Friday, April 16, 2010

Switching Gears - "I've met the enemy and she is me"

I've written often about the role the psyche plays in chess. Many games have been won or lost because of things going through the mind that might have little to do what is actually occurring on the board. Sometimes just one little random thought can derail several hours of hard fought chess. It could be something you think you see in the position that's not really there, or it could be something happening elsewhere in the room. It may not even have to do with chess. "What am I going to have for dinner before the next round?" Suddenly you're thinking about fettuccine Alfredo, instead of the bishop fianchetto on b7 taking away your escape square on g2.

I wanted to include a graphic with this post, and Googled Pogo "We have met the the enemy and he us." There are quite a few hits when searching this, and I came across this very interesting article on a poker site. The author Lou Krieger wrote the following;

"Like so many others, I loved Pogo for the simple yet profound truths that jumped out of its panels on a regular basis. "We have met the enemy, and he is us" is the most famous and most frequently quoted Pogoism, and it's applicable to most every area of life and human endeavor. I don't know whether Walt Kelly played poker or not, but that statement certainly got to the heart of the game's psychology.

As poker players, it's no secret that we are frequently our own worst enemy. We do it to ourselves repeatedly, in oh so many ways. And what's worse, we seldom realize it. We can be our own best friend, too, but we're our own worst enemy a lot more often. In our competitive zeal, in our zest for doing battle with other players, in our compelling need to impose our will on opponents, in our psychological need to outplay them, and in our longing to be recognized by our opponents as the toughest, trickiest, and most inscrutable player at the table, we ignore the obvious: We usually beat ourselves. We are the enemy. He is us."

He goes on to give some examples of what poker players do to beat themselves. In part II he gives more examples and then gives some sound advice on taking control of our thoughts and actions. I could see myself in this quote. "This imbecile always wins; why can't I?" "Why, dear God, does this always happen to me?" "If not for bad luck, I wouldn't have any luck at all."

He then goes on to write;

"Does this sound like you? Have you ever thrown cards, pounded the table and shouted out something like that, or even turned inward and said it to yourself? You know what you're doing here, don't you? Whenever you utter any of these or dozens of other similar statements that reflect your frustration, you're abandoning your locus of control over the very game you're playing. You are, in essence, walking away from whatever ability you have to take the right steps and make the right plays - the kinds of things you have to do to be a winning poker player in the long run.

It's tough making do in life or in poker when our first instinct is to deny accountability and blame others for anything and everything we don't like. It's all too easily done, and all too many of us do it in poker and in life. When we look outside ourselves for a place to point the finger, blaming forces beyond our control is often easier than taking responsibility for our own actions and holding ourselves accountable for the results we achieve."

We can replace the word poker with chess, and it becomes applicable to our own games. Poker and chess are very different in that chess has no "cards dealt" element. However it is easy to blame other things for our own failings in chess. "The room was too hot, too cold." "My opponent was _______ (pick one) banging the clock, slamming the pieces, eating at the table, chewing gum, not keeping score, etc." "The director made a bad ruling, doesn't like me, I got bad pairings." You get the idea. I've probably written at least one post on every single one of those excuses with the exception of "the director doesn't like me." Does beating up on myself when I'm playing and directing count as "the director doesn't like me"?

I can ask that question in jest, but seriously often it's the beating up on myself in the middle of a game that blinds me to what is actually happening. In round 4 at the Grand Pacific Open I reached this position after I played 17...e5 and White replied with 18. Nb3.

I realized after I had kicked his knight with e5 that I no longer had the option of protecting my knight d5 with a pawn. I could see all sorts of problems defending the knight with it being pinned to my queen, and then White being able to pin it to my rook by playing Bf3. The one move I really wanted to make would have been a disaster. I really wanted to take his knight on b3 so that I wouldn't have ugly doubled pawns on the a file. However taking the knight gives him another attacker on d5. After I defend again he'll get the third attacker with Bf3 and a second pin.

I spent 20 minutes on my next move. I alternated between trying to find a reasonable move and bemoaning the fact that I played e5 instead of e6. I found myself on the verge of wanting to burst into tears thinking I'm going to lose my third game in a row, and I don't know a damn soul up here. "Woe is me. Maybe I should have gone to Philadelphia and let everyone fuss over me. What was I thinking??" When my thoughts went from analyzing the position to analyzing my psyche I decided I had to just get up and walk away from the position for a few minutes, and trying to clear my head of all the negativity. I went to refill my water glass and look at the lovely view from the tournament room. I watched eventual champion Lawrence Day pace around outside on his opponent's time.

