Maribor, Slovenia: Chess, Castle, Cave, Cable Car
Earlier this year Naomi Bashkansky has qualified to represent the USA at the 2012 World Youth Chess Championship (WYCC2012) in Maribor, Slovenia. In November 2012 she played there, in the Girls Under 10 category. Naomi is only 9, so this time she was playing mostly with girls who are older, which is significant at this age. She took 5.5 out of 11 possible points, which is an OK result, given the age difference.
This is her second time at the world level, last year she already represented the USA at the 2011 World Youth Chess Championship in Caldas Novas, Brazil. There she played in the Girls Under 8 category, being already 8 years old. Maybe because of this, her result was better in Brazil than in Slovenia: 6 out of 9 possible points.
TravelHere is Naomi and Co. travel schedule in November 2012:
4-5: Flight to Zagreb, Croatia
6: Sightseeing Zagreb
7: Bus to Maribor, Slovenia
8-12: WYCC2012 Part I - Rounds 1-6
13: Free day excursion to Postojna and Ljubljana
14-19: WYCC2012 Part II - Rounds 7 - 11
24: Sightseeing Vienna
25: Flight to Seattle
Many of the day-by-day descriptions below are accompanied by that day’s Picasa web photo album, which might give a much better sense of what the real experience was.
In these Picasa web albums descriptions and captions, notice the short web addresses of GPS track maps (made with Google My Tracks), in the form “http://goo.gl/maps/xxx”. Copy/paste them to your browser’s address bar to see our actual routes and explore the locations on maps.
November 5: FlightThe enormous Frankfurt airport is somewhat skimpy on jetways. A bit of retro experience, though.
Upon settling in Hotel Jadran in Zagreb, we ventured into the night to get some food and drink. Mission accomplished at the Cathedral Square:
Photos: 2012_11_05 Seattle - Frankfurt - Zagreb
November 6: ZagrebIn one day, we were able to tour thoroughly Zagreb’s both Upper Town and Lower Town, using the great Step by Step guide book. The photo album below and the track maps are the lasting evidence to this greatest touristic achievement:
Photos: 2012_11_06 Zagreb (Upper Town track / Lower Town track)
November 7: MariborAt the Zagreb airport, the organizers put us on the same bus with players who just arrived from Russia, and we rode to the north. The Croatian-Slovenian border is an EU boundary, so the guard has actually checked and stamped our passports. The Croatian (aka Serbo-Croatian) and Slovenian languages are almost identical in writing, but sound differently. Croatian sounds a bit like Russian, while Slovenian does not (to our ears).
We settled in Hotel Bellevue (of all things - being from the town named Bellevue!) high up in the mountains of Mariborsko Pohorje ski resort. Each day we had to travel in a cable car down to the playing venue in Hotel Habakuk and back, usually 3 (x 2) times: to the US team coach Michael Khodarkovsky at 9am, then to the WYCC2012 game in the afternoon at 3pm, and occasionally one more time to catch bus 6 to Maribor historic center and enjoy a walk there in between, or while Naomi played.
The upside of this mountainous location has been a spacious triple room, great mountain views, clean air, quiet trails and detachment from the championship havoc in Hotel Habakuk, not to mention the fun of each 9-minute cable car ride. The full 3-daily-meals pansion and the helpful staff of Hotel Bellevue took away all the typical traveler’s worries and allowed us to relax even in the high-pressure competitive atmosphere of the world championship.
Photos: 2012_11_07 Arrival At The WYCC2012 In Maribor
WYCC2012 Part I
November 8: Round 1In the morning, the US chess team met with the US ambassador to Slovenia, who said we were the largest organized US group ever to arrive in this small country.
Then we left Naomi in Hotel Bellevue to prepare and rest, and rode bus 6 to Maribor historic center. The ride is 30 minutes long and free of charge for the WYCC2012 guests. Maribor is the 2012 European Capital of Culture. It has an enchanting small old town with a castle and a town hall, and the oldest-in-the-world 400 years old vine, which still produces grapes for wine, a product so central to the Slovenian identity.
Photos: 2012_11_08 Hotel Bellevue, US Ambassador, Round 1
Naomi (playing black) drew against a Women FIDE Master Elizaveta Solozhenkina of Russia, with FIDE rating 1748. Not bad!
Naomi Bashkansky with the US ambassador to Slovenia
November 9: Round 2Naomi (white) defeated the Latvian player Dana Vambute. At the same time, we enjoyed ourselves immensely at the Young Wine Festival (Martinovanje) in Maribor. Kuhano vino (Mulled wine) does wonders lifting your spirits.
Photos: 2012_11_09 Maribor Young Wine Festival
We got into the habit of buying Naomi ice cream after dinner when she played successfully, i.e. won or at least drew a strong player.
The Maribor Castle (Grad)
November 10: Round 3Naomi (black) lost to the highest-rated girl in her age at this world championship (FIDE rating 1954) Aleksandra Maltsevskaya of Russia, who will end up third in the final ranking.
