Chess and Changing Seasons

So this week took an interesting twist when I found out that all of the students in my province were to participate in a huge chess competition over the weekend. From Saturday to Tuesday ( yes, they were pulled out of school for this) , 9999 children participated in this competition with the ultimate winner getting a trip to Korea. Say what you will about Mongolian event planning, we might not hear about it until a week before, but nonetheless they go big. The competition involved hundreds of children and took place in the towns stadium, a famous singer was brought in and everyone in town attended… it also meant a long weekend for me and my site mates, so I couldn’t really complain. All in all, I just wanted to listen to the soundtrack of the musical Chess all weekend 😛

The competition rehashed what I already know though… Chess is a big deal here, almost to the point where most Mongolians will tell you that they invented the game… as in their ancient ancestors invented it. From what I know ( and what wikipedia tells me) however, the game has its origins in India and quickly got to Mongolia through trade routes, so it was introduced pretty early on in the area. Most schools have a “Chess Cabinet” or a chess room , and most families have a board. Its so ingrained in the Mongolian culture that the pieces have their own names with a Mongolian twist. The pawns are “sheep”, the bishops are “camels”, the knights are “horses” , and the king and queen are the “lord” and “lady” . There are even art projects, drawing chess pieces out of traditional Mongolian Script, as you can see below.

Since arriving here , I have found that most children can beat me when I sit down to play chess. I’m not sure about Mongolian chess methodology, but from what I have ascertained, its to be as aggressive as possible, bringing out their ‘lady’ as soon as they can and wait for their opponent to mess up. My hour or two of chess playing growing up lends me to be more defensive, which tends to fluster my younger counterparts, yet I have yet to win a game of chess in country. May that be a goal … to be able to beat a five year old in a game of chess.

Other the reflecting on the appeal of chess in this country, the long weekend allowed me time to relax in my apartment and appreciate the changing of the seasons on long walks. Wednesday might have been the first day of fall (by the American calendar) but its been feeling like the season for most of September. The leaves are bright yellow on the trees and most of the grass is fading into a brownish hue. It gets cold enough at night that its comfortable to wear my ski jacket and gloves around town. Heck during the day I often wear my running leggings underneath my long skirt, and multiple layers. I feel that living in this country has taught me to enjoy scarves and layers, so much so that I won’t remember how to dress for warmer weather.

Though, for the notoriously coldest aimag, its been too dry to snow… which I’m grateful for.

On Tuesday I got the chance to walk along one of the rivers and sit down to ‘pen some letters’ . Its nice to think that part of my day is catching up with my correspondence, though I am horrible at catching up. I even got to take some nice pictures of the fall colors… All I had to do was walk 15 minutes to take pictures of what looks like the most remote parts of Mongolia. Including the most remote trees. For a town that has a direct translation of “with aspens” , there really aren’t that many. Maybe once upon a time.

In other news

  • We are currently working on a variety of projects that involve HIV/AIDs Awareness, Dental Health, Alcohol Awareness, TIP and a variety of other topics… its kinda mind blowing actually, how much work we want to do. Stay tuned, I plan on focusing on a specific project per post… eventually, when it happens
  • The youth center in town got remodeled this past summer, and include a fancy new conference room with a computer lab. Look forward to doing a bunch of projects there.
  • Site visits happen next week ! This is basically when our regional programmers come out to check on us and our HCA. This is the second year, so I’m not expecting many surprises, but you never know.
  • A basketball tournament for teachers is happening this weekend, so I’m looking forward to watching some feats of athletic prowess while eating buuz and khuushur. You know , like you do 😛
  • Also, the new band of the week, is called Luluc – absolutely beautiful sound, I highly recommend.

Till something else exciting happens, – V.



  1. Elizabeth Kessler-Gore · · Reply

    Hi Virginia! I really enjoy your blog! (and your beautiful photos!) Stay warm! Until next time!
    Cousin Elizabeth

  2. Reblogged this on Chess Musings and commented:
    More evidence that chess is huge in Mongolia.

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