A huge international sports event took place in early September 2016 in Kyrgyzstan. One of the competitions was Toguz korgool (Togyzkumalak) and so the representatives of the Czech Federation of Mancala Games were also invited to participate. Unfortunately, the beginning of the school year was not a very good date for everyone and so we couldn't send a full team. Despite this, we did well in the competitions, getting 8th place in the individual women's competition in Toguz korgool and 4th place in the individual competition of women in Mangala, between more than 20 competitors. The male team won 6th place in the team competition, with a total of 8 teams competing. A detailed report follows below.
We heard about the Nomad Games for the first time in July 2014 at our tournament in Pardubice. Unfortunately, the work and family situation does not allow any consideration of the visit. However, we are tournament players and we believe that this event will repeat again. About the second year we heard from the president of the Kyrgyz Federation Toguz korgool and our very good friend Kamchybek in early May. The stay and the trip are paid by the federation or sponsors, dates 2nd - 9th September. Under such conditions, who would not go? I wonder what everything will be needed and I definitely decide that I just can't miss it. The official invitation with detailed information comes a month later, on the 1st June. At that time, of course, we are preparing a tournament in Pardubice and we are thinking about who will go to the next European Championship in Germany. Because official invitation speaks only about reimbursement of food and accommodation, not about route Prague - Bishkek, I asked. The answer confirms that it is not certain that sponsors will contribute to the trip. I recalculated the money box several times, all possible planned and unplanned spending by the end of the year and I'm starting to track ticket prices. I rate the reserves as sufficient. I just go and nothing stops me. I start to work on the necessities - a new passport, release from school, duties replacement at work ...
Early in the morning, on the day when we were leaving for our tournament in Pardubice, I booked a Prague - Bishkek ticket with a change in Istanbul, choosing the proven Turkish Airlines. That day evening there is a revolution in Turkey, there is shooting at the airport ... I try not to think about it, in the whirlwind of tournament events it is not as difficult. Fortunately, the situation in Turkey slowly calms down. We enjoy the tournament, we fill in the application form for the Nomad Games, so I feel that everything is done.
Just before the application deadline mentioned in the official invitation, I look for sponsorship info. The instructions are, send a complete application form for everyone, it's still not sure, we'll know in a few days. So I find out that there was probably a little misunderstanding (we filled out the application form in Pardubice) or something changed and I immediately send my and David's application. In the second half of August, a sponsorship agreement is signed and we are supposed to choose our flight. The condition says departure 1st or 2nd September, and departure 9th September. I already have my ticket, so we choose just one for David, in a few days it is confirmed. I practice, but not Toguz, I am trying Mangala, which we played in Pardubice. I found that the most natural start is beneficial for the other player, so I try to discover something what's good for the first player. I keep an eye on the news on the festival website and discover that at least one of the participants on the opening ceremony should be dressed in national costume. I'm not a girl from Moravia, So I don't have anything like that, I can only borrow it somewhere, but everything is either too expensive (given that I would return it in almost 14 days) or will be available in September. With the help of neighbors and colleagues from work we put together at least a combination that remotely reminds a little costume. Although it is after the deadline, I have to ask other players of mancala, for which I have contact (unlike the members of the Kyrgyz federation) and so I write to all people I know. As a result, Oskar from Colombia, whom we met at last year's World Championship in Almaty, will take part.
I intensively pack, deal with acute working issues, print flight information, arrange invitations to get a visa for those who want to come to Deskohrani, I am tryting to find out who we will see at the airport and whom only at the tournament and I see Oskar's mail - I missed the plane, they didn't want to let me go when I do not have a visa, and they did not want to hear that everything was fine, that I get a visa at the airport in Bishkek, please help! So I immediately forward the message to one of the main organizers to whom I got contact while taking care of the application and ticket processing. Before that he responded quite late at night, but now there are 2h at night, so we will have to wait a few hours. I cannot do anything more, I keep my fingers crossed, Oskar. It turns out well, Oskar eventually arrives, it is going to be on the 4th September, but he arrives and that's the main thing. Departure to the airport, boarding plane, stopover in Turkey. I try to fill any longer waiting gaps by examining Mangala. Numerous groups of equally dressed athletes are waiting at the same departure gate, but I don't meet any known Toguz player. I take out my Toguz board on the plane, I played in August just two games online, so I am trying to see some opening line, and I am also trying to show the rules of the game to the passengers from Azerbaijan. Light is turned off for a while, but I do not want to sleep. At one moment there is a warning beep - after some time I find out that someone may have tried to smoke in the toilet. Two policemen are waiting for this unlucky guy, when we land in Bishkek.
