Thursday, April 21, 2011

Road Trip!!

Time for Polly's traveling chess circus to take to the skies and waters and head to the Pacific Northwest for an Easter weekend of chess.  I am making a return appearance to the Grand Pacific Open in Victoria, British Columbia.  Hopefully this year I will have smooth sailing from Seattle to Victoria, and not a ferry long side trip.  Being that it's late April the weather should be better.  However with the Pacific Northwest you just never know.

I hemmed and hawed over whether I wanted to make the trip again.  The other option was the Philadelphia Open which would have taken less time to get to, but it's too much like playing in New York.  I'm sure I would have played several of the usual suspects from the Marshall Chess Club that I inevitably play when I go to Philadelphia.  I don't need much of an excuse to jump on an airplane and travel across the country.  However playing chess is as good an excuse as any.

This is the first of three chess trips planned between now and Memorial Day weekend.  I can't tell you where I'll be playing chess from June onward.  I can tell you one place I will not be returning to.  I am not going back to Las Vegas.  As the old expression goes "what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas."  This year what happens in Vegas is staying in Vegas without me.  I'm not knocking the tournament itself.  The National Open is top notch in terms of organization and directing staff.  However after two straight miserable tournaments out there I've come to the conclusion that all the noise and lights of the casino atmosphere is too distracting.  The first year I blamed it on jet lag and playing the two day schedule.  Last year I came in earlier, played the three day schedule and still my tournament sucked.  Trying to decompress between games was too difficult with the cacophony of ringing bells and whistles of the slot machines, the bright lights and the cigarette smoke.

Victoria, on the other hand is Old World charm at it's best without having to go to Europe.   One can do afternoon tea at the Empress Hotel pictured below.  It's a beautiful old hotel.  No the tournament is not held there.  However I don't think I could even get a closet in that hotel at the chess rate.

 A three tiers of delicious tea sandwiches and pastries.  A meal in itself.

The Empress sits at the head of the harbor. There are all sorts of boats that go out for sails around the harbor.  There are also whale watching tours.  Being the intrepid one I got on one those little Zodiacs and went to see whales.   I did see whales, but that won't be a journey  I'll be taking on this trip.  Whale watching in late June is one thing.  Whale watching in April is a whole other thing.

Life on the high seas? I had a whale of a good time!

Old ship at dock.

Provincial Government Building at dusk.

Spring in Victoria.  Beautiful flowers in bloom.

However it's not just the city itself that draws me back.  It's really nicely organized tournament.  Having learned from last year I will be traveling much lighter this year.  I have my Mon Roi, a notebook, and a few pens for chess equipment.  I didn't bring a board, set or clock because all of that is provided.  For my European readers that's a given.  However if I showed up in Philadelphia or almost any other weekend Swiss in the United states without all my gear I might be running around trying to borrow a set and board if my opponent didn't bring one.  Even worse I might be at the mercy of the kid who shows up with pink and purple chess pieces on a neon pink board, or the old guy with the ancient BHB analog clock and a plastic chess set from 1969 with a broken cross on the king.

I'll be providing periodic updates throughout the weekend, and perhaps some games if time allows.  If you can't wait for me to post games they will be live on the Mon Roi website.  In case you didn't notice I did post some games from the club championship.  I must have left everyone speechless because neither game has evoked one single comment.  :-)

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