After a couple of minutes I composed myself and went back to the board. I finally came up with the move 18...Qe6, but I still wasn't convinced that I could hold on to the knight, or not have to give up the exchange. I expected him to play 19. Nxa5 followed by 20. Bf3. I wasn't really sure what I was going to do. Was I going to just suck it up and give up the exchange after 20...Rd8, 21. c4? I hadn't worked that part out yet. I was still trying to come to grips with my emotions, so I left the room.

On my way back from the ladies room I got talking with somebody. He asked me how I liked the tournament and how I was doing. I told him I liked the tournament but I didn't like my position and thought I might lose the exchange. Generally I don't like saying anything about my position good or bad while I'm still playing. It's not that I'm going to talk about specific moves or accidentally get some unsolicited advice. I feel as though saying "I'm winning" I might jinx myself, or if I say "I'm losing" it may be self fulfilling. But for what ever reason this conversation seemed to just relax me and let me feel like it was going to be okay even if I lost again.

When I came back to the board he had played 19. Nxa5 just as I expected. I played 19...bxa5 and he played 20. Bf3. None of this was a surprise to me. What did surprise me was that suddenly a little light bulb went off in my head, and I found the move 20...Nb4. This move allows me to break the pin along the diagonal and eliminate loss of the knight or exchange. I did end out losing the pawn on a5, but it was preferable to the alternatives.

Even though I survived "the near death experience" of losing significant material, I still felt like I was much worse in the position. I was down a pawn and he had a protected passed pawn on the c file. My psyche had not shifted from the overly defensive mindset of "I'm still in trouble, but maybe can get a draw if I'm lucky." I going for cheap shots on the back rank and trying to come up with ways to simplify down to his one extra pawn in a bishop ending. The problem with this line of thinking is missing the good moves that swing the game my way. Here is the entire game. I missed several opportunities to win back my pawn, and get an edge.


My 5th round game I was having the opposite problem. I was overly optimistic about my position, and rather oblivious to some of the dangers I faced. My opponent had pushed his pawns wildly both on the king side and the queen side. He had pushed h6 early and I retreated my bishop daring him to commit to g5. He waited until his 9th move to play g5, but at this point he had already played a6, b5 and c5. After 9...g5 10. Bg3 I expected 10...Nh5 looking to trade my dark squared bishop. I played 11. Ne5. If he plays 11...Nxe5 I'll play 12. Bxe5. However that's not exactly what happened. After 11. Ne5 Nxg3 12. Nxc6 we reached the following position.

I was expecting the very natural looking 12...Bxc6 based on the assumption that Black would want to keep his queen side pawn structure intact. That's what Black did play. However I get in trouble if he plays 12...dxc6. After 13. hxg3 the game would continue 14. hxg3 cxd4 15. cxd4 Qxd4. Black would be up a pawn with a lot of pressure on d3.

Fortunately for me he played the natural move of 12...Bxc6. Play continued 13. hxg3 Qb6 14. Nf3. This looks like a solid move for White by placing the knight on f3 and protecting d4 a second time. However the protection is temporary since Black has 14...g4. However he plays 14...O-O-O. This move allows me to pick up a pawn with 15. Nxg5. It went downhill for Black after this since he missed the threat of 16. Nxf7 forking the two rooks. Here's the game.


After that it was a matter of not being sloppy or getting overconfident. I've had too many train wrecks in positions that were so called "easy wins". I did keep myself focused, and did not let my mind get in the way of what was happening on the board. There's a fine line between thinking the worst and thinking the best. It's a matter of not letting one's emotions blind one to the reality of the position. In the first game my pessimistic mindset made it impossible for me to find the good moves that would have totally turned the game around. In the second game I made a couple of decisions based on the opponent making positionally sound moves. Fortunately my opponent was thinking on the same lines so I got away with those moves.

What to take from these two games.

1. Don't dwell on what didn't happen.

2. Be flexible and able to move on.

3. Look beyond so called sound positional moves.

4. Expect and look for the unexpected.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

WaCkY wEdNeSdAy!!

