Sunday, July 03, 2005

The chess chronicles
Part three.

Today I am putting up part three of my story about Boris Vasilovich Kostin, Egor’s former chess teacher and what all was behind that tirade and refused handshake I mentioned. This piece was originally written between January 12th and 16th of this year, at the time when this was all happening. It was originally intended as a private letter, but it turned into a story as I was writing it and so that is how I am presenting it. And I am sorry that you have to flip around to read it because of how the posting works., there is nothing I can do about that.
Anyway, let me know what you think about all of this.

From 13 January, 2005

Part 3
The Magical Kingdom


The tournament was over. Egor had not won his game with Kosty for first place in game six nor had he won his final game with Tatyana watching on Tuesday morning. What had happened had happened, and life must go on.

On Wednesday Egor finally went back to his regular school routine. He had been to school on Tuesday afternoon and had made it to the last two of his four lessons. After he had come home, after some minor arguments, he had even called a friend to find out what the homework was for the two subjects that he missed. He did this, though he did sulk a bit on his way to the phone, musing that Kosty probably didn’t have to go back to school or to finish his lessons after the tournament.

After he left for school Tatyana and I sat and discussed what our plan would be about dealing with our meeting with Boris Vasilovich Kostine, Egor’s trainer. Boris Vailovich’s telling Egor that he was supposed to have lost game five against Gulaivich, the game that set up his meeting with Kosty in game six for first place had been the catalyst for all of this drama. We felt sure that the reason for his doing this was that he had tried to protect Kosty, his star pupil, but in doing so had robbed Egor of a chance to win fairly a rather large tournament.

In talking about it though, we decided that it was very possible that Boris Vasilovich might try to play some sort of game with us so as to keep Egor in his class. Leonid Nikolaiavich Linderenko, the man we wanted to replace Boris Vasilovich with had told us that changing teachers would not be so simple and Egor might possibly need to wait as long as until September when the new term started before the change could take place.

This got us thinking. Between what had happened at the tournament and Linderenko’s warning, if nothing else, we were sure we were looking at some rather deep Chess Club politics in any case. And then Tatyana told me that she had heard a story about another of Boris Vasilovich’s students who had tried to run from him over a similar situation. She said that this student was refused the right to study with another teacher, was excluded from tournaments and that the boy had ended up sitting out almost a year. Yes, he had kept up with it; he had practiced on the computer, read books and had even caved in for a month or so somewhere in there and returned to Vasilovich, but after the year’s exile, he had lost both his edge and his interest in chess. This scenario was a real possibility of what could happen in our situation if we were not careful.

We decided that the best plan of action was to talk to the other parents who were in Egor’s chess class. Our reasoning was that if what we were doing was done in public, it would make any blackballing on Vasilovich’s part more difficult. If people were watching, Vasilovich would have to come up with a real reason for refusing Egor and after his outburst at the tournament, he would be hard pressed to find one.

Egor’s Chess Club class has only six students: Egor, Kosty, another boy named Grib and a little girl named Lira and also two older boys Datzik and Gulaivich. Kosty, Grib and Gulaivich had been the three-man team at the tournament and Egor had played independent. We decided that we needed to talk to both Kosty’s and Grib’s family about what we were planning to do because they were the closest in age to Egor. The kids are all friends, and so Egor’s departure therefore would have a direct effect on them.

I know Janna, Kosty’s mom quite well. She is an English teacher at the Bank College and we have been friendly ever since I have been here. We have been to their home, Edward, her husband and I got ridiculously drunk together one time, the kids have played together and I have been invited to speak to her English classes occasionally. I have done this at other schools as well, but Janna was the first to invite me.

I spent most of the morning finishing the writing about what happened at the tournament and after, walked over to the Bank College to have a talk with Janna. Grib’s mother would not be home until after six and Tanya would make the call to her at that time.

I put on my slacks and shoes and wandered over at about 2:30 in the afternoon. It was really warm again. We haven’t had anything that even seems like winter weather since early December. On my way out, Tatyana handed me her father’s passport and a document from the phone company and told me that phone needed to be registered as well and that I should stop over there on my way. And I had to pick up some bread and dairy products also.