Arrival at half past two in the morning to the airport, where a few volunteers waited with national signs, but no sign Czech Republic - no problem, I was on the list, they just somehow did not get the correct information about the time of my arrival. I still have one of the volunteers assigned to pick up my luggage and get on the minibus to take us to venues, Cholpon-Ata. Although it is dark, I try to observe where we are going, but only when we stop, you can really see the mountains, which rise sharply next to the road. I see the first Kyrgyz yurt, this time just from the outside. We leave after an hour, in full light. Road - mountains - road. It is time to get some sleep, from the next trip I don't see much. The next stop is at the Hippodrome in Cholpon-Ata, where we will be registered, then we go to hotels. We fill in the application form again, we show the passports, some get a name tag. I did not, something went wrong, so they said they would bring it to the hotel in the evening. There are a lot of us and so it takes more than two hours to get on the bus again. Fortunately, the hotel is only a few minutes away. It's almost 11h. I put the backpack in the room and go on a tour around the hotel. In the hotel we gradually meet with other known and unknown athletes. Those who we see first time, we introduce our games, Toguz korgool and Mangala, and because they usually do not know what it is, I bring my sets and show how to play. On my first return to the room I found a lot of water - in the room above me will probably be a swimming pool :-), but a little further but I see the chambermaid and using my not as good Russian I am trying to get help. It does not take long and wet catastrophe is cleaned up. And we go back to playing. During the evening, the lobby tables are full. Other sportsmen like our games and the result is the involvement of several athletes from other sport disciplines in the evening tournament in Mangala.
On Saturday morning we start playing. But first there is a brief opening ceremony. We make two rows, hold name badges, President of Toguz federation Kamchybek Kasymov welcome us ... and soon after are our name tags placed on tables according to the draw and we sit down and play the first game. My opponent is from the USA, she is here for a one-year as a volunteer and so she knows the game for a couple of weeks. I should win for sure, but she plays well the opening, so the will be decided later. I am trying to decide which of two possible moves I play when Kamchybek appears at our table and says: Hana, sorry, TV wants you for interview. He stops the clock and I'm going to other room where one of the TV crews awaits. I am telling them how it all started, how we organize tournaments in Pardubice, in Prague and how we are happy to be here in Kyrgyzstan. Then I go back to the game. My opponent does not know the endings and it is clear that I have the first win in my pocket. Right after the game I offer to show her where she made a mistake - she is excited and wants to get to my level as soon as possible. Lunch, time off and preparation for the evening's grand opening at the hippodrome. Although the meeting to leave is at about half past four, the real departure is just after five o'clock. We get food packages, and when we arrive at the hippodrome we get a flag and we are sent to a space lined with white tents, in which there are tables and chairs. Each state has one tent. Some athletes are in beautiful costumes, so we talk, we take pictures, tell each other in which sport we will be competing and we are wondering if we can see anything from the whole spectacular show. I notice that our flag is upside down, the red at the top and I am correcting the mistake. It is 8 o'clock and the program starts. Right from the beginning we hear that anyone who cannot be here will see the record on the Internet. We try to watch at least something on a huge screen at the beginning of our space, but we are just too big group. In addition, after a while volunteers try to sort us by alphabetical name of the country. Czechia will be at the end, from one of the volunteers I find out that we are 57th and ahead of us should be France and Finland. Thanks to the flag our two-member miniteam finds two other Czechs present. They are here because they arranged the transport of some horses. We are sent down where the sorting continues. We find our girl in a wide costume, holding the sign Czech Republic, which we have to follow in parade. We are gradually moving closer, entering the paved area and is already announced team from Bohemia. The stadium is full, in the bottom row one television next to the other. We enter the sandy area and watch the crowd in the auditorium. The Kyrgyz team is the last to join, together with the president. The President, of course, has a speech, and although I do not speak Russian very well, what I understand seems to me very interesting and simply very well spoken. Games are started. As the last part of the show and parade sounds the anthem of the games - and just ahead of us is the Kazakh team and I see the Kazakh Minister of Sport dancing all around and people around joining him and dancing. We have no instruction to leave, so most athletes uses the shortest way, which mean, that in the end, we cross the railing. We look for a free bus and we arrive at the hotel around midnight.