It's been awhile since I've done one of these posts, but this last Friday was a Wacky Wednesday type of evening. Having gotten back from the west coast on Tuesday morning, I was still rather tired when Thursday came around. Instead of heading down to the Marshall for my weekly cracktion fix, I decided I would wait until Friday and play at a club in Connecticut. I get players that come down from that area to play on Mondays at my club, so I like to try to reciprocate by going up there sometimes.

If anyone has been involved with trying to get a chess club up and running, then he knows that there are some growing pains. Also in these days of Internet play, older clubs sometimes have trouble keeping people coming back for more. We've had that problem at the Bob Peretz Chess Club. At one point in the Fall 2008, we were on the verge of disbanding because we were down to the same 3 to 4 people coming every Monday night. Things picked up all of sudden one Monday before Veteran's Day. Since then we've had decent attendance. Ask me what I did to make it happen. I don't know. People just started coming, and kept adding names to my email list.

I've been trying to help out other local clubs by sending out their announcements to the people on my email list. I was hoping hoping that would bring a few more people on Friday night. It didn't help. Of the 8 people who showed up, only one other person besides myself were from outside of the immediate area. Unfortunately 8 people for quads doesn't always work out well in terms of the sections. One of the things I appreciate about the Westfield Quads is the fact that attendance is usually over 40 which means the sections are going to be pretty reasonable in terms of rating distribution. I've usually been very happy with which section I've been in. The first time I went the rating spread was 1650 - 1705.

So what happens when you have 8 players for quads and 5 of them are rated under 1200? You have a lower section that is of reasonable rating distribution. (1003, 820, 737, unr). Then you have a top section that is totally out of whack. (2269, 2047, 1700, 1177). The TD had though about playing which would have added a 2168 to the top quad and made a 5 player Swiss in the bottom section. That would have made me shark bait for the master and two experts which would not have bothered me in the least. I'm used to that. It would have made for a more pleasant evening for the provisionally rated 1177 that ended out in the top section.

My first round game was actually reasonable. I did have to give up my queen for a rook and a bishop, but I was getting some counter play. My opponent felt I had good drawing chances until I started blundering pawns. In the second round I played horribly against Leif Pressman. The last few times I've played him having White I've made the same mistake each time. I hate when I don't remember what happened the last time I played the same opponent, and make the exact same mistake. It sucks to be senile at 55.

Since the other game in our section was done in about 10 minutes, I resigned fairly quickly. I just wanted get the last game over with and go home. At this point I was totally annoyed about driving 45 minutes up Interstate 95 on a Friday night (East Coast readers will understand!) in order to play like a moron against someone I play a lot at the Marshall. The last round I'm playing the poor kid who is getting crushed in our section. I was his lowest rated opponent, and even I beat him quickly.

This is the game.


Not a beautiful game, but there are some nice examples of pins and a fork. This type of game is always good for instruction.

I felt bad for the kid. It's got to be tough playing in a section when the next lowest rated player outrates you by almost 600 points. I've played plenty of 2300 players, but I don't think I've ever been in a quad with 3 masters. Even when I played in the St. John's Masters I didn't play all 2200+ players. During the four times I played in the event I played a couple of 2000s, 1900s and even another 1700. I knew what I was getting myself into when I entered those events. Then again there are times I think I'm a masochist, and there are plenty of sadists who are willing to beat me up over the chess board. :-)

It's easy to play armchair quarterback and suggest would should have been done. In the same position I might have done the exact same thing the director did in keeping the numbers even. I hate giving byes, but sometimes byes are better then mismatches. However my post mortem analysis suggests that perhaps it would have been better to for the director to play in the top section giving the two players 2000+ at least two decent games, and letting the 1100 player play his peers. Having an odd number in one section is annoying, but I suspect some of the games would have ended quickly enough that one could do cross round pairings by having the bye from the first round play the first player to lose. That player becomes the second round bye.

I think I'll hold off making that trip again. I'll stick to my own quads or Westfield.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Grand Pacific Open Wrap Up

I'm back in New York, and thoroughly recovered from any residual jet lag I any have had from my albeit too brief trip to Victoria, British Columbia. Here is my rather belated report on last round action at the Grand Pacific Open. Monday turned out to be the nicest day of the weekend. It always seems to be that on the last day of a trip is when the nice weather comes. It was beautiful and sunny.

