Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Home At Last!

Actually I've been home since very late Monday evening, but it always takes a few days to decompress. Tuesday morning I had a chess nationals hangover. Too much running around combined with too much food, and not enough sleep leads to this state of mind. Fortunately the schools are on vacation this week, so I had nothing on the schedule that was pressing. The picture below taken on Monday afternoon shows a person who is very happy to be heading home. I think there may be a few more gray hairs showing in this picture compared to the picture taken on Saturday.

Though maybe King Kong was the cause of some of those gray hairs. We played a bunch of blitz games on Monday afternoon before I left for the airport. He won most of them. I tried openings that I haven't played in years such as 1...e5 as Black. He smashed me with his Vienna Gambit. I didn't have a clue what I was doing. Another game he didn't develop any of his king side pieces and he still beat me. One of the last games we played opened with 1. a4 b5. By this time we both were getting rather silly. It was actually a pretty interesting game, though it came to a rather abrupt end.

An important piece of a trip like this one is the travel part. Arrive or depart at the wrong time of day, and you'll be screwed. Cunard Cruise Lines used to have an ad campaign that said "Half the fun is getting there." That's fine when you're on a cruise ship and taking the slow way to your destination. When you're flying you don't want "fun" trying to get to or from your destination.

Timing is everything. I timed my flights well. My rule of thumb is to get out of New York air space as early as possible on the way out. Coming home, I take the time that gives me the cheapest fare, unless it’s 6:00 AM. At the end of a trip the last thing I want to do is get up at the crack of dawn to catch an early flight. I want to have a leisurely breakfast and not have to race out to the airport.

On the way down I took an early flight, and beat the tornado to Tennessee and got out of New York before the weather started to go all to hell. Some people weren’t so lucky. Their flights were canceled and they ended out staying home. What a bummer when you've spent the entire year getting prepped and pumped for Super Nationals and Mother Nature raises hell with the airlines. Some others were lucky enough to make it to Atlanta where they rented a van and drove the rest of the way. My get out of town early strategy has worked well for me when traveling to these events.

Two years ago I went to the Junior High Nationals in Sacramento via Dallas. If you’ve ever flown on American Airlines you know that if you don’t get a non-stop you’re changing planes in either Dallas or Chicago. If I travel in winter I try to go through Dallas to avoid Chicago snow. If I travel in spring or summer I fly through Chicago to avoid Dallas thunderstorms. On this Sacramento trip Dallas seemed to be the only reasonable choice schedule wise.

Going to Nationals that year, I think I was the only person who came to Sacramento through Dallas on Thursday that actually arrived on Thursday. I took a 7:00 AM flight out of New York to Dallas. We managed to get into Dallas right after a big thunderstorm, and we departed for Sacramento right before the next big line of storms were coming through. I arrived to a beautiful sunny California day around noontime, and spent a lovely afternoon walking around Sacramento.

I had no idea the hell that people on later flights went through. I spoke to one father who got stranded in Dallas and ended out buying his son and him one-way tickets on another airline flying out Love Field at 6:00 AM Friday morning so that his son could make it for the first round. That ended out costing him close to $1,000 for the two tickets. What's $1,000 when you're determined to get your kid to the chess nationals?

Another person going to that event had the airline horror story from hell. He was on an afternoon flight. Got to Dallas. I can’t remember the entire sequence of takeoffs and landings. I think they sent him to Houston but couldn’t land there and came back to Dallas. He gets back to Dallas and gets on another plane. They push off from the gate, and then sit on the tarmac going nowhere. Using a valid medical condition as an excuse he tells them he can’t stay on the plane. The airline sent a bus out to the plane to pick him up and take him back to the terminal. He was able to rebook on another airline out of Love. He flew from Dallas to Phoenix, then Phoenix to Sacramento. He actually made it to Sacramento before the first round.

For my return trip I had a 5:15 pm flight out of Nashville to Chicago. Then my flight from Chicago was scheduled to leave at 7:55. Sometimes I think my husband spends too much time watching the Weather Channel. He can be the weather drama queen. Sunday night he tells me they’re going to have 5 to 10 inches of snow in Chicago on Monday. New York is going to have lots of rain. He's telling me I may not get home on Monday.

This was one of those times that I'm glad I was on a later flight. Many people I know were scheduled for an 11:00 am flight back to New York. They spent more time at the airport then they did on the plane going back to New York. There were lots of kids playing blitz and bughouse in the departure lounge. The kids had a lot of fun, and three hours passed fairly quickly for them. I guess for the parents it was just another lengthy period of time hanging out while their kids played chess.

By the time I got to the airport things seemed to be running fairly normally. The gate agent said the flight was scheduled to take off on time. I guess I'd find out in Chicago whether I was going to get home that night or not. There were a number of kids on my flight to Chicago. There were a few games of blitz going on, but probably nothing like the scene earlier in the day. This group pictured below were wrapping things up just as they were getting ready to start the boarding process.

No time for a rematch now!
We got a plane to catch!

I don't where my husband or his Chicago friends got their weather forecast, but when I arrived I had a beautiful view of the Chicago skyline. Snow? What snow? Maybe their forecast was from February 6th, not April 6th. As for the rain in New York, it had eased off so my flight was scheduled to leave on time. This was one of those cases that flying late was better then flying early. I was about 15 minutes late arriving into New York. We had circle a bit while they brought in the delayed flights from before.

Check out the Super Nationals coverage on the US Chess Federation website. Four of my photographs are in the article, including my favorite shot that I took all weekend. The K-1 section made for some very entertaining moments that I captured. The funniest was during the Saturday evening round when the youngest competitor fell dead asleep at his board.


Banatt said...

Aww, that last photo must've been totally adorable!

It snowed in New Jersey too. It actually was warmer there than in nashville and everyone got a good laugh out of that one.

chesstiger said...

Am i glad that everything is doingable by car in Belgium. So no delayed or cancelled flights for me when i am off to a tournament.

Rolling Pawns said...

I loved that "Naptime in the K-1" photo! Did he really play, 3-year old?

Polly said...

Banatt: The little ones are so cute. The TDs have an amazing amount of patience. Crazy weather! That's April for you.

Tiger: Europe is a little more compact then the US. You can even go to tournaments in other countries without flying.

Polly said...

Rolling: He played all seven rounds, though I'm not sure how many games went the distance. The games I observed he was more interested in the captured pieces, and hamming it up for me. I'll have some more pictures in another post. Though another coach who was sharing a room with me did make the observation that in the nap time picture he had actually castled.

Ivan said...


I plan to play in the following:

Apr. 12 Marshall CC Sunday Action 5SS, G/30

Apr. 16 10 Grand Prix Points Tonight! GPP: 10 Enhanced New York

Any ideas on reasonable accommodation in N.Y.


Polly said...

Ivan: I didn't see you today at the Sunday Action. Reasonable accommodation is an oxymoron when talking about hotels in NYC. You would be better off staying out in Weehawkin, NJ and taking the ferry to NY. Though you might want to check out some of the travel sites. You might find a good deal.