The Bank College is only just down the block from were we live. I was greeted warmly by the lady who is security near the door. She knew me and smiled and asked if I was going up to see Janna. I have been here often. Janna’s teaching classroom was locked when I got there and she wasn’t in her office either. I stopped in at the secretary’s office and asked if they knew where she was. They called a few numbers around the school and then, after one of Janna’s office mates dropped in and said that Janna was at home, they immediately called over there for me.

Janna seemed to be just waking up. I hadn’t planned on doing this over the phone but the secretaries had been so adamant about helping me I was kind of stuck. I told her I had something serious to talk about and asked if she was ok in talking for about five minutes over the phone? She said she was. We were speaking in English. I went straight to the point.

"I just wanted to tell you that Tatyana and I are planning on taking Egor out of Boris Vasilovich’s class. We are hoping that Linderenko will take him immediately and we are going to be speaking to Boris Vasilovich about this tomorrow."

"I don’t understand," she said, "has something happened?"

"Well yes, this is about what happened at the tournament."

"What happened at the tournament? I wasn’t there until much later so I am afraid I do not know what could have happened."

"Well, Boris Vasilovich yelled at Egor and told him that he was supposed to have lost his game with Gulevich because it would influence his teams score. Egor was playing as an independent…"

"I knew that."

"You knew that he had yelled at him?’

"No, that Egor had been left off the team."

"Yes, well, he was playing in the tournament."

"Yes, how did he finish?"

"He lost his last two games. I don’t know exactly where he ended up."

"Kosty had been the winner."

"Yes, I know. Kosty is a great player. This isn’t about who won or lost…"

"Has Kosty done something?"

"No, no, no. It is about Boris Vasilovich’s yelling at Egor and telling him he was supposed to have lost. When Boris Vasilovich yelled at Egor, Egor became frightened and came home crying and was telling us that he was afraid that Boris Vasilovich was going to beat him if he tried to win is game with Kosty."

"Well, it sounds as if he was making some kind of a joke."

"That was the first thing I thought. But then, after I went to the tournament, I saw that that it was true and I saw why. It was the truth and it was very wrong."

"I don’t understand."

"Boris Vasilovich was trying to protect Kosty. Egor was playing Kosty for first place..."

"That’s right…"

"Boris Vasilovich was obviously protecting Kosty."

"But he didn’t say anything to him about his game with Kosty. He only said something about the other game."

"No, but he told Egor he was supposed to lose in the tournament and he said this to him right before he had a game to play with Kosty for first place."

"Do you think that I have done something wrong here? Is that why you are calling?"

"No, I am calling because we want to take Egor out of Boris Vasilovich’s class. I have heard that Boris Vasilovich has made problems for other students in the past who have tried to leave him. And so I am doing this publicly to lesson the chance of his making problems."

"I don’t understand, have I said or done something to you to make you angry?" she asked.

"It has nothing to do with you, per se, except that Egor and Kosty are in the same group and therefore Egor’s leaving will have some effect on Kosty." She was quiet a moment.

"If I have done something wrong…"

"No, Janna, this has nothing to do with Kosty or about you. It is about Boris Vasilovich."

"So are you saying Kosty has done something?"

"No, Janna…Listen; we are friends right? Kosty is great. The problem is not between us. I mean, did I not just loan you a chess program disk…?"

"So did you want me to call Boris Vasilovich for you and tell him you are angry?"

"No, we will go and see him tomorrow."

"Yes the chess finishes at 5:30…"

"Yes, I know what time. We will talk to him there."

"Uh huh… so you wish to take Egor out of the chess class."

"That’s right. And I wanted to tell you about it first, before we talk to Boris Vasilovich so that we will have less problems."

"But I thought Egor was happy in the chess class."

"I am sure he was, but after what happened at the tournament, I simply do not want Boris Vasilovich to be his teacher any more."

"Uh huh…" We were quiet a moment. I went on

"And, I suppose I should say to you, as an opinion, that I think what Boris Vasilovich did affected Kosty as well."

"I don’t understand."

"He influenced the tournament."

"Kosty was the winner."

"Yes I know. But Boris Vasilovich protected him and that was wrong."

"Are you saying Kosty should not have been the winner?"

"No, Kosty is a great player. And probably he would have beaten Egor. But Boris Vasilovich took that chance away from him and so we want to leave his class."

"Uh huh…"

"Look Janna, everyone knows Boris Vasilovich favors Kosty. I don’t really care about that. If Boris Vasilovich wanted to be his private teacher…"

"He isn’t a private teacher. Kosty only goes to chess two days a week."

