Lunch at five in Lanchkhuti

In 1920 the Second International Delegation of Europe, headed by Karl Kautsky, visited Georgia in order to (according to them) see the socialist experiment, started by the government of the Independent Georgia in 1918, on the spot and with their own eyes.

The members of the delegation dedicated so many pages and papers of their books to praising Georgian Social-Democrats (Georgian Mensheviks) that we would not have enough time to remember and go over all of it even before the start of the Batumi Chess Olympiad.

But I do have to remember and tell one chess story of that time, though what could possibly make me forget that chess tournament held in Lanchkhuti1 in 1920, where one of the guests who participated in the tournament – James MacDonald – predicted exactly then that Georgian women would conquer the chess world.  

That delegation was various, diverse and sometimes entertaining and the members of the delegation went around almost whole Georgia in order to be convinced that Mensheviks’ Georgia was indeed different from Bolsheviks’ Russia, where the Bolsheviks wanted to build socialism without democracy.

Mensheviks were the ones who knew the best that Georgia was the cradle of democracy, because most of the Georgian social-democrats were born in Guriaand since childhood they remembered (and very well) that the polyphony of the ancient Guriansongs explained the true democratic trait of Georgian nature.

Anyway, in that delegation was one English politician, the abovementioned James Ramsay MacDonald, who later became the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom several times and who wanted to visit Lanchkhuti, as well as Noe Zhordania’s4 mother – I want to thank that woman for raising such a wonderful child - he said, and who could have stopped a British (born in Scotland) member of Labour Party.

Noe Zhordania’s mother was obviously very happy that such well-respected man visited her and it just so happened that when the delegation reached Lanchkhuti it was almost 5pm and the Gurians, first of all, of course, greeted the foreign guests with a feast. Though, (apart from wine) there was also tea for James MacDonald (because Mrs. Kristine Chikovani5 stubbornly insisted) and the British Marxist (apparently) looked at the watch as soon as he saw tea and Noe Zhordania’s mother immediately told the guest that unlike the English, Gurians start drinking tea at five and not at four. Mrs. Kristine also told the guest that in some Georgian regions “cha” (drinking tea) coincides with lunch and Mr. MacDonald was more surprised by the Georgian woman’s good English rather than what she told him, but the guest had no idea that the main surprise was still awaiting him. That main surprise was chess, which the British politician loved, probably, even more than he loved Marx, but on that evening the hosts offered the guests not chess, but lotto, because back then, in Guria and Georgia there was nothing more popular than lotto. James MacDonald politely refused to play lotto and right there, on the same balcony made such a furtive glance in the direction of the discovered chess set that the Gurians, most quick-witted in the world, obviously, immediately guessed what they had to do – they invited a young neighbour woman, who was noticed to be in love with chess at the very first stage of her marriage. The English member of Labour Party – MacDonald, of course, knew very well that the Democratic Republic of Guria, separated from the Russian Tsar empire in 1905, (for the first time in the world’s history) gave women the same rights as the men’s, but he did not know that in Georgia the newly-wed women’s dowry was not only “The Knight in the Panther's Skin6” but also chess.

That is why, at the beginning of a match, the guest even dared to smile a little (unseen by others), but he realized as soon as the second match began that he hadn’t lost the first game by chance. And after this, MacDonald was defeated eight more times by that young Gurian woman, whose last name (unfortunately) hasn’t been reserved by history. Though, we do know that her name was Nino and, of course, she was not Nino Gurieli7, but just Gurian Nino, because of whom James MacDonald predicted the great success of Georgian women in great chess (back in 1920), even though back then women’s international tournaments simply didn’t exist.   

The British politician said this phrase after being defeated the ninth time – exactly then, when (clearly, in order to comfort him) he was told that in Guria, and in Georgia, women played chess better than men and that’s how the legend of the British Prime Minister, who was defeated nine times by a Gurian woman Nino, stayed in Lanchkhuti.

As for Nino Gurieli, in childhood, she was my neighbour, but before becoming my neighbour, I already liked another Georgian woman chess player and let’s talk about that some other time.

Lanchkhuti1 - a city in western Georgian region of Guria

Guria2 - a region in Georgia

Gurian3Guria’s or inhabitant of Guria

Noe Zhordania4 - a Georgian journalist and Menshevik politician

Kristine ChikovaniNoe Zhordania’s mother

The Knight in the Panther's Skin6 - a Georgian medieval epic poem, written in the 12th century by Georgia's national poet Shota Rustaveli

Nino Gurieli Georgian International Master, a Member of the Georgian women’s team that won the Chess Olympiads three times (1992, 1994, 1996)