Karpov in Syria – a pictorial feast

7/10/2009 – The legendary twelfth World Champion Anatoly Karpov has long been an ambassador for chess. In his latest mission he travelled to Syria to make the first move of the Arabic Chess Championships Under 14. He was accompanied by roving chess journalist GM Robert Fontaine of Europe Echecs, who sent us a pictorial report, including high-def video footage. Extraordinary visual impressions.

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Anatoly Karpov in Syria

Report by GM Robert Fontaine

Twelfth World Champion Anatoly Karpov was invited by the Syrian authorities to make the first move of the Arabic Chess Championships Under 14.

Karpov also played two rapid chess games against Afamia Almeer, the (unrated) Syrian Women's Champion. The first was a draw, the second won by Karpov.

The autor of this report, GM Robert Fontaine, in front of the mountain-side city of Ma'loula

Ma'loula, which is located 56 km to the northeast of Damascus, is the only region where the Western branch of the Aramaic languages is still spoken (you can hear it in the video below). The town is built into the rugged mountainside, at an altitude of more than 1500 meters. The distance and geological features only aided the longevity of this linguistic oasis for over one and half thousand years. The population consists of both Christians (Melkite) and Muslims.

Saint Takla (or Taqla) was a pupil of St. Paul. According to legend, in the 1st century A.D. she was being pursued by soldiers of her father to capture her because of her Christian faith. She came upon a mountain, and after praying, the mountain split open and let her escape. In the video below you can see Anatoly Karpov retrace the escape route of St. Takla.

The Mar Takla monastery holds the remains of St. Takla

The city of Saydnaya, a center of Christian pilgrimage

Saidnaya is located in the mountains, 1500 metres above sea level, 27 kilometres north of Damascus. It is second only to Jerusalem as a center of Christian pilgrimage and associated with many Biblical and religious events – local tradition holds it as the site where Cain slew his brother Abel. Saidnaya enjoyed religious peace throughout its history, even during times of war, such as during the Crusades.

Another Syrian mountain-side city

Karpov with the Russian ambassador in Syria Sergey Kirpichenko

The opening ceremony of the "Arab Youth Championship under 14 – Chess & Tennis",
with the obligatory portrait of the President of Syria Bashar al-Assad

From the opening ceremony

These vertigo-free dancers twirled around non stop for at least five minutes

Anatoly Karpov with Syrian chess-enthusiastic children

Video report by Europe Echecs

Presented and edited by GM Robert Fontaine, filmed by Gérard Demuydt – copyright Europe Echecs

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