"Nobody is saying anything about Kosty. But it is obvious that Boris Vasilovich’s yelling at Egor had nothing to do with the team’s winning or losing; he was only protecting Kosty."

"Why do you say that?"

"Come on, Janna. Your kid is a star. I have no problem with that either. This is not about jealousy. I am thrilled for Kosty. I hope he becomes a grandmaster. But what Boris Vasilovich did was wrong. In fact it was criminal and actually it affected Kosty as well."

"But you said Boris Vasilovich was yelling at Egor about the team."

"Well, that is what Boris Vasilovich was yelling. But what he was doing was protecting Kosty."

"I don’t understand."

"Egor won his two games Monday morning. Kosty tied his two games."

"That’s right."

"Egor was sitting on five and a half points. That meant that he would be playing for
first place with Kosty."

"Grib played Kosty for first place."

"That was the final game. I am talking about the last game on Monday night, the game between Egor and Kosty. You were there. I talked to you."

"Yes, I remember."

"So Boris Vasilovich knew when Egor beat Gulaivich that he would be playing against Kosty next. Kosty drew his two games that day and Egor had won twice. Egor would be playing against Kosty for first place. Do you know the phrase "head fuck"?"


"So that’s what Boris Vasilovich did? He fucked Egor’s mind so he would be off balance before his game against Kosty."

"But Kosty was in first place…"

"Exactly. Look, Janna, I am not saying anything about Kosty. Kosty is a great player. He is a seriously great player. In fact, if I were betting money on the games, I would have bet on Kosty every time. He probably would have beaten Egor. But the fact is that Egor had played well that day. Really well. And Kosty had only received two draws. Kosty had six points and Egor had five and a half. That game six was for first place at table number one, and Egor had earned his right to be there. Boris Vasilovich’s yelling at Egor before that game was his protecting Kosty and that is not right. The boy is only nine years old. What the hell did Boris Vasilovich think he was doing telling Egor that he had to lose? This is corruption."

"So, are you saying that I had something to do with this?"

"No Janna, I am saying that Boris Vasilovich should never again be Egor’s coach. What he did was obscene and uncalled for. If he wants to be Kosty’s private teacher…"

"He isn’t. Kosty only studies two times a week at the chess club. Same as everyone."

"Fine. But nevertheless, they wanted Kosty to win and they didn’t want Egor and they did something to stop him and now I want to take Egor out of the class. Do you understand? I am not talking about you. I am not talking abut Kosty, I am talking about Boris Vasilovich fucking Egor’s mind right before a huge game where Egor had a chance to win a tournament."

"I see." She said. We were quiet again.

"But if I were to say only one thing that did in fact concern you, it would be to say that what Boris Vasilovich did hurt Kosty as well. Neither Kosty nor Egor got the chance to play out their game fairly and because of this, Kosty’s win was a little tainted, a little dirty. He lost a part of this win too."

"Are you saying Kosty wouldn’t have been the winner?"
No Janna, I am only saying that Egor hadn’t been allowed his chance to win or lose fairly. I am not saying that Kosty wouldn’t have won anyway. He probably would have.
But he didn’t get that chance, just like Egor didn’t get that chance and that’s the point. I don’t think Boris Vasilovich should be teaching chess anymore to anyone and certainly I don’t want him touching Egor anymore. And if this is who Boris Vasilovich has become I certainly do not think I want to give him any more chances to do what he did to Egor."

We went on for a while more, parting with some words about how we were still friends and all and how we would speak to each other soon. I thanked the ladies in the secretary’s office for their patience, they swore that they did not speak any English, and I left.

Well, that was one. I really hadn’t wanted to do that over the phone, but I did and it was done and so that’s all. I pretty much figured that Janna would make a beeline for Boris Vasilovich. I had expected that she would before I talked to her and so her asking me if I wanted her to call Boris Vasilovich sort of confirmed that. Well, that would be OK too. If Boris Vasilovich wants to prepare something, let him. It would only add to the conversation and makes things clearer. And of course if he did, we would all be absolutely clear of what was going on, and that would be good too. I also got the feeling that she was implying that I should talk to Boris Vasilovich only after the chess club was over. I guess she didn’t want this little personal squabble of mine to affect Kosty’s chess lesson.

Tune in for part four tomorrow

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