Vancouver,Victoria and Photos
July 24, 2009 • General
Hello everyone! It just somehow has worked out that I have a few hours of downtime today before I go take care of business in New York City, so I will attempt to recap the past week.
Vancouver: “The Return”
In my last blog, I really wore out my fingers with the blog I wrote as I had to race against the clock and I promptly passed out immediately once I boarded the flight due to massive sleep deprivation. I did wake up a few hours later and had the luxury of sitting next to a couple of cute girls from New Jersey who were headed up to Whistler for some hiking. Immediately, I started giving them many ideas of what to do out there which really reminded me of all the great memories I had from last summer. Once I arrived in Vancouver, I promptly went out and enjoyed the afternoon with my friend Bruce out in the burbs. It involved many games of Seirawan Chess which was highly enjoyable for both of us.
These are the two pieces which can come onto the board much like in crazyhouse, but with different move abilities. The hawk can move like a knight&bishop while the elephant can move like a rook&knight. I find this game to be a fun distraction when I am not playing serious chess as there is a lot of creativity to it. Hopefully in time, it will become popular, but for the meantime it remains a game which is only played in Washington&Vancouver primarily.
After all this fun, I headed downtown to stay at my friend Jack’s place in the West End. When I was living in Vancouver last year, I lived in Yaletown which was on the other end of downtown. Sorry if the image below is not perfect, but it is the best I can do to illustrate. Nevertheless, after having been gone for seven months, it was really nice to be situated right next to Stanley Park which I have explored on many, many different occasions. However, I must admit that after leaving Vancouver on such a sour note at the end of last year, I really enjoyed being back now that I am at peace and happy compared to where I was at the time. On Sunday, I chose to explore the North Shore and Granville Island which were both a lot of fun. The perfect sunny days of summer in the Pacific Northwest cannot be beaten anywhere else in the world.
Having spent both Saturday and Sunday in Vancouver, I caught the ferry from Tsawwassen Terminal. The ferries here serve as to the Gulf Islands and Victoria. Surprisingly, I never had a chance to get out to Victoria last summer, and I was out of town when several of my friends took a trip out to Salt Spring Island. Nevertheless, as an experience Vancouverite in many ways, I would recommend that anyone who comes to British Columbia MUST take the ferry to Victoria or the Gulf Islands at some point. The views of the mountains and islands are spectacular and must be seen during the summer (See pictures at the bottom).
Once I arrived at Schwartz Bay Ferry Terminal in Victoria, I was greeted by Canadian Youth Chess Championship organizer, Brian Raymer. After my arrival, we then went to the Victoria International Airport where we were joined by GM Mark Bluvshtein who was fresh off of his win in the Canadian Open. Mark and I first played way back at the World Youth Chess Championship in Oropesa, Spain in 2001. I won that encounter and we didn’t really speak much after that. But during the Montreal International and Dresden Olympiad, I had the opportunity to hang around Pascal,Mark and Igor a lot, so we all became friends. One thing which I have found about the Canadian chessplayers in general is that many of them have a much more laid back attitude than most of the current top American players.
Victoria: “Heavendom on Earth”
Right after Mark and I arrived in downtown Victoria, we had about one hour before our live exhibition. I checked into the Grand Pacific Hotel (Pictures from my room will be at the bottom) and immediately rushed out to get some quick lunch. I took a nice stroll down Government Street which is the main street with tourist shops and restaurants. Considering what I had heard from one of my friends who lives there about it being boring, I was pleasantly surprised. After eating a quick ham and cheese panini, I headed to the Royal British Columbia Museum for the live exhibition with Mark. For the game itself, we used actual people as pieces to make it a public event in which all the kids could participate as well. However, due to the side view which Mark and I had of the board; for us, it became a blindfold game as we could not really assess the position with all these pieces obstructing our view. As far as the game itself is concerned, Mark got White and I played the Two Knights Tango. Mark made a rather serious error pretty quickly and was losing before long. However, I tried to get cute and simplify it into a winning king and pawn endgame for the audience only to realize to my horror that instead of being up a pawn in the endgame, I had sacked my h7 pawn for the initiative earlier! This led to a king and pawn endgame which was drawn. Despite the heat and sun tan which I got during the game, it was a positive experience for everyone and local media covered the event.
