February 1987 - back in the USSR

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  • February 1987 - back in the USSR

    33 years ago this week - a group of 15 or so of us took a "chess tour" to the USSR. It was organized by Larry Bevand and Jonathan Berry (the only one in the group that could speak reasonable Russian), and the Soviet "Intourist" group, who supplied us with a guide.

    First stop was Helsinki (Finland) which we passed through both coming and going from the USSR. Some of us bought cigarettes which proved useful as tips/bribes in the USSR. Nothing chess-related, and then we flew to Moscow (blinds had to be lowered as we crossed the FIN-USSR border). Our hotel (Cosmos) was across the street from the reconstructed USSR pavillion from Expo 67. The Metro was nearby, so some of us took a trip to Red Square late in the evening (remember - it was winter, so the weather didn't bother us. Also - we weren't really supposed to go anywhere without our guide). 5 kopeks (about 10c on the "legal" market) for the Metro; 3 kopeks for the tram; 2 kopeks for the bus. Conveniently - they had coins in each of these denominations). The next day we visited the Moscow Central Chess Club, where the Moscow City Championship was in progress (Sveshnikov is the only player I remember). We had a GM simul (might have been Taimanov).

    One member of our group packed his bag full of jeans - which he traded for Russian fur hats.

    Next stop was Tbilisi (Georgia) - the last time I ever experienced smoking on a plane. Lecture and simul at the Chess Palace by Nona Gaprindashvili, and some time to get beaten by the kids taking chess classes there. Spring-like there, with temperatures a few degrees above freezing. A few years later - I could pick out many of the landmarks when Canadian newscasts showed rioting/fighting in progress in the central area. Saturday night in Tbilisi was the time for the locals to gather at the Post Office and line up to make long-distance calls. Some of the stores had brand new state-of-the-art cash registers, but the clerks stayed with their abacuses (abaci?). Mount Ararat could be seen in the distance.

    Then to Leningrad (St. Petersburg) - visited the Hermitage and other palaces, as well as the local chess club. Our hotel was on the Gulf of Finland, but everything was white - the Gulf covered with ice/snow and the sky was cloudy - you couldn't see the horizon.

    Back to Montreal via Helsinki. A trip to remember.

    (perhaps Larry can fill in any gaps).

  • #2
    Yes this was an incredible trip! I don't remember being involved in the organization...maybe Jonathan asked me to help publicize it...but he was the lead guy on this.

    If my memory is correct the whole trip cost about $1,500...all inclusive!

    I have so many stories I could tell....here is one...

    You have to remember that was the Soviet Union in 1987.

    Our 'tour guide" was more than just a tour guide :)

    At some point I was tired of visiting museums, so stayed behind while the group went off.

    At our hotel I met a young lady who was from Canada but her husband had a contract in the Soviet Union. We chatted. Our group was coming back to the hotel for lunch so I invited her to lunch with our gang.

    It was fun.

    Either the same day or the next day (I have no memory)...we took a flight (within the Soviet Union) and guess who sat beside me in the plane...yes the tour guide :)....she had many questions for me...where did you meet this lady, how long have you known her...what is she doing in the Soviet Union...etc etc...

    Hopefully Jonathan still reads ChessTalk...I am sure he has lots he could tell :)