The chess capital of Russia, Elista

I had a dream that struck me to the core this spring. It took six months for reflection to make the dream a reality. I opened my travel notebook and made a note: Elista.

For people of my generation, the combination of words ‘Elista’ and ‘Chess’ is not new, because in 1993-2005 the president of Kalmykia was Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, a chess player and an ardent supporter of the development of this sport in his homeland. For twenty-three years, Ilyumzhinov was also the President of the FIDE. He opened a FIDE office in Elista, organized and sponsored chess events of world importance in the capital of Kalmykia.
We saw the first chessboard in Elista’s Druzhba Park. A chess table, skilfully decorated with carvings and folk ornaments, was set in a gazebo. We had to bring the chess pieces with us, which we weren’t aware of. Therefore, we made our first move with an imaginary pawn from e2 to e4 and resumed our walk.


The highlight of the city's main square, Lenin Square, which is already overflowing with sights, is a five-by-five-metre chessboard made of black and white granite. The best chess players of the world Vladimir Kramnik and Veselin Topalov played their first unofficial game on this board immediately after their arrival in Elista to take part in 2006 World Championship. The applicants played with large pieces made in Italy. Where the pieces are now remains a mystery.

Thus, we are approaching the City of Chess. Especially for its decoration, an international sculptors' symposium "Planet of Kaissa" was held in Elista in 1998, and now you can see chess sculptural compositions everywhere: "Gambit", "Crown" and “The Phenomenon of Kaissa".