Tbilisi loves you!

by Sagar Shah
9/1/2017 – You know that the World Cup is one of the most anticipated events of the year when 19 out of the top 20 Elo rated grandmasters have confirmed their participation in this 128-player knockout tournament. From 3rd of September we will see the battles taking place on the chequered board. But before that our reporters Sagar Shah and Amruta Mokal reached the Capital of Georgia and take you on a tour of this beautiful city. Check out this pictorial report of the city nestled between the mountains. | Photos: Amruta Mokal

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Setting the stage

When was the last time 19 of the top 20 players in the world gathered together at one tournament? The FIDE World Cup that is going to be held in Tbilisi, Georgia from the 2nd to the 28th of September 2017 has a strength of unprecendented nature. The only player that we are missing from the top twenty on the Elo list is Veselin Topalov. Carlsen, who is the World Champion and Karjakin, who has has already qualified for the Candidates, are playing the event just because they like the format and want to cross swords against the best in the business. What a great attitude! And what a treat for the spectators.

The first round begins on the 3rd of September and the first rest day is after 15 days on 18th of September! When the games begin all eyes will be naturally drawn towards this grand event, and action on the 64 squares. Hence, Amruta and I decided that we must arrive in Tbilisi early and get a feel for the city by visiting some of the well known locations.

Guess, who was it that we bumped into at the airport lounge?

One of the tournament favourites Hikaru Nakamura with his second Kris Littlejohn

We reached Tbilisi early in the morning and took some rest. In the afternoon we decided to explore the city. The first thing we noticed was the extremely cheap and affordable transport in the city. Travelling the distance of seven kilometres from our hotel to the city centre cost us just 7 GEL (Georgian Lari, 1 GEL = 0.34 euro). On our way we noticed that the city is nested right between the mountains. Once we were in the centre there were a lot of things to do and see. But first it was necessary to refuel ourselves with some food.

A typical restaurant in the city centre

Georgian cuisine is mainly meat based and it is not so easy to find something vegetarian. But we did get this sandwich which was quite delicious. The sauce on the base of the bread is a paste made out of olives!

The first destination was Narikala, an ancient fourth century fortress overlooking Tbilisi and the Mtkvari River

To reach Narikala, you can walk through such uphill streets or the better way is to...

... to use the cable car.

The cable car starts from the Rike Park and takes you all the way to Narikala offering you spectacular view of the city. Also it is extremely cost efficient — 2.5 GEL one way, and you top up this amount in a metro card which costs you 2 GEL. So, in around 1.5 Euros you can enjoy this one of its kind ride and also get a card that will help you travel through the metro, bus, and all means of public transport in the city.

And yes, that's the view from the Fortress!

Tbilisi is beautiful! If you look closely you can see the two aerial cable cars and also the stylishly designed 'Bridge of Peace' (we will come to it).

I would be really afraid to live in those houses right on the cliff, overlooking the river

The population of Georgia is 3 million (as on 2014) and one third of them live in Tbilisi

The houses are quite weirdly interconnected with red roofs and exquisitely designed balconies and windows

It is quite astonishing that the city has preserved something so old as Narikala

The Narikala fortress was established in the 4th century as Shuris-tsikhe (i.e. "Invidious Fort"). It was considerably expanded by the Umayyads in the 7th century and later, by king David the Builder (1089–1125). The Mongols renamed it "Narin Qala" (i.e., "Little Fortress"). Most of extant fortifications date from the 16th and 17th centuries. In 1827, parts of the fortress were damaged by an earthquake and demolished. (source: Wikipidea)

The church of St. Nicholas within the Narikala Fortress which was restored in 1996-97, when the original 13th century church was destroyed in a fire

Next up was the Bridge of Peace

The bridge stretches 150 metres (490 ft) over the Mtkvari River and was ordered by the City Hall of Tbilisi to create a contemporary design feature connecting Old Tbilisi with the new district. The bridge, a design of which reminds of a marine animal, has a curvy steel and glass canopy top which shimmers with an interactive light display at night, generated by thousands of white LEDs. The bridge was designed by the Italian architect Michele De Lucchi.

