Tag Archives: travel

Samsonite Man

“They say I’m a rolling stone
Where I rest my head is my home,
I let it be known
that I’m a Samsonite Man”

I got back last week from my 2-month sojourn to Europe. I’ll recap the Cannes event in a couple posts over the next week or so, but for now, I’ll say that it didn’t end well for me. I started off with 4.5/6 and I seemed to be playing good chess – I had serious chances to beat two 2600+ GMs and I wasn’t in any trouble in my other games. However, in my next 3 games, I reached 3 better positions only to score 1 point!

I had higher hopes for this trip, especially after a shared first in Seville, but I only moved up from 2540 to 2549 FIDE for the March list. That’s still a career peak (along with a 2610 USCF rating), so it’s not all bad news …

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En España, de nuevo

Yesterday evening, I arrived in Spain after a 30-hour trip from San Francisco that began on Tuesday afternoon. I’m here for the Sevilla Open, which begins on January 8th – the first of four tournaments I will be playing on this trip (the rumors of my imminent retirement have been greatly exaggerated).

My trip went from SFO to Amsterdam to London to Seville. There were delays on each flight, but nothing too serious. The first one was delayed because the KLM plane from Amsterdam was late (because of the enhanced security measures at Schipol Airport), while the flight from Amsterdam to London was delayed because London has been receiving record snowfall these past couple weeks.

Once I got to Heathrow, I was a bit worried that I’d be grounded there. British Airways had cancelled all their flights to Spain that afternoon and evening, and I was desperately hoping that the Iberia flight I was on would not meet the same fate. Luckily, it didn’t and we got off the ground about 45 minutes after the scheduled take-off time.

I did have a couple strange security experiences along the way. In San Francisco, after passing the metal detectors without any problems, I had put my laptop back in my backpack and collected my belongings. But just as I was taking my bag off the belt and walking away, I received a little tap on the shoulder, and I was “randomly selected for a further screening.” I’ve occasionally been selected when I’m still in the area, but this was the first time I had been randomly selected as I was about to leave the roped off area.

In Amsterdam, I was already past the main security checkpoint, but they had another one set up at the gate. However, they didn’t have security personnel at the gate 2 hours before the flight, so people just filed in and sat inside the “clean” area. Once the security guards came, everybody had to leave and they did a reasonably thorough search of the formerly clean area, taking apart the garbage can, crawling along the floor to look under the seats, and so on. They probably could have saved themselves the trouble had they just closed the area off for passengers when nobody was around to check them.

They did another strange thing when they scanned our carry-on bags. I had bought a water bottle inside the terminal, so I should theoretically have been able to bring it in, even if I hadn’t declared it. I didn’t think it would be a problem, so I didn’t pull it out of my bag. And when I got to the other side of the metal detectors, there was no problem. However, a guy further behind in the line had to throw out his water bottle. Did they just not see the bottle when they scanned my bag?

Finally, in London, they were quite professional. I’ve been through Heathrow a dozen times over the past couple years and it seems to me that the security guards there seem to enjoy their job a bit more than they do in other airports. Anyways, one guy kept calling out “Do you have anything in your pockets? Anything left in your pockets?”

Somehow, the word “pockets” was repeated often enough that I was reminded of the scene from The Hobbit where Bilbo escapes from Gollum by asking Gollum what he has in his pockets. By the time I got to the front of the line, I was chuckling at the imaginary scene of the security guard hissing “Have you gots anything in your pocketses?”

I’ll try and post some updates as the tournament rolls along.

The Year in Review

Chess Notes

The year started off poorly, but it picked up in the last few months. My FIDE rating went from 2492 to 2540. Along the way, though, I dropped to 2464(!) after the Reykjavik Open in March.  At 2540, I’m now #23 amongst active US players (not all of whom actually live or ever play in the US) and #482 in the world.

Although I’m no longer at the GM House in Richmond anymore, the other members have all made some improvements: Josh Friedel moved up from 2511 to 2549, Jesse Kraai moved up from 2506 to 2509, and Sam Shankland (the newest member of the house) moved up from 2453 to 2491.

Now that they include FIDE-rated events for USCF rating calculations, my USCF rating went from 2523 to 2606 (though I had dropped to 2490 after the Reykjavik Open in March). It seems a bit silly to me rate these events for USCF purposes when there are no other USCF-rated players in them, but it makes more sense than being able to pay to selectively rate those events abroad in which you did well. Strange as that sounds, that was actually the old policy. If I play in the USCL this next season, though, the team can still use my old rating of 2499 if they choose to go with the September or October supplements.

With those ups and downs, I managed to notch two tournament wins (both were shared), the first in San Sebastian (Spain) and the second at the SPICE Cup (the B Group, in Texas).

Travel Notes

I visited 5 countries (India, France, Iceland, Spain, and Canada) this year. Most of that travel was for chess purposes, but I did some sightseeing along the way. I’ll visit a few more countries on my upcoming trip in 2010, as I’ll be going to Spain, Morocco, Gibraltar, England, France, and Belgium.

The only repeat tournament I had was the World Open (that is, it was the only tournament I had ever played before, and my last World Open appearance was in 1997). That was in stark contrast to my chess travel when I was at Cornerstone, when I would pretty much only play during the summer, and it’d be the same 2 or 3 tournaments on the Catalan circuit in Spain.

I spent 175 days outside the Bay Area this year, or about 48% of the year. Most of that travel was on airplanes, where I logged about 91,000 miles! That’s now quite Up in the Air territory (an excellent movie, for what it’s worth), but it might put me in the same ballpark. On the plus side, I’ve got Premier Status.

Sports Notes

None of the teams I was rooting for (mostly just the SF Giants) did anything notable in the sporting arena. I still have some hope for the SJ Sharks, but their history of playoff “runs” doesn’t necessarily bode well for this season. Hopefully that’s a reverse jinx.

In fantasy sports, though, it was a banner year. I played in one baseball and one football league, and I won both! Both were mostly composed of current and former Cornerstone Research employees. I had won the baseball league before (in 2007, when I was still working there), but this was my first football win. Booyah!

Best wishes to everybody for 2010!

Travels with Vinay: In Search of Spain

Between my tournament in San Sebastian (which ended on the 12th) and the next one in Benidorm (which begins on the 24th), I’m taking a little tour of Spain, specifically Andalucía. With my poor picture editing tools, I have created a small map of where I’ve generally been in Spain this trip:


The first leg was from Reykjavik to Bilbao (via London) and then San Sebastian, for the tournament there. The next leg was for Andalucía, although I stopped in Madrid to relax for a few days. In Andalucía, I’ve concentrated on Sevilla and Granada. After Granada, the next tournament leg begins in Benidorm. And after that, it’s off to Banaglore, India via London.

During the summer of 2006, before I began working at Cornerstone Research, I played one tournament in Balaguer and one in Barcelona. Between those two, I spent some time sightseeing as well – 5 days in Madrid and 3 days in Barcelona. With some time in Andorra and Benasque, I’ll have covered a good chunk of the the Iberian peninsula. Maybe there is a strong tournament in Portugal?