April tulip

One of the things that makes this particular tournament venue unique is the location of the tournament room. The hotel has a lovely ballroom right off the lobby with big windows that let in lots of light. There's a patio that surrounds the entire area so players can wander outside between moves to soak up the sunshine, take in the view, or for the nicotine addicts take a few puffs on their cigarette. Below is a view of the harbor that is seen from the ballroom. I must say it's delightful change from the usual windowless ballrooms or meeting rooms that most weekend tournaments are held in.

Victoria Harbor on a sunny Easter Monday.

Behind every well organized tournament is a hard working staff.
Mark S. Dutton, International Arbiter
with organizers Brian Raymer and Roger Patterson

As mentioned in my previous post there were 3 players with 4.5 points; FM Jack Yoos, FM Holger Grund and IM Lawrence Day. Yoos and Grund were paired against each other, and Day dropped down to play 13 year old Tanraj Sohal who had 4 points. Tanraj was not the highest 4 pointer, but due to color considerations he ended out playing Day. The arbiter had to explain twice why this pairing was made. Once to the player, and once to his mother.

People forget that the lowest ranked player from the higher score group doesn't automatically play the highest ranked in the next score group. If the colors work out right then that will be the case. If the highest ranked player is due the same color as the player who is dropping, and there is another player in the score group due the opposite color then there are possibilities of making a switch. Since it was the last round of a 6 round tournament it was important to balance the colors if possible. Nothing could be done about the 2w - 4b split on board 1, but 3w - 3b could be accomplished on board 2.

Yoos and Grund played to win, but ended out drawing to score 5 points. Day won against Sohul to score 5.5 and take clear first. NM Radu-Laurentiu Roua won his last round game to join Yoos and Grund in a 3 way tie for 2nd-4th.

IM Lawrence Day vs Tanraj Sohul

Final position Day - Sohul
Yes that is a 2nd White queen on h8

As for myself, I finished off my tournament with a draw. I was hoping to win so that I'd finish with an even score. 2.5 - 3.5 was not a terrible score. It could have been much worse. However it also could have been better if I had played a little better, especially in my 4th round draw. Here is my last round game. The Sunday games will be in a separate post as there are other aspects of the games that warrant discussion.


After all the games were done and the results determined they gave out the prizes. They have a nice awards ceremony and present the players with their prizes in cash. It's a tradition that the winners hold up and fan out their bills. The youngest winner was 7 year old Joshua Doknjas who tied for 2nd in the Under 1400 section.

Show me the money!

Grund, Yoos and Roua 2nd - 4th

1st place IM Lawrence Day.

Complete results and games can be found at

After the awards ceremony there was a bughouse tournament. It was tempting to play, but I decided I did not want to humiliate myself by playing like an idiot with an unknown partner. Instead I used the gift card I received as the furthest traveler to have lunch at The Bard & Banker Pub. This is fairly new restaurant that has opened in an old bank building. It's large with high ceilings and nice atmosphere. They have live music in the evenings. I guess that evening's singer was doing a sound check. He sang one song and left. The food was good and they had a nice selection of wines and beers including some local brews and wines.

After lunch I did a little last minute shopping. There is a British Columbia winery that has a shop in Victoria. On our last trip to Victoria we did a tasting and brought back some wonderful wines. We can't get their wines in the States so I picked up a couple of bottles of Mission Hill wine before heading back. Then it was time to gather my belongings and walk down to the Victoria Clipper ferry back to Seattle. When discussing the possibility of flying into Victoria, one person made a very good point. How often can you take a boat right to your hotel?

As you can see from the pictures below, the trip back to Seattle was much calmer then the trip to Victoria. Next year's tournament will be as late as it can ever be. Easter is very late in 2011. The dates are April 22 - 25th. The weather should be much better in late April. For a nice change of scenery and a well run FIDE rated event, I highly recommend the Grand Pacific Open. I like the time control with the 30 second increment.

Is there a pot of gold at the end of that rainbow?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Grand Pacific Open - Sunday

When we came in for our 4th round today, it looked like the Easter Bunny had stopped by. Sitting on top of the rooks were chocolate Easter eggs. It was a clever touch on the organizer's part. I needed a little chocolate after yesterday's ugliness.

Happy Easter!

