The Kingdom of Four Horses

On November 19, names of the winners of the All-Russian Student Chess Tournament "KalmykChess", organized by the Kalmyk State University named after B. Gorodovikov, were announced.

About 100 students of Russia's universities – from Volgograd, Rostov-on-Don, Maykop, Krasnodar, Astrakhan, Nalchik, Saratov, Chelyabinsk, Yaroslavl, Petrozavodsk and Kazan – came to the capital of Kalmykia. 15 student teams competed for the title of the best ones in the chess battles that went for three days from November 16 to 19.

It is very symbolic that all the tournament matches took place in Chess City, in the halls of which world-class grandmasters met from year to year. A solemn ceremony of closing and awarding the winners of the All-Russian Student Chess Tournament "KalmykChess" was held in Chess City.

Chess means much, if not all, for the Republic of Kalmykia. Since when the Republic was headed by Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, this sport has become almost a cult in this small Russian region.

The Chess City was built in Elista back in 1998 to accommodate about 700 athletes of the 33rd World Chess Olympiad. The inspirer was the first and only President of Kalmykia, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, who now heads the International Chess Federation (FIDE). Incidentally, one of the squares of Chess City is named in his honour.

That’s how this fairy city stands – a real ‘state in the state’. Moreover, obligatory chess lessons for the primary classes were included in the school schedule under Ilyumzhinov. There is even a monument to Ostap Bender at the entrance to Chess City and a chess set is the most popular item in local souvenir shops. And the residents of Kalmykia themselves are not averse to spend the long winter evenings at a chessboard.

In Chess City, which is more like a prestigious residential area (something like the Kalmyk Rublyovka [elite area in the suburbs of Moscow, Ed.]), the 69th Congress of FIDE also took place. Since 1995, it has been headed by Kirsan Ilyumzhinov – the first President and the first Head of the Republic of Kalmykia. Ostap Bender Avenue leads to Chess City, where the monument to the main character of "The Twelve Chairs" novel is set up.

Monument to Ostap Ibrahimovich was erected in Elista a year after the World Chess Olympiad in 1999. The son of a Turkish subject, slightly taller than the average man size, holds a chessboard under the right arm; a scarf loosely thrown around his neck, captain's cap crowns his head and he is wearing boots on bare feet – just like the author described the hero. The international grandmaster is surrounded by semi-circle of chairs and tables. It resembles an invitation or a challenge to take part in a simul. It seems that Ostap Ibrahimovich is about to start battle over chessboard.

Names of the houses in this elite village are, naturally, connected with chess. For example, one residential complex is called "White Rook". The main street of Chess City ends at the Chess Palace. This is the main building in the town. It looks like a huge Kalmyk wagon. It is here that chess tournaments of different levels are held. And on one of the upper floors there is the Chess Museum, which was named after the eighth world chess champion Mikhail Tal in 2011. The museum was founded in 2001. Today, it has more than three thousand exhibits.

There is also an outlandish chess set with strange pawns, rooks, horses, bishops, queens and kings stand still waiting for the beginning of the battle on 64 squares: chess pieces stands for political figures. The set is called "Political Chess". It was donated to FIDE head Kirsan Ilyumzhinov in honour of his half-century jubilee.

The Chess Palace’s guests are greeted by floor chessboards. You can choose an opponent and play chess with the pieces of half human size. To the right of the entrance is the Chess City layout. It pictures the Chess City as it would be in a hundred or two hundred years from now.

Also in the Chess Palace, there is a special place given to the gallery of City visitors. Judging by the photos, Chess City for the years of its existence visited Chuck Norris, Stephen Seagal, Vladimir Putin, Sofia Rotaru and other celebrities.

It would be incorrect to consider that Chess City was built only for one event – the chess Olympiad. Perhaps, it gave impetus to the beginning of construction but its development did not stop at that. After the chess mundial, City Chess has become a traditional venue for Russian international forums, meetings, biennale, scientific and business symposia and cultural events.

Participation in an all-Russian tournament is a tremendous experience. You have a chance "to see and to be seen". According to the rules of the competition, each participant has 30 minutes for the game. The excitement level that was in a few seconds before the end of the game can only be compared with what happens at football matches. Having seen that, no one would say that chess is not a spectacular sport.

"I've been an arbiter in many tournaments of different levels. What did I like about these competitions? The tournament brought together real fans of chess. This is a real mass sport," the chief arbiter of the tournament Arkady Vasilyev said. "The guys came from Petrozavodsk, Tyva and Yaroslavl and they all played from the heart."
According to the results of seven rounds, the prize places were distributed as follows. An honourable third place was taken by the team of the Kazan (Privolzhsky) Federal University, followed by the Chelyabinsk State University, and the team of the Southern Federal University (Rostov-on-Don) won the first place.