That's how the bridge of peace looks at night! (photo by Bernardo Ricci Armani)

The Freedom Square with St.George's sculpture in the centre

In 2006, the Freedom Monument, commonly known as the St. George Statue, was erected in the centre of the square. Freedom Square has been the site of various mass public celebrations and demonstrations, including an assassination attempt on U.S. President George W. Bush. who had come to Georgia to take part in the 60th anniversary celebration of the end of World War II. The Freedom Square is an enduring symbol of Georgia’s desire for freedom and independence.

The monument shows St. George sitting on a horse and killing a dragon with a spear

It was already getting dark and the Trinity cathedral was something that we wanted to visit. In order to speed up, we decided to take the Metro. Unlike Moscow, the name of the stations were clearly written in English and it was very easy to use this mode of transport. I would thoroughly recommend using the Tbilisi metro — it is fast, cheap and avoids traffic. 

The only downside can be for those who are acrophobic! The Rustaveli Metro has the longest escalator (120 metres)

The metro was quite crowded, but coming from Mumbai which has a population of nearly 20 million people, this was nothing!

On the way to the cathedral we picked up some fruits. The colours tell you how fresh and tasty they were!

The Trinity Cathedral

The Holy Trinity Cathedral of Tbilisi, commonly known as Sameba, is the main cathedral of the Georgian Orthodox Church. Constructed between 1995 and 2004, it is the third-tallest Eastern Orthodox cathedral in the world and one of the largest religious buildings in the world by total area. Sameba is a synthesis of traditional styles dominating the Georgian church architecture at various stages in history and has some Byzantine undertones.

I would say being 'freshers' in the city and having no one to guide us, we got a few things wrong. It would have been nice to see the Trinity Cathedral in daylight and the "Bridge of Peace" at night. Neverthless, these eight hours in the capital city of Georgia was enough to give us a nice feel of what the city was all about. There is something in it for everyone — there's history, modern architecture, good food, beautiful structures and above all wonderful natural beauty with the city nestled between the mountains and a river flowing through it.

At the end of the day we were tired and tried searching for some good restaurant to eat hot food. We did not have sim cards and the internet on the phone would work only in wi-fi zones. Just when we were standing outside the Avlabari metro station and had given up hopes to find some good food, Amruta took out her phone and saw if there were any free wi-fi networks. That's when we saw the wi-fi network with the name "Tbilisi loves you". Tbilisi is one of the only capital cities in the world that gives you access to free wi-fi. It is available near some of the main metro stations. Using this service we were able to find an Indian restaurant at a distance of just 300 metres!

Nothing like having hot chapatti (Indian bread) and sabji (mixed vegetable) after a long day.

We are in the city for just over 24 hours and we already completely agree with what's written above! Tbilisi loves us and we love it back!

All pictures in this report were taken by WIM elect Amruta Mokal

This is essentially what we covered and if you are planning to visit the city, don't forget to download the app "Tbilisi loves you" on Android and iOS.

The opening ceremony will take place tomorrow (2nd of September) at 16.00 hours in the Funicular restaurant. ChessBase will bring you detailed coverage of it.



Sagar Shah is an International Master from India with two GM norms. He is also a chartered accountant and would like to become the first CA+GM of India. He loves to cover chess tournaments, as that helps him understand and improve at the game he loves so much. He is the co-founder of the ChessBase India website.
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bmp1974 bmp1974 9/2/2017 03:47
Excellent and lively report of the city. Hope chess in the world cup will also be exciting & lively!
olann olann 9/2/2017 09:49
Excellent report ! Bravo !... and thanks a lot.
puzzledpawn puzzledpawn 9/2/2017 03:30
Well done! What an interesting city.
abrahmac abrahmac 9/2/2017 02:54
I love to explore the European city tours that your reporters take us to in such articles. The one on Tblisi by Sagar and Amruta is lovely. Thanks.
onyman onyman 9/2/2017 02:42
Nice report, thanks!
And I agree with Michael Jones. I also have been to Tbilisi and I can't remember having any problems to find vegetarian food. On the contrary - to me the rich choice of vegetarian food seemed to be the trademark of georgian cuisine. I highly recommend a dish made of eggplants and walnut paste (can't remember the name).
Michael Jones Michael Jones 9/1/2017 08:30
An excellent report on a lovely city, which I had the pleasure of visiting a couple of years ago. I'm surprised you had difficulty finding vegetarian food, though - Georgian cuisine has plenty of meat-free options (the khachapuri - cheese pies - are great). Try the restaurant Machakhela, on the same square as the "I love Tbilisi" sign.
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