Photos: 2012_11_10 Round 3, Bolfenk. Maribor
November 11: Round 4Naomi (white) lost to Niklesha Tharushi of Sri Lanka (FIDE rating 1446). We started to worry a bit and asked Naomi to care more. Instead of going to Maribor, on this day we walked around the hotel, and witnessed amateur athletes finish their incredible run up the Pohorje mountain.
Photos: 2012_11_11 Hotel Bellevue Bolfenk Pohorje Run
November 12 morning: Round 5On this day, there were 2 games: one in the morning, and one in the afternoon. This arrangement has allowed to free up the next day, November 13, for excursions.
In the morning, Naomi, playing black, defeated Valeria Mocanu of Moldova. Naomi was satisfied with this game and presents it here:
1. d4 d5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. e3 e6 4. c4 dxc4 5. Bxc4 c5 6. O-O a6 7. dxc5 Qxd1 8.Rxd1 Bxc5 9. Nc3 b5 10. Bb3 Bb7 11. Nd4 Nc6 12. Kf1 Bb6 13. a3 O-O 14. Nxc6 Bxc6 15. Rd6 Rac8 16. Bc2 Rfd8 17. Rxd8+ Rxd8 18. h3 Nd5 19. Nxd5 Bxd5 20. e4 Bc4+ 21. Kg1 Bd3 22. Bxd3 Rxd3 23. Bf4 Bd4 24. Rc1 f6 25. Rc2 e5 26. Bd2 Rb3 27. Bc1 b4 28. axb4 Rxb4 29. Kf1 Rb6 30. Ke2 g5 31. f3 Kg7 32. Kd3 Rd6 33. Kc4 Kg6 34. b4 Bb6 35. Kb3 h5 36. Rc3 Bd4 37. Rc2 f5 38. exf5+ Kxf5 39. g3 g4 40. hxg4+ hxg4 41. f4 e4 42. Re2 Bb6 43. Ka4 Rd3 44. Rg2 e3 45. b5 a5 46. Re2 Ke4 47. Re1 Bd4 48. Re2 Kf3 49. Re1 Bb6 50. f5 Kf2 51. Bxe3+ Bxe3 52. Rh1 Bc5 53. Ra1 Rf3 54. Kxa5 Rxf5 55. Ka6 Rf6+ 56. Ka5 Kxg3 57. Rb1 Kg2 58. Rb2+ Rf2 59. Rxf2+ Kxf2 60. b6 Bxb6+ 61. Kxb6 g3 62. Kc5 g2 63. Kd4 g1=Q 64. Ke4 Qg5 65. Kd4 Qf5 66. Kc4 Qe5 67. Kb3 Qd4 68. Kc2 Qe3 69. Kd1 Qe2+ 70. Kc1 Ke3 71. Kb1 Kd3 72. Ka1 Kc3 73. Kb1 Qb2# 0-1
Naomi’s comment: “56... I can't believe I missed Rf8 winning a rook.”
They did not let parents into the playing hall at WYCC2012. However they streamed live online video of the hall at wycc2012.com. So, in desperation, I took 50 browser screenshots of that webcast as Naomi was playing the endgame in Round 5:
Photos: Naomi Round 5 Endgame Live Video Screenshots
Webcast screenshot: Naomi indicates she won Round 5
November 12 afternoon: Round 6Naomi (white) lost to Nusa Hercog (FIDE rating 1627) of Slovenia. We were really ready for a break now.
Trip to Postojna Cave and Ljubljana
November 13: Free Day ExcursionFor the free day, the organizers offered a choice of excursions: Bled-Ljubljana or Postojna-Ljubljana or Vienna. We already saw Vienna 16 years ago and were planning to spend a day there later anyway, on November 24. Lake Bled is said to look spectacular, but the weather seemed iffy for a high-visual-expectations outdoor trip.
So we’ve chosen the Postojna Cave, a world-famous natural wonder, and we were not disappointed. The many-miles-long karst caves system was first opened to the public in 1819. A train drives visitors from the entrance to the main halls. You really must see the photos and videos below to appreciate the views:
Photos: 2012_11_13 Postojna Cave And Ljubljana
Postojna Cave stalagmite named "Brilliant"
After the mind-numbing visit to the cave, we enjoyed a relaxed walking tour of the Slovenian capital Ljubljana, which is charming in its little details. For example, the pedestrian Padlock Bridge, where lovers lock padlocks on the rail cables, as symbols of their eternal bond, and then throw away the keys to the Ljubljanica River below.
The eternal love padlocks (keys thrown to the river)
During this trip we became friends with Nastya (whom Naomi will play in Round 8) and her father Oleg.
WYCC2012 Part II
November 14: Round 7Naomi (black) defeated Woman Candidate Master Anastacia-Anton Lopez-Sanchez of Mexico (FIDE rating 1391), who previously won the North American Youth Championship. That Mexican girl usually plays the King's Indian Attack opening which Naomi never played before. So in the morning Naomi studied this opening and then during the game in the afternoon Naomi survived that opening and won the game!
November 15: Round 8Naomi (white) lost to her new friend Nastya Vuller of Israel.
