federations, to play weekend games. Eventually, we went back to the nine-round tournament format, which seems to suit our country better, in our attempts to cut costs and deal with the economic crisis.
But let’s see what happened in Brasov:
With an absolutely amazing team, AEM Luxten Timisoara took the gold medal in the men’s section, with only one drawn match out of nine! Having Gata Kamsky on board one, Andrei Volokitin on board two, followed by the rising Romanian stars: Constantin Lupulescu and Mircea Parligras, the team was undefeated and convincingly won the competition. As a further bonus, they took first prize on almost all six boards!
The women’s section was a bit more of a drama! We had only three boards, so if one player stumbles, the whole team goes down. The title was undecided until the very last moment, but all is well that ends well and our team - Irina Bulmaga, Smaranda Padurariu and the undersigned, with no reserve player to fall back on - brought Iasi the much wanted trophy!
Ah sweet victory!
My teammates and friends: Smaranda Padurariu and Irina Bulmaga. They both won
their board prize!
The time control was one of the most fashionable in the past few years: 90 minutes for 40 moves, with 30 minutes for the rest of the game and 30 seconds increment, starting from move one. It may seem like a lot, but believe me, it goes incredibly fast! And I realized that I cannot stand the clocks which start the countdown when you are left with 20 minutes. You can almost feel the seconds going down, down, down... 59, 58, 57…3, 2, 1…some of us can panic for no good reason. Far more relaxing, in my opinion, is when you have a friendly clock, which starts to warn you about the time only when under five minutes.
No time trouble yet, everything under control. Playing against
Chocolate is always welcome!
In the analysis area, with Dorian Rogozenco and Mihail Marin
The happy newlyweds: Salome Melia with her husband
This was our chess adventure on the Romanian soil, in the heart of Transylvania, with which I am sure the reader is undoubtedly acquainted. You must have heard about at least one vampire that originates from the wild forest of dark and spooky Transylvania…
Brasov, surrounded by beautiful mountains, is a city with a long history that stretches back to medieval times, a very good starting point to explore the country. And this is the last, but not least, reason to ‘give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar
’. The city is simply great, although I am not sure how much the foreign players benefited from it.
I think I read in almost every tourist guide the following cliché: ‘a country/city of contrasts' - we can successfully apply it to Brasov as well.
There are these grotesque buildings left over from the communist regime, but also the old town, miraculously preserved. Besides, the weather change was so dramatic: from 28 degrees Celcius we went straight into winter, with snow and sub-zero temperatures!
The old town somehow survived the communist regime
Strada Sforii, one of the narrowest streets in Europe
Being a huge fan of Brasov, I subtly took great pride in thinking it had the narrowest street in Europe, as the travel guides claim, but a quick research proved me wrong. Nevertheless, Strada Sforii (”Rope Street”) is really tiny and does make for some good photos. Located in downtown Brasov, initially developed in the 15th century as a corridor that firemen could use, it is first mentioned in 17th century documents. Its width varies between 111 and 135 centimeters (right, cm!), and it is 80 meters long.
Not recommended for the claustrophobic
Romanian life in general is defined by its sweet country heart, where the image of the horse-drawn buggies crossing the (often cratered) paved roads and herds of sheep or different creatures – is quite a common one. But what I miss most while gone for my tournaments are the special flavours of our traditional cuisine.
If your Romanian knowledge starts with Dracula and ends with Nadia Comaneci or Gheorghe Hagi, then you should know that there's much more to it. Such as our tasteful food, like 'mamaliga' (see the picture above, it's almost ready:) Most probably the foreigners find it quite boring or tasteless, but we love this golden bread (made from cornmeal), which we use as a replacement to bread made from wheat flour.
'Mamaliga', a tasteful tasteless bread
The best way to enjoy your 'mamaliga' is to combine it with the local cheese, sold in the open air markets, or with pork ('The best vegetable is pork' - words of local folk wisdom).
And if speaking of vegetables, I see myself forced to say that we Romanians have a secret: the villagers and their healthy produce. This is the real bio, eco, incredibly good raw material, and I do hope they will never be 'swallowed' by the large supermarket chains...
And then there’s that Dracula thing. If the players didn’t have the chance to visit Transylvania’s castles and lovely medieval Saxon towns like Sighisoara, where the ‘real Dracula’ (Vlad Ţepeş) first grew his teeth, they certainly have some blood-curdling tales from their own games.
For ten days, the Romanian League and its tense matches made some people’s blood run cold. But how sweet, for some, is the taste of victory!
Complete men's standings
Complete women's standing
Pictures by Alina L'Ami