As round 7 gets underway today, something is different. Handshakes and smiles, usually saved for team-mates, are being offered eagerly across the aisle, to now familiar faces, former and future opponents.
Players are comfortable on this new world stage – many have exchanged small gifts, postcards and emails. Our team has befriended the Turkish, Mongolian, Pakistani and Zimbabwean players. The Romanian team, our local hosts, have been among the most eager to engage in new friendships. As the only team who has not traveled internationally for the event, they seem particularly aware of the faraway places that each visitor represents.
They have found a way to communicate, playing friendly chess games and football, where English is not understood. They are talking about when they will meet again – at the European championships, World Youth and beyond. It’s a display of both sportsmanship and respect, and a certain sign of future leadership – that these game players, the youth of many disparate countries, are open to exchange.