Last night after the last game was done they had a blitz tournament. I decided not to play. I figured I did enough losing for the day without making worse by playing blitz. There were 28 players in the blitz, a good portion of them being kids. The winner was Tanraj Sohal, pictured below.
Tanraj Sohal

Just as I predicted, the 4 3-0 players all drew. That left 5 players with 3.5 going into round 5. Black won on the top 3 boards so it's making for an ugly color situation on board 1. There are 3 players with 4.5. # 1 seed, FM Jack Yoos is White against #2 FM Holger Grund. Grund has the misfortune of getting 4 blacks. #4 IM Lawrence Day is White against #13 Tanraj Sohal. Sohul has 4 points. There are three other players with 4 points. I suspect with all those players a half point behind we won't see any quick draws on the top boards.

FM Jack Yoos

IM Lawrence Day

Having reported on what's happening on the top boards, now for the report from the bottom boards.
The one who traveled the farthest.

The first round today was a tough one. I had to really suck it up, and work through a complicated position. I was playing an unrated. There are weak unrateds and there are strong unrateds. The strong ones usually have a Russian sounding name. His last name was Bower, so I could not make any judgments based on the name. I didn't know whether this was his first tournament or whether he might have a provisional rating that hasn't been published. None of that stuff matters when I'm faced with a difficult position.

My opponent had several different pins, and I was convinced I was going was going to lose a piece. As I was looking at the board, I was getting more and more angry with myself. The thought of losing again was very upsetting. At one point during my analysis I stopped being able to figure out what was going on in the position. It was my move. I got up from the board, went over to refill my water glass, and try to clear my head. Sometimes that's the only way I can get my mind off of the negative thoughts. I came back to the board and after several minutes of analyzing, I made a move. I was still not convinced I could escape the mess I had made. I left the room while my opponent was thinking.

When I came back inside and sat down, suddenly it dawned on me. I had a way to save my piece. I could move the pinned piece attacking my opponent's queen. I ended out with ugly doubled pawns. My opponent would win one of them, but being down a pawn was far better then what I thought was going to happen. My opponent misplayed the position and I was able to get some counter play and got the pawn back. I offered a draw which he refused. He won another pawn, but there wasn't really a way to exploit it. He ended out offering me a draw, which I took.

With a 30 second increment one is required to keep score the entire time. I like keeping score as long as I can when playing other time controls, but I was having problems. I left out a couple of moves, so the position on the Monroi didn't look like the position on the board. I ended out making very strange looking moves on the Monroi in order to keep some semblance of a score. I didn't have enough time to borrow my opponent's score sheet to figure out where I messed up. If anyone tried to follow the game live, they would have seen the white queen go from b2 to d8+. I had left out the move Qd2.

In round 5 I had crazy game where my opponent allowed me to win a couple of pawns and the exchange. It was not an easy win from there. He had some play on the dark squares and annoying little threats. I eventually was able to win another piece, and finally got the elusive first win of the tournament.

I will post the games with some analysis later. It's late and Monday's round is at 10:00 am. If you can't wait for my games they are on the Monroi website under Grand Pacific Open. I probably won't make another post until I get back to the airport in Seattle or back to New York.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Grand Pacific Open - Mid Tournament Report

I'm at the half way point of the Grand Pacific Open here in Victoria, BC. I won't talk about how my tournament is going quite yet. However if you want to cheat without looking ahead, feel free to check out There you can find my third round game. Just click on replay games. You will have to sign up to access the games, but it's free.

The tournament is being held at the Hotel Grand Pacific which is located right by the harbor. It certainly was very easy to get to from the ferry terminal. It's a very beautiful hotel, and probably one the more expensive ones in Victoria. It's not the one my husband and I stay in when we come here. We usually stay at the Best Western down the street which is more utilitarian, but fits our budget. However the tournament room rate is $99.00 a night, so why stay anywhere else? Also it's important to support the organizer by staying at the host hotel, who in this case is also one of the sponsors. It's probably one of the nicest hotels I've stayed in for a chess tournament.
Hotel Grand Pacific

One of the views from my room.

When packing for an out of town event, it's hard to know what to bring and what to leave home. Something I always bring is a set, board and clock. In this particular case I could have left those things back home. The tournament room is completely equipped with sets, boards and clocks. The sets are not the typical cheap plastic ones that one might see at the few tournaments in the United States that do provide equipment. Instead every board is set up with the nicely weighted House of Staunton sets. The cheap sets were in the skittles room. However since even at tournaments where sets are provided, there usually are not any in the skittles room.

