Trip to Lviv - part I
When Vladimir came up with the "Grandcoach friends" tournament idea for the first time, it seemed as if it was completely unreal for me. I was completely unavailable to any vacation, due to work and exams, and a trip to Lviv for a period of time long enough to play in a classic time-control chess tournament, was a tempting dream - but just a dream. However, Vladimir began to implement this idea with full speed - after all, the tournament could easily succeed without me as well. I felt that I might lose this opportunity, and thus I started to estimate my chances to attend after all. In the end, I got a vacation I asked for at work, the semester ended, while the exams were yet to start, and I booked a ticket for flight to Kiev, and from there - to Lviv by train.
I will divide my story in two parts. The first one will have no chess aspect, and will hold a few stories about my stay in Lviv. The second part will describe the chess part, as well as my general impressions on Lviv and my local and foreign friends - of course backed up with pictures,as well as the first part! I have to start with a non-chess part, since my memory is very poor, and I have to write the stories down before I forget the details. It will help me later for reference as well.
It's not my first time in Lviv. I visited it with my sister who works in Kiev, back in December 2008, and Volodya did a great job showing us around the city. This time, it was during summer. I had a great flight with Ukranian International Airlines from Tel-Aviv to Kiev on the early night of 18.6, and a train leaving to Lviv in a few hours after I landed - just in time to collect my ticket from my sister's house, drink a cup of tea and rush to the train station. The train part was as swift and pleasant as the flight. Upon arrival, Vladimir met me at the train station, and we drove to a flat which my good friend Mykhailo Oleksienko arranged for me. The flat is situated in the heart of the Old City and the old Jewish quarter, near the Market square and walking distance away from each significant spot in town.
Leopold Ritter von Sacher-Masoch is a well-known figure due to a deviation named after him - few people know he was born in Lviv, and even fewer know that I lived next door to a pub in his honour!
Two steps away from the Masoch pub - an old entrance to a house where I lived during my stay
At the very start of my first morning in Lviv, I rushed to the market and bought loads of different wild berries - it was like "back in time" to my childhood in Russia. Also, berries are on very short supply in Israel, if at all. At noon Vladimir took me and Cla Mathieu from Switzerland through the main gate of the Old City, and we also visited a main city fortress, which is now a weaponry museum. There is an old clock on the main city tower near the gates. It doesn't work anymore, but when it did, years ago, it was always five minutes late. During one of the sieges of the city, a monk responsible for locking the gate did so five minutes prior to the destinated time, and his initiative actually saved the city from enemy intrusion. In remembrance of his deed, the main clock was set five minutes before the actual time, and it stayed like this ever since.
The Swiss musician and chessplayer Cla Mathieu joined us during our numeruos trips around the city
Near the museum, there is a sculpture of Ivan Fedorov, the first Russian book printer. Vladimir told us the interesting story of how this "piece of art" was created. Despite its old-style looks, it was erected during the 1970-ies. The Soviet government of the district ordered the due date to be in two months time. How can one sculpt something in such a short period of time? Naturally, the due date wasn't a subject for arguments - it was an order, not an offer. The sculptors came with an enterprise solution - they took a statue of a Russian soldier, which was always in stock during the Soviet times, grew it a beard and long hair instead of the helmet, put a book into his hand instead of the gun it was holding - and the formidable bookprinter came to life. If you take a closer look, you can see he is wearing a pair of military water-proof boots - I bet there will be a few historians breaking their heads over this amazing combination.
Near the soldier/bookprinter, there are always some old books and magazines for sale
The museum impresses with the diversity of various cold weapons and arms - German bayonets and Russian alebards can be explained, but we could find no explanation to Indian and Japanese knifes found on the Ukrainian soil. The exposition is quite striking, and it's a pity when you finish it and there's no more.