The Toguz Korgool tournament was scheduled for 7 rounds, the Mangala tournament for just 6. On Sunday and Monday the program is the same. Morning Toguz, two rounds, lunch, afternoon Toguz, one round, dinner and evening 3 rounds of Mangala. We have played a lot of games of Mangala, it looks like most of the opponents learned this mancala variant a very short time ago. Or maybe, they only read the rules and otherwise they never played it. Obviously I have a good chance for a medal. When I play in free time, I beat everybody, including Assel, and even several times in a row. We all try to figure out the good strategy. I am slowly cheering that I have found a good start for the first player, but later, just before Deskohrani festival I disprove this theory myself. In any case, I play it whenever I start and my opponents don't know the defense, so I usually win. In the second round I play with Assel, who doesn't like it at all as I have 5 wins out of 6 from our training games, but she plays an opening that I haven't tried, and at the same time I take the risk and find that it cannot work. I am losing and it's pretty overwhelming, I only have about half of stones at the end of game. Well, let's hope for the weaky rivals from now and hopefully I get to the top through them. I notice that the games are amazingly short, games are decided around 8th move and so more than about possibility of the medal I think if it would be possible to do a brute force analysis. Of the strong opponents I meet with Diana, fortunately I play a draw. Overall I have 4.5 points, as well as 3 other players. The secondary criteria, push me to the end of the group, ie 4th place.
Several children arrived from Yakutia, the grandmother of some of them and a teacher from their school. They brought some of their board games to show us and they say that we can play a tournament in them as well. Of course I can not miss the introdution of these games, and I found that I know one under the czech name Claws from books by Milos Zapletal. The other one was played with thirty sticks, the sticks are flattened, you throws and catches them on the back of the hand, then throws out and the hand needs to catch just one. Everyone wants to try the games, the table is full. The rules are clear to me, so I rather go play Bao with Oskar. The next day after lunch, however, the tournament is announced. I can't miss it either, but I find that it's not so easy to catch dice or sticks. I am so left handed, both sticks and dice fly far away, but it is fun for me, it is fun to watch me fot others. I should get some prize for the funniest competitor, because no one else is awkward like me. If you've been filming it, I am looking forward to see it ... I get a diploma for participation and with a smile I go play the last game in Toguz. Before lunch I finally played with Gulzat from Poland. I never played the 8 opening yet, the game was interesting all the time, but at the beginning of the middle game I could not see the number of balls in one of the cups and the game ended with my loss. In the last game I get a point, so at the end I have 4 points and it is in eighth place. It means I get a financial price. In the evening w ith the kids from Yakutia we play other games, that I brought. They are excited, they like games of all kinds, just like me.
We met Oskar from Colombia for the first time at the Almaty airport and together we participated in the third World Championship. He doesn't speak English much, Russian at all. Fact, that he missed the plane was just part of his travel problems. He got a new ticket, arriving at 2am on the 4th of September. He arrived in Bishkek, but no one was waiting him at the airport (of course), so he had to arrive himself. And to make things worse, his luggage got lost and arrived only two days after him.
The next two days were devoted to team competition. Individual results identified 8 countries that could play a team tournament. The teams consist of two members, just like in the individual tournament men and women play separately. A woman can play between men (so mostly it is called generally category, not men category), a man cannot play in a women's team. Some teams, including ours, played in a mixed line-up for the male team. Tournament system is knockout and our first rival is Kazakhstan. Then we will have two more matches - our overall result is 6th place.
The seventh day there is scheduled boat trip on the lake instead of an afternoon game. The weather is beautiful, we enjoy the view of the mountains in the north and we see the mountain peaks on the other side. Only about 1000 km away there is the highest mountain in the world. During this trip, a decision is made that a world federation will be established for the other mancala games, we are all happy for the proposal and we all agree with this idea.
The last team game, without our participation, takes place on the 8th September in the morning. At noon there is the small ceremony. I receive two financial prizes. In the afternoon we have to go to the hippodrome where I get bank cards. Then back to the hotel, to pack. We will not see the evening closing ceremony. We leave at 10am the next day, so the bus will take us to the airport at 10am. So the Internet remains. But we have a special program - there is a spontaneous party in front of the hotel, started by Azerbaijan teams, with many people joining. It's time to get on the bus. We arrive at the airport at 3am, fortunately, no traffic jams met us. Last photos, last souvenirs and then goodbye. I believe that we will be back soon and that even more of us will come… if you want to go next time, contact us.