I could have left home without this stuff.

When packing for a trip on the other coast, it's hard to know what to bring. For the most part I brought the right clothing. I tend to bring layers so that I can add on or peel off depending on weather conditions. In the playing room I keep having to add layers. The air conditioning has been working a little too well. However when leaving New York where it was 70 degrees, it's hard to remember everything one might need. Yesterday I went out for a walk to find breakfast. My first stop was a souvenir shop to find a hat and gloves!

Don't leave home without these!

Enough on the weather! Back to the tournament venue. The playing room is on the main floor right off the lobby. There are big picture windows through out the room that gives everyone nice views of the harbor, and lets in lots of sunlight or perhaps cloud light might be more accurate.

The masses
The top boards.
Nice trophy that I will not win.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I made it just in time to take a quick shower, and change into fresh clothes. I came down to the tournament hall about five minutes before 6:00 pm. As I walk in I hear one of the organizers say "I'm waiting for some of the paid entries to check in."

I said "I'm one of those paid entries."

He said "You must be Polly Wright."

"Yes, I guess that wasn't hard to figure out since there aren't that many women playing." Probably more to the point was a woman without a Canadian accent. I would have trouble passing myself off as Canadian. It doesn't matter how many times I end a question with "eh?".

In the first round I was paired against Roger Patterson who is one of the organizers and rated 2204. It wasn't a particularly exciting game. He had a bit of an edge out of the opening, but I did manage to regroup. I was rather surprised when he offered me a draw on move 24. After the day I had getting here, I was not one to turn down a draw against a master. During the game he seemed a bit distracted by the goings on. I suspect he may have wanted to stay on top of things as one of the organizers. There wasn't much in the position, so with correct play I should be able to hold it.

Here's the game.


I guess I wasn't the only one who was having difficulty getting from the mainland to Victoria. There were a number of no-shows, or people having to request first round byes.

Saturday it was back to reality for me. I was paired against a 2032 who had taken a first round bye. I struggled out of the opening, and a few indecisive moves caught up with me. Not a pretty game, but here it is.


In round 3 I finally got paired "down". That's if you can call playing a teenager with a 1614 rating getting paired down. I'm not sure what happened, but I just kept messing up my analysis. I can't really blame it on the clock. The time limit was Game/90 with a 30 second increment. It's the first time I've played with an increment in a real tournament. I don't count games on ICC or FICS as real chess. I did eventually run out of time, but I was already busted at that point. It was what I call a clock resignation. That's when one runs out of time in a lost position. This game went out on the Monroi broadcast. If anyone wants to follow my remaining games live they will be on


Meanwhile at the top of the tournament there are 4 players with 3-0 scores:

FM Jack Yoos
FM Holger Grund
IM Lawrence Day
NM Harry Moore.

Behind them are another 8 players with 2.5. Today will either clear things up, or cause a big logjam at the top if the 3-0 scorers draw. Hopefully I can get one in the win column. It will be very embarrassing to come all this way, and not win any games.

On the tourist front; Victoria is a beautiful city at night. I went out after my 3rd round and walked around and took pictures of some of the various landmarks that are beautifully lit up at night. These pictures came out much better then the ones I took on my last trip here.

The Empress Hotel
Famous for afternoon tea.

Government Building at night.
It looks like Christmas.
Weather wise it feels like Christmas.

In reality it's Easter Sunday.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Taking a No Boat from Seattle

Perhaps I spoke to soon about things that could happen on this trip. I didn’t sleep particularly well. It wasn’t helped by the fact that when I set the alarm on my iPod to wake me up, I forgot unlike cell phones, iPods don’t adjust to local time automatically. The alarm went off and thought wow I really fell asleep for a long time. Then when I got up and saw the clock in the room it said 3:10 am. Then I realized what I had done. Instead of changing the time on the iPod I just reset the alarm for 9:10 am.

Not a ferry nice day.

I got down to the Victoria Clipper terminal only to find out that the ferry had been canceled due to 7 to 12 foot waves and high winds. It seems like the rainy windy weather of the east coast followed me westward. They’ve loaded us onto buses, and are driving us to Tsawassen, BC where we’ll take the BC ferry from there to Swartz Bay. Then our bus takes us to Victoria. They gave us breakfast on the bus, and I have voucher for 50% of on my next Victoria Clipper ticket.

