World Championship 2006: First day in Elista
The two players and their delegations travelled on the same charter flight to Elista. At the destination airport they were met by an official governement delegation and greeted with the traditional snow-white scarves, known as "khadaki", and with Kalmyk milk tea or "dzhomba".
After that Topalov and Kramnik were taken to the deeply venerated monument of the Buddha Shakmyamuni, where they posed for pictures with the President of the Republic and of FIDE, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. Then they passed through the Golden Gates that lead to the centre of Elista, where the city was celebrating the 141st anniversary of its foundation (in 1865 the first fortified houses were built in this location). The occasion is celebrated with a costumed procession, a rock concert with the Russian group "Plazma", and finally a grand firework.
The anniversary parade in Elista
Bright costumes in many different styles
A float with a suprise flower
An unusually imaginative float – Kalmyk style
Unusually imaginative parade tents – Kalmyk style
Kalmyk damsels with welcome food offerings
Younger damsels enjoying themselves in the parade
Actually everyone is having a great time at the parade
Chess is a part of everything in Elista
Topalov, Ilyumzhinov and Kramnik visited the main Buddhist temple Khurul, where they met with the monks and viewed the only Buddhist library in Russia.
The two players also sat down for a blitz game, which ended in a draw
Times Online has run an indepth cover story on the upcoming match in Elista. Tony Halpin, reporting in directly from Kalmykia, writes:
Aa direct descendants of Genghis Khan, the people of Kalmykia can be expected to have an appreciation of the finer points of battle. Now their tiny southern Russian republic is to be the arena for settling one of the most bitterly divisive conflicts in the world of chess. In what is regarded as the most important match for 13 years, Veselin Topalov and Vladimir Kramnik will face each other across a board for the right to be undisputed world chess champion.
The driving force behind the match is Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, 44, a millionaire businessman and chess fanatic who has been President of Kalmykia since 1993 and of Fide since 1995. One of his first acts as Kalmyk President was to make chess compulsory in schools. The Fide flag flies alongside those of Russia and Kalmykia above his offices in Elista.
Mr Ilyumzhinov arrived in Kalmykia with the rival champions on a chartered flight from Moscow on Saturday. He whisked Mr Kramnik and Mr Topalov away from the airport in his white Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit for an exhausting three-hour tour of Elista, filled with crowds celebrating the city’s 141st birthday.
Stops included a golden pagoda that shares the central square with a statue of Lenin; a dazzling new $25 million Buddhist temple, the largest in Europe at 64 metres (208ft) tall; and the local supermarket, where the bemused players were shown the fresh meat counters and the cake displays. Mr Ilyumzhinov has spared no expense to ready the city for the match. He moved deputies out of Kalmykia’s parliament and ordered it to be completely refurbished to stage the championship games.
The players were forced to step around workers who were still frantically completing the renovations, however, when the President showed them the stage where they will play. Geurt Gijssen, the Dutch arbiter who will oversee the contest, shook his head, but said that he was confident that everything would be finished in time for the opening ceremony on Thursday.