Krush in China – adventures of a chess player

10/28/2009 – Last month we reported on the Women's World Team Championship in Ningbo. An exciting event in a remote place. While most players just flew in and out, one, IM Irina Krush, first board of the US team, took time to look around. Irina travelled from Shanghai to Ningbo, Hangzhou and Guilin, enjoyed the countryside, met the people, tried the food and sent us a remarkable photo documentation.

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A look around in China

By IM Irina Krush

On a walk around Shanghai (I spent three days in the city prior to the start of the tournament), I ran into two girls playing with a hula hoop on the street.


Two young girls. They patiently ignored me while I recorded them for posterity


The younger one showed impressive facility with the hula hoop! At the time, I had
no idea that just a month later…”


... I’d be playing Hula Chess in Saint Louis! It seems to be an extremely women-dominated sport – in all my time in Saint Louis, I never once saw a guy attempt it!


This spunky little girl (she couldn’t have been more than five)
gave me my favourite picture from the entire trip.


This sign that really appealed to me – a motto to live by

One of the highlights of my time in Shanghai was a meal at the restaurant “Chun’s”. How I found out about Chun’s is actually pretty funny. Earlier in the year, I read an article about it in the Wall Street Journal, and since the author had such good things to say, I filed it away in my memory in case of a future trip to China. At that point, I had no idea I’d wind up in Shanghai that same year! But even flying across the world was no guarantee of getting to eat there, since the WSJ article warns that it’s very hard to get a reservation, as there are only four tables. So I felt extremely lucky when it turned out they had a free table for the very same evening we called.


Chun’s restaurant; in a nondescript building to the right of "lomography"


Dinner at Chun’s, highly recommended!

This meal was one of the tastiest I've ever had. There's no menu, so you just tell them what you want to eat in general, and the chef makes it. We had a lentil dish, and a mushroom/cabbage dish, really delicious shrimp, and an amazing fish. It's expensive by Chinese standards (200 yuan = $30 for two people), but it's really worth it.


In the Yu Gardens of Shanghai

From Shanghai it was on to Ningbo, where I only got out of the hotel once, on my personal free day. I spent the day walking around the city with my friend Qiu Zhe and his girlfriend. We stumbled upon a park, which had all these pavilions, under which one person would sing, usually accompanied by a few with instruments, and the rest (throngs and throngs of people) would listen and chat with each other. Mostly it was middle-aged/older (retired) people, out to enjoy their weekend. The park had such a good energy, and I felt totally revitalized by being there (which really helped for the next day’s big match against China 1).


A Chinese couple doing the Titanic thing. Actually the girl set
up the pose, lifting his arms and everything.

After Ningbo, I spent three days in Hangzhou, a famous city renowned for its West Lake, a truly huge lake, surrounded by trees and spectacular scenery. I had an exciting trip to Hangzhou. It turned out that the Chinese league was taking place not far from Hangzhou, so I could travel in the players’ bus to their hotel, and then just take a taxi to where I was staying in Hangzhou.

On the bus ride, I chatted about chess and life with my new friend, Jilin Zhang, and all was well until I was propelled several feet from my seat into the aisle. Our bus had crashed into the roof of the tunnel we were attempting to enter. It seems like the bus driver might have missed the sign which warned about the height requirements for entering this particular tunnel.

Anyway, one might think that this little crash might have taken a while to straighten out, as we obviously couldn’t go forward, and there was now a build-up of cars behind us. But amazingly, all this was fixed within approximately ten minutes! The bus driver simply backed out of the tunnel (someone was instructing the cars behind us to back up) and eventually the way cleared for us to retrace our steps and find a passable route. The police were never summoned, no accident report filled out…but everything resolved so quickly and efficiently!

After Ningbo I spent three days in Hangzhou, a pretty famous city in China. It is especially famous for its West Lake, which is huge, and surrounded by trees and spectacular scenery.


The sun setting over tea plantations in Hangzhou


Some artistry with the tea shoots


A painter on the shores of the West Lake


The lake in oils – you could imagine being right in that painting


The artist at work – a work of art in itself


Playing with the sunset...