We played two games next day, so I really had no time to walk around. I was wandering around the city by my own on Monday, while on Tuesday, after another double-round day, Vladimir invited Cla, Clarence with his family and me, to a fancy restaurant at the suburbs of Lviv. We enjoyed wonderful grilled meat and many kinds of Ukrainian traditional food, together with two bottles of fine Georgian wine and Ukrainian vodka. I don't remember the stories and jokes we told each other, but I do remember they were all very funny ones
On Wednesday, after a little hangover, me and Cla met Vladimir near the Old City center, and we headed to St. George's Cathedral of Lviv - the mother church of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. There we were joined by Mykhailo Oleksienko, who just came back from a quite successful tournament in Voronezh, Russia.
In front of St. George's Cathedral. Left to right: Cla Mathieu, Clarence Psaila, Pavel Aronin, Mykhailo Oleksienko
Then we all went to Ivana Franka park, where I got a little verbal opening preparation for the game that evening - the details are provided in part II. We had our dinner at a wonderful cafe on the Armenian street, near the Armenian church which is the oldest church in Lviv. I had no rest after the game as well - we reserved a ping-pong table in a waterpark center, and we had a few masterclass lessons by Clarence, who used to be a member of Malta national youth team. I won't reveal the details, not because I don't want to, just because I already forgot nearly all of them. However, in the first set against Mykhailo, Clarence failed to catch up despite his expertise; when it was 19:15, it was already too late for Clarence. He took a revenge in the second game with his numerous hidden serves (when the opponent cannot see where he will serve because he hides the ball before the serve). It must be said though that Mykhailo showed a great resistance and made it hard on Clarence, despite the fact that he never studied ping-pong professionally and only learned from playing games.
Next day Mykhailo took me to another great place with live music and delicious food. After the game I was joined once again by Mykhailo, this time together with his wife Natalya, and the three of us went to a Jewish restaraunt, a few blocks away from my apartment. The restaurant is situated near the remainings of the old synagogue "Golden Rose" which was destroyed by the Nazis on 1941. One cannot expect a greater surprise in a restaurant - when you get the menu, you suddenly see that there are no prices near the meals! The place's custom is that the customer has to bargain with the waiter, which is accounted for a Jewish tradition. Out waiter didn't know what he was getting into - despite me being Jewish, I wasn't really involved in the bargaining process, while Natalya and Mykhailo gave the waiter the hard time. At certain point, it looked as if the waiter is ready to resign the game and to flee from the battlefield. However, when I joined the performance and said: " OK my last offer is 100 hrivnas, while taking you to a restaurant when you are in Israel, is on me!", he reacted instantly: "If it is only 100 hrivnas, my aunt Sonya will lock me in for a year, and I will work each day from morning to dawn!". I really appreciated the swiftness of the answer!
The lovely and loving couple
"10 hrivnas for THAT tea? You must be joking, right?"
The poor waiter tried hard, but he couldn't beat the guys in bargaining even if he was really Jewish!
Friday was my last day in Lviv - I was leaving the next morning. Now it was only a friendly blitz tournament ahead. I had my coffee in the "Wienna coffee house", where Mykhailo met me and we went to buy me a "vyshivanka", a traditional Ukrainian folk shirt. I had that idea in my mind already when Mykhailo visited Jerusalem for the first time. Mykhailo took me to the same guy he himself had his "vyshivanka" from, so it was both a great honour and a trademark guaranteed!
Last evening in Lviv. Left to right: Vladimir Grabinsky, Natalya Oleksienko, Nazar - a future husband of Mykhailo's sister, Pavel Aronin, Cla Mathieu
We then proceeded to the waterpark center, where I managed to take a set from Mykhailo after losing in the previous four. Then we went to the waterpark itself, had a swimming race (Mykhailo won the race, and I felt that my goal on the last meters of 50m swim is merely not to drown), which was followed by a dangerous-looking water chute. While going downhill on that chute, I felt my life was wonderful, but too short...however, life went on, and it did so in a wonderful way. Let me finish the first part here, and I hope you'll anticipate the second part - to be continued...