Romanian league in Napoleon retreat (1/2)

by Alina l'Ami
12/1/2014 – The Romanian Team championship was held this year in the lovely area of Calimanesti, Romania. Famed for its sulfuric springs both hot and cold reputed to have miraculous medicinal benefits, it was a favorite of the late Napoleon III. The region is a mix of the classic with the residues of the communistic grip it was held in for so many years, and the tale is told by Alina L'Ami.

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Since time immemorial, countless generations of philosophers, historians and mere mortals have striven to define time and perceive its nature without reaching a clear conclusion. Many have even proven that time doesn't exist at all... But one thing is more or less unanimously accepted: panta rhei, everything flows, vanishes away and slips into oblivion. We abandon ourselves to our current emotions, whether it be happiness or anger, ecstasy or depression, we enjoy or suffer, we live in the present even though, just like yours truly, many face problems with that. And then everything calms down, deadens, falls apart, passing from the conscious to the preconscious, when old memories occasionally dash without prior notice, followed by inevitably being locked in the cellar of the unconscious, in the not-being, in the impenetrable and gloom basement of our gray matter...

Autumn foliage in Calimanesti-Caciulata - a twin spa resort, the proud owner of 1200m
deep hot and cold mineral springs, which are known, at least in our country, to have
miraculous medical benefits.

By the moment I found out that the 2014 Romanian team championship was going to be played in Calimanesti, I thought that I had thrown away into the limbo everything connected with this place so far from the civilized world.

In 1873 it was awarded in Vienna the gold medal for its mineral waters and was the favorite
haunt of Napoleon III, who treated his kidney problems with our curative secrets

The landscape has been carved by our longest river, Olt, which flows exclusively on Romanian soil

As a child, I had endured so many times the boredom, tiredness and cold of the thirteen-hour train travel from Iasi to Calimanesti, to play in all kinds of youth and team events, in a resort forgotten and abandoned by everybody with the exception of the pensioners guided here for the miraculous thermal waters. Living and playing in unheated hotels, which is a true pleasure in winter time and -20 temperatures, as well as the ‘tasty’ food, strong sulfuric smell, rooms populated by cute pets like mice, cockroaches and even flats, creating the sad atmosphere of intransigent communism...all these hall-marked my career as a chess player.

No, it is not a castle but a hotel!

Although...it is nicer on the outside than between its walls, where it keeps its communist
allure. Yet, I cannot help but see the progress - we are getting somewhere!

I cannot avoid the instinctive fear that I might exaggerate upon looking back and describing the picture from the past. For objectivity's sake, I should say that the largest burden fell on either my father's or mother's shoulders. At that age, I used to travel accompanied by one of my parents, who surely suffered a lot when seeing me struggling under improper conditions. When noticing that I couldn't stand the awful food anymore, they did their best to spoil their princess (well, for those times' standards, at least), by ordering for me French fries with cremwursts, which are poor quality sausages, and mustard... For me there was no bigger reason for delight and happiness, unless of course I managed to win that afternoon.

Board one in our team, Politehnica - Antibiotice Iasi, the Georgian IM Lela Javakhishvili

WFM Daria Visanescu, member of the winning team - Medicina Timisoara

WIM Silvia-Raluca Sgircea, member of the 2nd placed team - CSM Bucuresti;
thanks to them, after losing the direct encounter in the last round and after
leading the entire tournament, we dropped to third. It is the second time
our team faces this scenario...Hopefully the third time Caissa will be on our side.

The Lithuanian IM Deimante Daulyte

I remember that in his story, “Domnu Trandafir”, our national writer Mihail Sadoveanu expressed the following idea: when we are small, rooms, space, grown-ups look big and incomprehensible. Yet, when we come back to the same places after many years, everything looks so much smaller and we definitely feel older. But when returning to Calimanesti after 15 years, my perception didn't match this description at all. My adult eyes saw exactly what the eyes of the child I had once been had seen before - the typical communist hotels. True, the interior walls have a fresh layer of paint, the beds are covered with new linens, rooms were over-heated already, the fragrance of rotten eggs emanated by the good yet really smelly sulfuric waters had disappeared... But as we say in Romania the wolf may change its hair but not the bad manners! Food still fails to impress, and services are rather far from perfect. And it is such a pity for this beautiful area, as it has not only medical benefits but also touristic potential.

A constant presence in the Romanian chess events: Dorina Florea - a huge chess fan!

WGM Mihaela Sandu, who's team, Medicina Timisoara, took the gold
medal! The 4-0 loss they suffered against our team, didn't stop them
from winning all the other matches and grabbing first place.

I was puzzled to realize that I actually was nostalgic for... nostalgia! I know perfectly well that there are bigger misfortunes and disgraces than my unpleasant experience in Calimanesti as a kid, but I felt frustrated by the fact that I couldn't feel nostalgic about my less pleasant memories. I am aware that we usually try visualizing ourselves in beautiful contexts, but at that moment I rather needed that complex bittersweet feeling.

Turkish IM Ekaterina Atalik, pushing her team to gold

I felt the impulse to order one of my old favorites: French fries with cremwursts and mustard, in order to take a picture and share with you the image of my supreme happiness of the past. But life seems to have spoiled me to such an extent that I couldn't really come around this simple meal and every time I tried to order it I ended up asking for something more sophisticated. How much I miss that childish joy for simple things...

Continued in part two...




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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