Friday the 8th of August, the players enjoyed a day off. The Organizer of the Grand Prix planned some festive and social events.
On the morning, around 10 o’clock, an early hour for most of the Chess players, everyone gathered outside the hotel already excited by the programme of the day. Unfortunately few players took part to it, those absent invoking fatigue and preferring just to relax.
The day started grey, dark clouds threatening to pour rain. With police escort in front, our procession of four vehicles progressed through the city in the direction of the museum. Astonishingly, we stopped before a small building of two storeys, looking just the same as the surrounding ones, not at all the appearance of what we are used to associate with a museum.
We were greeted by a frail but very alert man, his eyes truly radiating intelligence, who guided us from one room to the other. The museum consists of few small rooms, maybe no more than 16 to 20 square meters each, containing hundreds of puzzles and chess material. The man, Mr Tumen Ulzii, passionately, with a permanent malicious smile on his face, explained the many puzzles we came across, disassembling them with an astonishing speed and challenging every one of us to put them together again. Of course, no one of us dared to accept his challenge. It was a real charming visit.
We headed then towards the monument dedicated to Genghis Khan, situated some 70 km east of Ulaanbaatar. We faced a heavy traffic, especially as we passed a huge market, the police escort made it however easier for our procession to progress without much difficulty.
We came across endless suburbs, surely having grown quickly in the recent years due to immigration from within Mongolia; Ulaanbaatar, as many capital, attracting like a magnet a population looking for better life opportunities.
The road we took is narrow, but nevertheless good enough for the thin traffic involved. It winds endlessly along a valley between beautifully shaped hills. As the sky turned brighter and the clouds slowly got fewer, the view became nicer and the sight wider. We could see herds of goats, sometimes of cows but mainly of horses grazing in the vast open fields where “girds” (Mongolian name for tents) were sparsely erected. Up and then we saw small villages build on hills.
After a curve, there was suddenly an immense statue to be seen from far away: Genghis Khan sitting upright on a horse, holding a sword on his right hand, looking with imperial nobility over his home land, as if giving his blessing. It is an impressive statue, made of steel and 30 meters high. We could climb inside the statue through an elevator and emerge in the belly of the horse where a short documentary film was played regarding the construction of the monument. Some stairs up and we were, this time, on the head with a beautiful view over the wide land.
We left this site and headed for the 13th century complex. Some part of the way was just a path up the hills, convenient enough also for standard cars. Again, scattered “girs” and herds were to be seen in the surrounding green fields. We saw almost no forest except in some rare spots, but green grass grows everywhere.
Our arrival at the “Nomadic life environment” (as it is called by our Mongol friends) was greeted by joyful folk wearing traditional cloths, or even dressed in 13th century manner. The camp consists of 4 wide “girs” erected close to each other. Inside the biggest one, the king’s “gir” probably, the equipment belongs to Genghis Khan time. We enjoyed a meal, seating directly on carpet, eating on low tables, and listening to Mongol music performed by a woman playing on a “Yatag”, sort of cithara and a man with a kind of violin.
Later on we assisted to horse riding, wrestling, archery, sport arts Mongol people cherish above all.
We had then to leave fast as we were behind schedule. A chess day was taking place in the centre of Ulaan- Bataar and we were expected by many people. Unfortunately we arrived late and we could manage only to exchange words with the Official Authorities. It is to notice also that a class devoted to Chess in a sport school was named, in her presence, after Maia Chiburdanidze.
A very good day long to remember.