Visit to Kalmykia

The invitation to act as the main arbiter of the President's Cup of Kalmykia was received rather late – a few days before the start of this first international tournament in Elista. After acquainting myself with an interesting schedule, I immediately agreed. I wanted not only to be an arbiter of a prestigious competition, but also to visit the native country of FIDE president and see with my own eyes the construction of Chess City – the venue of the 33rd Olympiad. On the plane to Moscow, I was sitting next to an American who was flying to Russia to continue his work.

We have got acquainted. Learning the purpose of my journey, he said: "I heard about Kalmykia, there is an interesting young president, Kirsan, who wants very quickly to change the face of a small republic."
My interlocutor was pleased when I added a few touches to the portrait of Kirsan Nikolayevich and told about the organization of the chess Olympiad in Elista with the participation of representatives of more than 100 countries.
After landing at Sheremetyevo-2, I had to take a taxi to Domodedovo airport. From Domodedovo I flew to Volgograd, which according to Russian scale is next to Elista – 300 km away.
In the city on the Volga, I was met by the organizers led by the first international arbiter of Kalmykia Klim Manushev. At night, we drove almost for five hours through the steppe, and in the morning, I settled in the "Elista" hotel.
A few hours later, on the same road there was a car crash, in which former World Champion Maya Chiburdanidze and Grandmasters Zurab Azmaiparashvili and Kiril Georgiev got injured. Their car moved with decent speed, when the road truck cut in in front of their car. To avoid the worst their driver made a sharp turn and the car turned over twice, and Maya even flew out of the car.
Fortunately, the hospital was not far, and the ambulance arrived very quickly. All the victims of accident were taken to intensive care. They regained consciousness under the reliable care of doctors. Soon, Kirsan Nikolayevich and the chairman of the organizing committee Sergei Alekseevich Badminov came to the hospital. They took care of everything.
Maya remained in the hospital throughout the tournament. After it ended, we, together with Vasily Ivanchuk, visited her and found the ex-champion in good shape. There was talk about the upcoming competitions in August.
Zurab with a broken arm and Kiril left the hospital on the next day after the accident. Azmaiparashvili refused to play and Gia Giorgadze took his place. With the consent of the participants, the organizers postponed the start of the tournament for one day and 32 chess players sat at tables on May 7. I estimated the representativeness of the Elista tournament by the number of players who won in major competitions, participated in tournaments or contenders matches or were on FIDE top five, top ten lists or among the 30-50 best players.
From this point of view, I congratulated the organizers on inviting Ivanchuk, Salov, Gelfand, Bareev, Khalifman, Georgiev, Dreev, Rublevsky, Vaganian, Elvest and, of course, Alisa Galliamova, who as a sport master is hardly inferior to any other woman, except Judit Polgar. I think Alisa has a good chance of becoming a world champion.

The participants were provided with good conditions for playing and staying in Elista. Sergei Badminov, Alexander Imerdykov and Klim Manushev took care of everything. They perfectly organised and held the competition.
Of course, President of FIDE, President of the Republic of Kalmykia Kirsan Ilyumzhinov kept everything under control, as it were, unobserved. He visited the game hall, met with the participants and listened to the opinion of grandmasters on various chess problems during long friendly conversations. He explained his approach to the issues discussed and to the forthcoming competitions – the Olympics in Elista and the World Championships in Las Vegas.
I want to express my gratitude to Kirsan Nikolayevich for his welcome address on my 60th birthday and for the organizers hospitality. I felt at home in Elista, and I hope that the President's Cup will become a traditional competition with participation of the world's leading chess players.

Andrzej Filipowicz
international arbiter

October 13, 1998