I was kind of wondering what happens if it’s too rough to sail from there. However I was told the ferries from there are much bigger, and can handle the rough water better. In fact the bus itself goes on the boat. I was keeping my fingers crossed that I will make it in time for the first round.

This wasn’t exactly what I had in mind, but it’s actually a very pretty ride heading north on I-5 towards Vancouver. We’ve gone through mountains and forests. I’m seeing better scenery then I would see on the boat. I am writing this portion on the bus. There is no Internet on the bus. I ‘m doing it offline, and then by the time you are reading this I will be at the hotel with an Internet connection.

We’ve just reached the Canadian border. I still don’t know how this is going to work. Hopefully they won’t make us unload all our stuff from the bus. It’s been a bit challenging getting around with my stuff. My ankle is still a little achy this morning after my long trek from Sea-Tac airport to the light rail train into downtown Seattle. We had to take everything off the bus, but fortunately it was pretty simple. “How long are you here for?’ How did you get here?” How are you getting back?” "Do you have a return ticket?" “What do you do?" “Are you on holiday?”

Long wait to go to United States, eh?

The bus driver had an all news station on, and they were doing traffic reports.They’re announcing how long the wait is at the border.Coming into Canada is not bad. Leaving? Forget about it! Three and half hour wait.The announcer says “If you don’t need to go to the US, don’t bother going , it’s pointless."

The light was red? What light?

Some tractor-trailer blocked the intersection. Our bus driver is very funny. He said “I can’t use any hand gestures to show how I feel, but feel free to let him know how you feel. That got some laughs. The next big question is “What ferry will we make?” We have a reservation on the 12:00 ferry. I said they should have ferry reports. He said that’s coming.Sure enough the ferry report comes on and they tell which ones are 100% full, and what percentage full others are. The announcer says the noon ferry is 100% full. No problem.We have a reservation, right? There’s a problem. If you’re not there a half hour early you lose your spot.

Now we’re making the 1:00 pm ferry. Except, we’re seeing the ferry version of airport delays. It’s so windy they only have one ferry slip open. A ferry coming from another place has to come in first, disembark the incoming people, embark the outgoing people, and depart. Then our ferry can come in and do the same thing. It was more like 2:20 by the time we pushed off.

I am so thankful that I don’t get motion sick. Though many hours later as I’m writing I feel like I’m still on the boat rocking in the waves. They were making announcements about the availability of bags just in case. I loved this one announcement “Please use the bags if you have an urge to purge.” I was eating lunch in one of the dining areas. Two young woman were sitting next to me. One of them was not feeling so good. As we hit one rough spot plates went sliding across the table. It was impressive as everyone simultaneously reached for the plates and managed not to let anything fall. It helps that there are little ridges around the edge of the tables.

One of the other funny announcements I heard was “To the kids who are running around the boat. Don't. Running is bad. Walking is good.” Walking was challenging. Since it was a buffet I kept going up by course for my food. Holding a plate in one hand, cane in the other and trying walk with the boat rolling was quite a trick. I found myself using my cane as a third leg to keep myself from falling flat on my face. On one those trips back from the buffet table I thought I was going to land in someone's lap. Fortunately the balance exercises I've been doing in physical therapy seem to be helping. Since I had been having a good week not having to use the cane much, I almost didn’t bring it with me. However I didn't want to go have to buy one in case I found myself needing it. Better to be safe then sorry.

I wanted to go outside and take pictures, but they were not letting anyone go out on the decks because they were concerned that someone might actually get blown off. The pictures I took are through the windows, but one gets the idea of how rough it was.

Rough water!

This You Tube video pretty much sums up what the weather was like. Mill Bay is across the Saanich Inlet. Victoria is on the Saanich Peninsula.

Eventually we get into calmer waters as we go through the various islands. It's very windy, but at least I can walk around the boat without feeling as though I'm going to get tossed around. As I was wondering around I came across a lady with a golden retriever. I have a real weakness for dogs. I would love to have one, but with my crazy schedule it just wouldn't work. So I find myself photographing and playing with other people's dogs. I could could see that she was a service dog, so I asked before petting her, or taking pictures. There are certain etiquette rules for dealing with a working dog. This particular dog was not working at the moment. She was on her way to "work". A commuting dog so to speak.

