The Pavlodar Akim cup was my first real tournament for years. I did play this year in Dresden where the senior team World Champioship took place, but I was avoiding the individual tournaments only trying to play rapid and blitz. It was the fourth Akim cup in Pavlodar. The Pavlodar Chess Federation was created 20 years ago and the same man Aleksander Babenko is still the president. He is also Akim (leader) one of the Pavlodar regions.
On my way to Pavlodar I also visited Astana, the new capital of Kazakhstan. I did envy Astana. They do not have the old city like Tallinn has, because the Astana is a new city. I was invited to Astana by my former student Darmen Sadvakasov and I gave simultaneous exhibition and I had a master class as well for his students from his Chess Academy.
After Astana Pavlodar looked like some disappointment, but only for few days. When I got used to the new surroundings I started to enjoy it as well. The local food was excellent. I like lamb, but I tried the local delicatessens like horse meat as well. I found it still little bit strange to eat, so I preferred lamb.
The industrial city lies next to the Irtysh river. Which gives the electricity to the region and you may find fish especially the zander in local kitchen. There is a wide selection of fur products in local market. Mink coats are on sale and most of the women are wearing them on streets. The local temperature was around minus 20 Celsius and I was not dressed up to it, but the local transport functioned well enough. The taxi ride from our hotel to the tournament hall cost around one EUR. In general everything was cheaper not in %, but in times if you compare them with EU prices. The quality of products and services however was excellent. Pavlodar is considered to be peripheral part of Kazakhstan and this probably is visible in infrastructure. Still I am sure they have a great future.
The chess is on the boom in Pavlodar. They have modest, but very functional Chess House where our tournament took place and they have very good chess in schools community. I had the chance to visit one of the schools and I was really surprised what I saw. They have special chess classroom with chess equipment and students who are fond of chess.
Usually I avoided the long walking trips due to the harsh weather and took the taxi. One day however I tried to walk with my friend arbiter Bolat Asanov to our hotel from the playing hall, but very soon I changed my mind and we were forced to use the tram instead. Then first time in my life I saw the tram conductor.
The Pavlodar market made great expression on me. On the first floor there were numerous counters with culinary staff. The horse meat was on sale everywhere. Still as I already mentioned it looks little bit odd to me. On the second floor they had nearly everything. They had even a sex shop.
The tournament itself was a difficult affair for me. The time difference with Tallinn was only four hours, but it still killed my normal sleeping habits. Some nights I could get proper sleep only from 5.am. I drew first two games, but then I lost two in a row. The second loss was especially painful. I blundered in the winning position. After that I put myself together and won three games in a row. Especially pleasant was the next game. I prepared a novelty and then outplayed my opponent.
In the next game I took some risk, but it was worth of it.
In the penultimate round I faced the local player the managing director of the chess federation. He lost his first six games, but I did not underestimate him. Somehow I tried too hard to win, later if you look the final results, the draw could give me the third place. I was disappointed after the game, but the friendly atmosphere and the relaxed blitz tournament in the last day cooled me down.
The blitz tournament was affair of only four players. The tournament winner Igor Lysyj, Evgeni Egorov, Dimitri Mahknev who made GM norm in the tournament and myself. We played the Kazakhstan gambit with both colors and total four rounds making it 12 games. Mahknev was the winner and I was second.
I like to thank here the Palvodar Chess Federation officials inviting me to Plavlodar and wish all the best in their chess development in the region.