Finding the Identity

When one of my friends called me to play for Kosovo team (6-11 May) I was a little bit suspicious. “Is not it dangerous there?” “No, not at all. The war conflict is over, people are relaxed, and you will see that Prishtina is a modern European town.”
Our hotel was situated only few meters away from the memorial of Gjergj Kastrioti Skanderbeg (pronounced “skander beu” by the locals) meaning "Lord or Leader Alexander”. In the summer of 1444, in the field of Torvioll Skanderbeg faced the Otomans and won a battle where Ottomans were much superior in forces.His victory echoed across Europe because this was only the second time when Ottoman army was defeated in Europe. In the coming years, Skanderbeg defeated the Turks two more times, once in 1445 in Moker (Dibra), and once more in 1447 in Oranik (Dibra). He organized Albanian resistance, which lasted for more than hundred years.

I am asking my team mates-“What is the difference between you and the Albanians?””There is no such, only their percentage of Muslims is less than ours.” And to my astonished gaze they explain that there are still many Orthodox Christians in Albania.
Official language here is Albanian. “It is strange mix between Indo-European and Latin language, with many Turkish words”, explains my teammate Burim Dushi. He works as an interpreter from Italian. “There is no analogue to the Albanian language in the world”, completes he. “Is it a problem if I speak Serbian?” I ask knowing that the wounds from the conflict may be still open. “No, not at all. Kosovo people are tolerant now.” Indeed they are-no matter if you speak English or Serbian, they are very polite with the strangers.
Most of the buildings in Prishtina are new, with modern facades. Kosovo is place rich of minerals-gold and silver, nickel, copper, coals. One good pledge for the future.
People really look very calm. On 9-th of May (day of EU) celebrations started from early morning. Pupils from all schools had a dancing competition that lasted till night.
Some more information about the team competition. Eight teams play round-robin tournament on six boards where match points are counted. All teams have the right of two foreign players. Some of them make use of the fact- “Istog” has GMs Vasil Spasov (BUL) and Trayko Nedev (FYROM), “Theranda”- GM Petar Genov (BUL) and IM Dritan Mehmeti (ALB), my team “RWE Power” Kosovo has also GM Alexander Delchev (BUL), and “Llamkos” has even three foreign players GMs Kiril Georgiev (BUL), Vladimir Georgiev (FYROM) and Jozsef Pinter (HUN). They change their top boards. Those teams who cannot afford strong foreigners use tactical weapons. One usual strategy is to place two “victims” on top boards and leave strong back-field. “Pristina” team had very strong backbone of local players.
First two team qualify for European Club Cup and last two drop down in second division.
Chess is struggling to survive here. In our competition every team has to bring 3 chess-sets with it. But what chess-sets these are...from beautiful wood Staunton to the most ordinary broken plastics. I played a game with one which knights were broken. Good it was that I managed to exchange them quickly...People lack clocks, arbiters, trainers. My team-boss Burhan Musini was the chief-arbiter of the event, and works as a secretary in Kosovo Chess Federation. Most of the players were not very used with the digital clocks, which caused some inconveniences.
Despite of all the negatives one thing is sure-locals are burning into the game. I can give you one colorful example-a player had a knight, rook and two pawns against opponent’s bishop and rook. But he lost the pawns and his opponent offered a draw. Frustrated, the first one declined it and eventually won. Every day there were not only chess but verbal clashes as well. And if you sit to analyze near the locals, you may not have the chance to show many moves, since they are eager to show what they saw, or to ask you why not you played this, or that move.
Burim, being quite an impressive person told me that he dreamt my first game against Nedev, and found an improvement in his dream! And the decisive encounter from the previous year between A. Delchev and T. Petrossian was analyzed for a whole month.
Boris Spassky told the story about the waiter who was coming to take orders during the game and regretted that there are no more tournaments like this. But he is wrong-this still happens in Kosovo. We were playing in a restaurant Glass House and waiters were coming to take our orders while we were playing.
And people have ideas-they want to visit some arbiter’s seminars, to open a chess-school where not only students will study, but volunteers who want to become chess teachers themselves. They are also planning international match against Kuwait, strong open tournament with 20000 euro price-fund.
I wish them good luck.
Final Standings:
1. Istog 13 points 2. Llamkos 12 3. Prishtina 9 4. RWE Power Kosovo 7 (eight teams in total.)

Bojkov,D (2492) - Mehmeti,D (2419), R4, Kosovo Teams

21.Ne5 Nxe5 22.dxe5 f5 23.Nxd5 Qb5 24.Qh5 Qb7 25.Nf4 bxc3 26.Ng6+ 1–0

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