Surprisingly for everyone, and mostly myself, I have decided to take part in Women’s WC in Rivne, Ukraine and would like to share with you my impressions of my first few days there.
To avoid any further questions, why did I decide to go? There are few reasons. First of all, when I’ve heard that the tourney will take place in Ukraine, I felt the urge to go. As many of you know, I was born in Ukraine and have not visited my native country for over 10 years. I still have many friends and family there, some of them I already met and others are still waiting to see. The second reason was that the General Assembly of FMJD made a decision this year that they will not allow female participants from the continents where no women championship is played. That means that since there is no other women interested to play in either USA or Pan-Am, a single player, such as myself, will be forbidden to ever enter world-wide events. Once we have heard this illogical decision, several members of our board have contacted the executive board of FMJD with protests. While they refused to change their ruling and gave American place to some European country but informed me last minute that I can come to play in a sponsor place. Therefore, I realized that this may be my only chance since no one knows if next year the sponsor place will be available again, and, as I tried to explain to the FMJD leaders, playing a tournament all by myself is not really a practical idea – so no hope in future participation of American ladies... BTW, when I fought for the place in the WC, I did not really want to fight for myself. I think our country and our organization shall have a future, and if tomorrow we will have another bright lady willing to play checkers – she should have the right to go and represent our country and our continent! I have previously written in another article about unfair treatment of our men, so this was not a single accident. It appears that FMJD has no interest in promoting the game in our region. I was hoping that by accepting the invitation (although it was a little diminishing to play in "sponsor’s place” rather than the place for Pan-Am that should have been given to me as a sole female participant of Pan-Am Games 2011), I will get a chance to meet face-to-face with the FMJD officials to try to explain to them in person rather than by email exchange the significance of their actions to us. I already had a short talk with Mr. Otten, the President of FMJD - I will say few words about it later. And the last drop was my family, especially my daughter Olivia who just came from World Cup in Ufa serving there as a junior arbiter and who felt now that she knows a lot about checkers, Yevgeniy of course, and my dear friends Dr. Paul and Alex Mogilyansky, who persuaded me strongly that I must go. Of course, after not playing actively for many years (not counting Pan-Am) and being in healthy mind, I realize that I have no chance in the fight for the world crown. So, nostalgic and political reasons aside, I have no other ambitions. But why not to have some fun playing my favorite game?
So, in a big hurry with less than a month notification, I got the tickets, got the permission to travel from my boss, packed my bags in the darkness (without electricity for 4 days as hurricane Irene passed by Long Island, NY), and here I am, in my native Ukraine playing WC – the event so sudden and unbelievable that from time to time I want to check if I am not dreaming.
From the minute I stepped off the airplane in Kiev, Ukraine, I am being treated as some sort of celebrity starting from the custom officer who wished me the 2nd place (I assumed he wanted the first one for Ukraine :)). Upon arrival by train to the place of tournament Rivne around 5 a.m. in the morning I was met by the officer of the sport committee of that town who drove me to the hotel and made sure I have everything I need. The first thing I saw after getting off the taxi were 2 big posters announcing WC and listing the participating countries. Similar posters I later saw all over the city. All participants are placed in single very comfortable rooms, and the hotel restaurant where we eat has huge selection of very tasty food, including even pancakes with red caviar! In the evening same day was an official opening ceremony, and it was not less spectacular than the opening of the Olympic Games! Children wearing Ukrainian national outfits carried the flags of participating country and we all went with a long procession to the main square of the town (across from the hotel) while the musician played the hymns of FMJD and Ukraine. The President of FMJD, President of the Ukrainian Draught Federation and the Major of Rivne all made speeches, and the greeting from the Ukrainian government was read aloud. All participants were called by name to go on stage and we all received some nice gift and memorabilia. The local dance group of little kids and a talented local singer then made a wonderful performance. Later same day I was asked to give interview to a local TV station, which I haven’t seen yet, because our hotel TVs do not have reception of that channel, but I was promised to receive a digital copy of it, which I hope I can put on our website. Next day we were invited to attend the performance of Jazz Festival in the local theater, where we were given the best seats in the house. I understand more events are coming during our free days (there will be two). All-in-all, I think the tournament organizers made a terrific job in a very little time they were given themselves to host such a Grand Event, and I think they did their job flawlessly, yet by looking at their tired faces, especially the President of Ukrainian Draught Federation Anatoli Yatsenko I can only guess how many sleepless nights and worries went into planning of all the tiny details! Here, in American continent, we still have a lot to learn, and I hope that some time in future even our small organization will be able to conduct an event on such magnificent level (One can always hope…)
When given an interview to the TV station, I was asked to assist in translating from English to the President of FMJD Mr. Otten as his own translator was not available at the moment. I used that opportunity to introduce myself and start the conversation with Mr. Otten when the interview was over. Unfortunately, Mr. Otten has once again proved his unwillingness to listen to our opinions and expressed his own agenda that the checker game shall be only professional. It is sad to hear as it leaves very little opportunities to our countrymen where none of us can afford to spend our life just playing checkers. Later on I’ve heard that the Tournament Director of FMJD Mr. Jacek Pawlicki will come for the WC closing. I hope to have few words with him as well to perhaps get his attention to our painful situation (to be continued…).
As of the games themselves, unfortunately I have not much to brag about. I can list couple of excuses J (adjusting to time difference, unusual for me short time control: 120 minutes + 1 per move – Fisher system, absence of practice, etc.) , but as a result I lost two games and made one draw so far – in all cases my usual problem: starting in a pretty good position and then not having enough time and stamina to realize the gotten advantages and making silly mistakes at the end. As of other players, of course they are all strong professionals who play and study checkers regularly. They certainly are the best of the best. Competing in the same tournament with them is a privilege and an honor. I find it interesting to play with other women for a chance - something I am deprived of back home. Women seem to be less risky but more vicious players. In the 2nd round I noticed, for example, current champ Darja Tkachenko trying to win with 3 pieces against one king - something that looks quite silly at the tournament of this level, considering even that with the Fisher system everyone has at least 1 minute per move – enough to keep the king safe for 16 moves. Not everyone of course, behaves this way. Current tournament leader, for example, Olga Fedorovich, in her game with me twice pointed to me that the clock did not switch to her side when I did not press it hard enough and was too consumed by the game to notice – an example of true sportsmanship.
In conclusion, regardless of my so far unsuccessful communication with FMJD and my quite bad results, I am having a lot of fun, enjoying the games and spending times with some old and new friends. I am attaching here couple of pictures and will post more in our photo albums. For full list of the games and more information, you can read on the tournament website – http://wcw2011.fmjd.org/