While they played, we met our son Ethan’s first chess coach Vladimir Vainshtein and then rode bus 6 to Maribor for a walk in the romantic Mestni Park.
Photos: 2012_11_15 Round 8 With Nastya, Bus Station, Mestni Park
November 16: Round 9Naomi (black) lost to Elizaveta Lichii of Moldova (FIDE rating 1453).
During the game, we have finally visited the Maribor Castle Museum, and took photos of its many interesting exhibits and architecture:
Photos: 2012_11_16 Maribor Castle Museum
With these stone axes, Homo Sapiens annihilated Homo Neanderthalis
November 17: Round 10In the morning, a fellow Bellevue, WA Chess4Life student Anthony He and his dad rode the cable car up to our Hotel Bellevue, and invited Naomi and me for a walk along the trails. The notion of two Northwestern chess kids meeting in Slovenian mountains amused us a bit:
Photos: 2012_11_17 Pohorje Walk Anthony He
In the afternoon, Naomi (white) defeated Nina Marais of South Africa.
Photos: 2012_11_17 Hotel Bellevue, Round 10
Naomi and Nina (South Africa) before Round 10
November 18: Round 11 and Closing CeremonyIn the morning, Naomi defeated Haohao Liu of Finland.
In the afternoon, Naomi and we met Nastya and Oleg at Maribor’s Main Square under the Plague Column. We went down to the Drava River and fed swans with bread. After sunset, we visited the Maribor Castle Museum, and the kids were delighted by the experience.
Then we all rode bus 6 to the Ice Arena (Ledna Dvorana), where the WYCC2012 closing ceremony was held. It featured a local hip-hop band, and speeches by the Maribor mayor, and the unsurpassed World Chess Champion Gary Kasparov.
Photos: 2012_11_18 Maribor Drava Swans, WYCC Closing Ceremony
AftermathWYCC2012 has produced 12 new World Youth Chess Champions in categories Open and Girls in ages 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18.
The US team took the third overall place, with 4 medals (2 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze) - awarded to the US delegation head Michael Khodarkovsky by his old acquaintance Gary Kasparov. Good job, Team USA! India and Russia shared the first and second place, with 8 medals each.
Gary Kasparov gave prizes to the top three players in each category:
In the Girls 8 category, the first place went to Motahara Asadi (Iran) who defeated Naomi a year ago in Brazil 2011. Back then Naomi told us she was strong, even though just 7, which is why she got to play in G8 again.
In the Open 8 category, the bronze medal was given to Christopher Shen (USA). One of the US team’s 4 medals.
In Naomi’s Girls 10 category, Priyanka N (India) won the first place, the second went to Olga Badelka (Belarus), and the third to Aleksandra Maltsevskaya (Russia), who defeated Naomi in Round 3.
In the Open 12 category, Samuel Sevian (USA) won the gold medal. The silver medal went to Cameron Wheeler (USA). Good result here for Team USA: 2 top medals!
In the Open 14 category, FM (FIDE Master) Kayden Troff from Utah, USA won the gold medal. This is a great achievement. The US team got 4 medals and the third place overall.
Here are the full US team results and the US Chess Federation article.
November 24: Touring Beautiful ViennaIn the morning, we flew in to the Vienna Airport and walked across the parking lot to the NH Hotel for early check-in. From there we took the S7 train to Wien Mitte, then the U3 train to Stephansplatz.
We relished the colorful inside illumination of the Stephansdom, the splendor of the Graben, the Hofburg facades, the wide squares and boulevards. Seasonal fairs and festive illumination add to the magic of the Parlament and the Rathaus.
The personal highlight was our visit to the Natural History Museum with its incredible wealth of artefacts, like the unforgettable 24000 years old “Venus of Willendorf“. It was followed by savoring true-to-fame Wiener Schnitzels in Café Landtmann (frequented by Sigmund Freud, Gustav Mahler, Imre Kálmán, Romy Schneider).
We capped it all off by classic entertainment with the Vienna Residence Orchestra concert at the Börse Palais. The concert program, with elements of opera and ballet, had two absolutely unbeatable parts: 1. Mozart; 2. Strauss(es).
In the end we rode trains U4 and S7 to spend the night in the NH Hotel at the airport, convenient for our 6am flight. Vienna proved to be even more satisfying than it was during our first visit 16 years ago. The photos might give you a better idea:
Photos: 2012_11_24 Vienna 1 Day Stopover
St. Stephen's Cathedral illumination
The unforgettable Wiener Schnitzel in Café Landtmann
November 25: Flight HomeAfter our plane landed in the Seattle airport, we passed border control, took train to the main terminal, and ran through the whole length of the main terminal to United Airlines departure counters. There we caught Grandma just as she was departing, and we had just enough time to say her goodbye and thank you for staying with our son Ethan for 3 weeks while we traveled.
Photos: 2012_11_25 Vienna - Frankfurt - Seattle
The next World Youth Chess Championship will be in Al Ain, UAE, in December 2013.
Welcome home! View from our front deck to the lake, downtown and mountains