Having finished the live exhibition, I returned to the hotel and comfort of my room so I could cool off before my simul which was scheduled to begin an hour later. Surprisingly, I did not follow my own advice and I instead went out and bought some souvenirs from local shops on Government Street! This left me a bit rushed and I ran back to my hotel and dropped off the gifts before I started my simul. I assumed the simul would be much like others I have played in, but of the 40 players who I faced, very few were simply blown off the board in 15 moves like I was expecting. In fact, in most of the games, it took me 20 moves before people started cracking. By the end of the simul, I had won 37 games, drawn 2 and lost 1. Congrats to the three people who scored points off of me! I can assure you that it won’t happen in a real game, at least not for the next 8 years since they won’t be GMs before then! In the evening, Mark and I went out to a nice Irish Pub/Restaurant where I had a delicious Halibut burger and spent a lot of time reminiscing about the past while drinking pitchers of beer! Overall, it was a great day despite being rather long and hectic for me.
On the second day, Mark and I were present for the official opening ceremony of the Canadian Youth Chess Championship. At the start we both said a few words, although neither of us were particularly brilliant with our choice of words, the general message went over well and off the tournament went! Having completed my obligations for the tournament, I went out and explored the waterfront and contemplated kayaking in the harbour but deciding against it due to the heat of the day. I also walked through more of downtown Victoria including Antique Row, Bastion Square and other notable landmarks. I returned to the Grand Pacific in the early evening to drop in and see how the actual games were going. It was at this point, that I was approached by FM Eric Hansen about playing some time odds blitz. For those who aren’t aware, Eric already has a 2400 Fide rating and two IM norms. Surprisingly, he also hails from Calgary, AB, Canada which is rather surprising considering the general lack of strong talents on the west coast of Canada. Nevertheless, we played 18 games at 3-1 time odds with me winning 11-7. Unfortunately, I seem to have hit a certain point where I can still win, but nowhere near as much as I once could. I strongly suspect this has a lot to do with my very serious approach and attitude towards classical chess these days. After this, Mark,Eric and I went out to a Ric’s Seafood Grill where we enjoyed a few drinks while talking about all the bizarre and wild events which we have seen recently at the various tournaments.
The following morning, I left the hotel quite early and caught the 8:45 AM ferry back to Vancouver as it takes approximately 90 minutes on the ferry and 60 minutes to get from Tsawwassen to downtown Vancouver. By leaving when I did, this also gave me an opportunity to enjoy the HSBC Celebration of Lights which opened that evening with Team Canada fireworks. In the early afternoon, my good friend Jack got off of work and we went out and had a few drinks out on the patio’s while watching English Bay become progressively more and more crowded as the afternoon turned into the evening. It is hard for me to come up with a comparison, but the atmosphere becomes crazier and crazier as 100,000 people come from the suburbs of Vancouver and simply invade all the surrounding beaches (English Bay, Kits Beach, Jericho Beach). For those who are interested in actual video of the fireworks, I have uploaded them to my facebook page. Jack and I went off and ate some excellent sushi at this quaint Japanese restaurant called Yoshi’s on Denman Street near Stanley Park about an hour before the fireworks were supposed to begin (they start at sundown). Finally with all the streets closed off and everyone swarming, the fireworks from Team Canada kicked off the show and it was exciting and enjoyable. Having said that, I would still not compare it to the July 4 celebrations as these firework shows have specific themes and don’t last as long. Once the show ended, it was amusing seeing thousands of people walking the other direction. Thus ended the spectacle which always becomes funnier every year.
On Thursday morning, I finally packed my bags and got ready to leave but not before heading off to my favorite Chapters spot on Robson&Howe for some Starbucks with Jack,Bruce and Michelle. Sadly, it all ended too quickly, but as I am moving to Seattle in September, I will be back to see everyone in the near future! So ends another chapter in my summer, but if every tournament/vacation is this much fun, I am going to want to always be traveling (let’s hope I don’t lose my mind like Ivanchuk) and enjoying life. On that note, I hope everyone enjoyed this posting and I will add a couple more once I am in Mainz for the Chess Tigers Festival which I played in last year having much success. That’s all for now, folks!
P.S. Enjoy the following pictures below!
Some clown trying to look cool with sunglasses and a New Yorker magazine sticking out of his bag!
A spectacular view of the water and mountains!
A view of the Queen of New Westminster. Enough cannot be said about BC Ferries and the great services they provide for British Columbia residents.
I am not sure why, but I just like this view looking back in the opposite direction.
A view of the harbour and downtown Victoria from my room at the Grand Pacific Hotel!
A view of the parliament buildings.
The famous Empress hotel in downtown Victoria.
A view of the Royal British Columbia Museum where Mark and I did our live exhibition.
One last view of the parliament buildings at night time and what a view it is!