Kathmandu, world of dreams

by Alina l'Ami
5/31/2018 – Photojournalist ALINA l'AMI continues the story of her journey to the Kathmandu International Open, battling sleepless nights, meeting interesting characters, and all the while trying to make a decent showing across a chess board. A vicarious trek through the urban scene in remote Nepal.

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As for your author, just when I was about to roam around my world of dreams and find Shambhala, I was brought back to reality. Abruptly.

...Continued from part 1

The power of "Namaste"

My hotel neighbours estimated there is no better way to prepare for Kathmandu's International Open daily double-rounds other than partying (later I found out they were celebrating the New Year, according to the national calendar).

I frowned at my clock, thinking ahead, as usual: "Five hours of sleep, tops. It is not enough for facing those hungry, underrated Indian/Nepali players but at least it is something." So I stormed out, ready for a serious discussion...


I didn't meet her next door but I had to face similar sparkling young eyes
Try being angry if you can...

My frustration was met with the traditional Nepali greeting, spoken with a slight bow and the palms pressed gently together, which made me understand in a flash what books were unable in years. It is the acknowledgement of the soul in one by the soul of another. I doubt there is a stronger word or gesture to sum up the spirit of Nepal. Or a better way to have switched off my angry button. Those wise and by now lovely people were unable to comprehend my worries, since today is today and tomorrow is tomorrow. Why mix them up? Come and join us!


Celebrations saga all the way

I can only wish to master this deadly weapon called technique, particularly when I feel that my dynamic play is likely to suffer a short circuit in calculation after a short night. Relying on 'slow' moves is not only beautiful in its 'simplicity' but it also becomes a necessity.


Another big problem I had to face in Nepal was just how to fit everything in the number of days I had allocated. Unsurprisingly, I fell flat on my face. I thought that three full days after the tournament should be a decent amount of time for sightseeing. I was so wrong! Partially because there is simply way too much to be experienced but also because of how the notion of time is perceived here. Watches are designed as an accessory, right?:)

smoking man

They say that nothing valuable is lost by taking time

We can't all be Himalayan climbers

Getting to the top of things makes me happy. In this case it wasn't quite the summit but being in the country of Everest, I naively assumed that a world of tranquility, 8000+ mountains glittering with snow, Tibet and inner peace will be within a stone's throw away. And in the darkest scenario, the green, mountainous terrain shouldn't be too far from Kathmandu either. But low cloud meant that two days from the three I had available had passed and I traveled for 'nothing', without a single promising photo or any peak in sight. I even started to wonder if they truly existed or if it was just a marketing ploy.

urban Kathmandu

Mountains! So close yet so far away...
If you plan to hike, better start your journey in Pokhara, 200 km distance from the capital.
That, however, might take you at least 10 hours if you are not flying.


Situated only 13 km away from Kathmandu, Bhaktapur is a must-see, if only partial compensation

wood carvings

World-famous wooden carvings

Other than leaving the 'real Nepal' for the next time, I also learned that going from A to B implies a route through Z. This is not about Romanian taxi drivers who would gladly show you the entire city, but about the genuine human interest the Nepalis have for those who enter their country.

You might be thinking you have it all covered, you leave at this time, reach at that time and so on. But when on the road, you'll be surprised by how often your new friends will pop up, messing with your initial plans. And guess what, it is all for the better!

chess tourist

Recovering from the hardships of being a chess tourist with Om's family

exotic food

I wouldn't have tried that hadn't been for Bipin's spontaneous help.
Just go to Nepal and you'll have stories to tell your friends for decades.

What's your name? What's your mother's name? What's your father's name?

I heard those three questions in this exact order several times from the children I met. And only after, in the fourth place, came "where are you from"?

old woman

Despite not having much themselves, the locals are always giving the best they posses: their time and presence

You will be greeted with a warm smile that will melt your heart, along with a cup of tea and then another. It’s their caring and friendly nature that sets them apart.

old man with beard

They want to know all about your life and want to tell you all about theirs

local ritual

Either way, you won't escape those magical eyes

You will feel many of the special moments Lewis Carroll was referring to in his Wonderland, in a country that actually exists and with real people. Giving without expecting anything in return is rare but if you ever questioned it, Nepal will restore your faith in humankind.

chasing pigeons

Don't worry, be happy

On a chess mission across continents

Maybe you remember the previous article on Jersey, which I finished writing in Malaysia. Well, this one was written in Mexico. And then the next one on Indonesia will have to wait until I'll reach Belgium...

Nevertheless, Nepal and its tournament taught me a vital lesson.

wise man

The power of a smile to deal with life's challenges

black and white collage

We don't always win yet we can't resist this chess magnet

True, the rating is lost forever but who cares?! (well, I kind of care) For illustration purposes, this is what happens when your brain is behaving as a separate entity:


Move the pieces on the live diagram

1.Qe5 was my last move, when I thought I should probably be winning, given the Qxg5+ and/or a7 followed by Qb8+ threats. Then suddenly:
1...Ne3+ came and I realized it is all over. The black knights are ruling the board and I had no other option but resign. Obviously,
2.fxe3 runs into 2...Rd1+ 3.Kf2 Nd3+. But also:
2.Qxe3 (or 2.Kg1 Rd1+ 3.Kh2 Ng4+) doesn't work either. 2...Rd1+ 3.Qe1 Rxe1+ 4.Kxe1 Ne6 5.a7 Nc7 0-1

Had I played what I initially intended, 1.a7, the outcome would have been most probably a draw after 1...Ne6 2.a8=Q Rxa8 3.Qxd5 Re8 with equality.

men playing chess

Waking up and going to sleep with chess and more chess

In slightly over one month I crossed three continents, lived in eight countries, gave chess lessons, played no less than 33 rated games, packed and unpacked a humongous number of times, stayed in more hotels than my fingers can count and haven't had a proper sleep in ages.

In which time zone am I right now?! I know, I have no right to complain as I did all the planning myself to (but also for) myself.

More important is that I realized a 'better' planning would have avoided such a wearisome agenda but I would have missed out on life itself.

So, dear reader, go for it, even if the timing isn't perfect! Rumor has it that the second edition of the Kathmandu International Open is set for February 2019...

Final standings (top 20)

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Harsha Bharathakoti 7,5 0,0
2 Mirzoev Azer 7,0 0,0
3 Tarlev Konstantin 7,0 0,0
4 Shyaamnikhil P 7,0 0,0
5 Greenfeld Alon 7,0 0,0
6 Gusain Himal 7,0 0,0
7 Volkov Sergey 7,0 0,0
8 Llaneza Vega Marcos 7,0 0,0
9 Fominyh Alexander 6,5 0,0
10 Sandipan Chanda 6,5 0,0
11 Sengupta Deep 6,5 0,0
12 Prince Bajaj 6,5 0,0
13 Neelash Saha 6,5 0,0
14 Sriram Jha 6,5 0,0
15 Gajwa Ankit 6,5 0,0
16 Deshmukh Anup 6,5 0,0
17 Saptorshi Gupta 6,5 0,0
18 Srijit Paul 6,5 0,0
19 Kasparov Sergey 6,0 0,0
20 Subhayan Kundu 6,0 0,0

Selected Master games


nepal postcard


Alina is an International Master and a very enthusiastic person in everything she does. She loves travelling to the world's most remote places in order to play chess tournaments and report about them here on ChessBase! As chance would have it Alina is also an excellent photographer.


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