Meet Poppy

I can't resist dogs, and this one is a beauty. She's a therapy dog provided by PADS (Pacific Assistance Dog Society). I met her handler on the boat. She takes the dog to visit children with cancer, hospices, and hospitals. As the photo below shows Poppy is a child magnet. She loves all the attention. She certainly brightened up my rainy day.

Poppy loving all the attention.

Eventually it was time to head back down to the bus as we got close to Swartz Bay. Below is a picture of the lower deck where buses and trucks are parked, along with numerous cars.

Finally the ferry arrives and then our bus continues to Victoria harbor where we were dropped off at the Victoria Clipper terminal. Fortunately the hotel is just across the street about a block away.

Here at last!

I was walking towards the hotel with my suitcase in tow. Some nice woman comes up to me and says "May I ask where you're going?" I told her the Grand Pacific Hotel. She asked me if she could help me with the suitcase. I declined her offer since it wasn't all the far, but I did thank her.

I arrived at 5:15. 45 minutes until round 1. That gave me enough time to shower and change.

Despite the crazy trip to get here, it was actually quite fun. Hats off to Victoria Clipper for getting us here safely. Thanks to Lee the Gray Line bus driver for all his insights and humor, and to Jessica our Victoria Clipper representative for pulling this all together. I did find out later that at one point the BC Ferries weren't running. Fortunately they were when I needed them.

Stay tuned for tournament reports in upcoming posts.

Greetings from Seattle

I really should be in bed right now. It's 1:44 am in New York, but 10:44 am in Seattle. First leg of my journey is completed. The flight was a little late leaving New York, but otherwise pretty uneventful. I would have been a lot happier if I discovered before I got on the plane that my new Mac laptop uses Firewire 2. I had the wrong connector for my external drive, so all the stuff I was going to watch did not get watched. Not for nothing but the NBC television shows that were showing on the plane were pretty lame. Maybe that's why I don't watch much television. If that's the worst thing I have to deal with this trip, I won't complain.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Victoria Bound!

Greetings from JFK airport where I am waiting to board a flight to Seattle. I will spend the night in Seattle, and on Friday morning board the Victoria Clipper to Victoria, BC. Unfortunately the view of Victoria Harbor will not look anything like the picture below I took in June of 2006. The forecast is rain, followed by more rain. What does one expect early April in the Pacific Northwest?
Victoria Harbor

Government Building in evening.

However it's not the weather and great outdoors that brings me to Victoria. I am playing in the Grand Pacific Open. April 2 - 5. No this is not an April Fools joke. Why in earth would I travel cross country and out of the country to play chess, when the Philadelphia Open is going on at the same time? Because I can.

This has been a strange year for me chess-wise and otherwise. Who would have thought I'd be riding around the tournament room at the Liberty Bell being pushed in a wheelchair? Or being pushed through airports to and from Bermuda in a wheelchair. After awhile the attention was just too much. With that in mind I decided I wanted to get far away from the New York chess scene that extends all the way down to Philadelphia. Everywhere I play, I get asked "How's the ankle? Are you feeling better?" The answer is, "I'm feeling better, physical therapy is going well, and thank you for asking. By the way, how are you doing in the tournament so far?"

In the last few weeks I've been able to get myself down to The Marshall Chess Club completely on mass transit. I've ridden the subway on the weekend, and I've ridden it at rush hour. Once I hit the "subway at rush hour" milestone I knew I was on my way back to normality. Yes there are time I still am using the cane, but need is decreasing day by day. So this trip was all about getting on an airplane by myself with none of my friends making a fuss over me. Not that I did not appreciate all the help from various tournament directors, teammates and chess friends. I would have never been able to get out as much as I did without their help. But now I just want to be able to travel without needing extraordinary measure to get me there.

Tomorrow I will start playing in a tournament where I don't think I'll know a single person. Maybe I'll meet someone who reads my blog, but maybe I won't. It doesn't matter. It will be nice to play in a tournament where I will face people I've never played before. I'll get to meet some new people. It's been 32 years since I last played in Canada. Maybe I'll have to add Canadian provinces to my list of states.

Stay tuned for tournaments reports.