A view from the center of
West Lake, Hangzhou

During my days in Hangzhou I went to visit my friend Qiu Zhe's grandparents in the village. It's still located in Hangzhou City, but it's a two hour bus ride away from where I stayed, right across the West Lake. I really enjoyed my time in the village, and wish I could've stayed longer!


Qiu Zhe's family

Qiu Zhe's grandmother told me they had lived in that village for 40 years (and 20 years in the nearby mountains before that). His grandmother had eight children, and has more than 18 grandchildren, plus some great-grandchildren. And she is close to being a great-great-grandmother (she's 82 now). Pretty awesome to see so many generations grow up.


Trying out the local farming equipment


I spotted an herd of goats out to pasture, and walked in their midst to get some
pictures, all the while praying they wouldn’t pay too much attention to me.


Introducing: the shepherd

I love this picture! He looks so cool, with his army jacket and the cigarette dangling from his mouth, while he nonchalantly holds the goat for me


Striking a motherly pose...


Trying out as a rickshaw driver

As I waited for a table in one of Hangzhou’s oldest restaurants, Lou Wai Lou, (it’s about a hundred and fifty years old!), I noticed a wedding reception being held in one of the rooms. I didn’t want to miss this chance at getting some insight into Chinese culture, so I stood at the back of the room and watched…


The bride and groom in a present-day Chinese wedding
ceremony


The eminently recognizable "you may now kiss the bride" moment


My next stop was Guilin, a city a few hours southwest of Hangzhou (this time,
by plane). It’s also famous for its scenery.


With a cormorant at Elephant Hill Park, Guilin – these birds are used to catch fish,
although unfortunately I didn’t get to witness a demonstration of that. Next time!


Women cleaning fish in the Lijiang River, Guilin


The cleaning is done with the traditional Chinese hatchet knife

From Guilin, I took a one hour bus ride to a town called Yangshuo. I stayed in a little hotel called the Yangshuo Village Inn, which was about eight kilometers outside of Yangshuo proper. That was my base for a bike ride around the countryside on my final day of exploring China. I had a whole itinerary planned out for the bike ride, but got lost at step four of twenty three, and decided it was a better idea to return to town by bamboo raft. After hours of pedalling bumpy trails under a hot sun, I can tell you that I didn’t feel too bad for taking the easy way out.

Here are some of the things I saw that day.


Water buffalo in the stream


A butterfly in the mud (possibly a variety of Spicebush Swallowtail – Papilio troilus?)


A raft ride on the Yulong River, Yangshuo


Karst mountains and bamboo rafts: two things of which I saw a lot that day!


Karst cones covered with vegetation and trees, a water buffalo in the foreground

In geographic terms, Karst topography is a landscape shaped by the dissolution of layers of soluble bedrock, usually carbonate rock such as limestone or dolomite (source: wikipedia ). South China is a major Karst area in the world, and Guilin is the most typical and rare example of Karst topography in terms of its scale and uniqueness.


An incredible play of light and reflection on the still waters of the lake

As you can probably tell from this last batch of pictures, nature hasn’t been stingy with Yangshuo. It was really a beautiful place to visit and explore, and the perfect conclusion to my trip!

ChessBase reports on the Ningbo tournament

China wins World Women's Team Championship
14.09.2009 – By the skin of their teeth, we might add, half a tiebreak point ahead of Russia, which took Silver, and 1.5 ahead of Ukraine, which took Bronze. In the final round the Chinese team played Vietnam, which was in last position but appeared to be winning two games against the leaders. However, both were suddenly agreed as drawn, which led to suspicion of match fixing. Report and games.

World Women's Team Championship in Ningbo
16.09.2009 – We reported recently on the event and the results, but with a disgracefully meager number of pictures. We just didn't have any – until suddenly our friend Ye Rongguang, the first Chinese player in history to gain the GM title, sent us a huge quantity. Rongguang is an avid photographer with professional equipment. Here is part one of a giant pictorial: impressions of Ningbo.

World Women's Team Championship in Ningbo
18.09.2009 – We promised you one more report from this Chinese tournament, with the lovely photos of Ye Rongguang, who apart from being China's first GM, is an avid photographer. On the free day Rongguang accompanied the players to the Ningbo Museum and Dongqian Lake, where many posed willingly in front of the Song Dynasty statues. We also revisit the controversy over the final round draw.

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