The Bashkansky family Chess Travel blog

The Bashkansky family Chess Travel blog: parents Guy and Ludmila with children NM Ethan and WIM Naomi

Monday, December 30, 2013

Hawaii beach chess, surfing, hula dancing

Chess-boxing is passé! Let us introduce chess-surfing, chess-sunbathing and chess-hula-dancing


For a third year in a row, Naomi has qualified to represent the US at the World Youth Chess Championship.  This time it was set in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates, on December 17-29, 2013 -- see  And this is “her year”, meaning she would be actually 10 while playing in the Girls Under 10 category -- unlike when she played in that category at the 2012 World Youth in Maribor, Slovenia, while being only 9.

However, after careful consideration we decided not to go.  This was a personal decision, reflecting our specific situation.  The US Chess Federation has shown much support and understanding.  We still followed the online coverage of the championship in Al Ain with much excitement and reports from there were very interesting:

Indulging in Hawaii with Beach Chess

To make a good use of the winter school break, we decided to go to Hawaii.  Unfortunately, Hawaii hardly has 3 USCF-rated tournaments per year, so how does it fit into our chess travel?  Then we learned about Kuhio Beach Chess Park on Waikiki in Honolulu, and that was all the justification we needed.  This fig leaf was just big enough for our desire to have a sunbathing vacation in the middle of a rainy and cold Seattle winter.

December 23-29 is an expensive and crowded time for air travel, especially to popular places like Hawaii.  However, we knew that Allegiant Air and Alaska Airlines have regular flights to Honolulu from Bellingham, WA, which is just 2 hours drive from us.  Finding a reasonably priced vacancy to stay was equally challenging.  We got a family suite in Aston at the Waikiki Banyan during its short online sale.  Good to go now!

Day 1: Waikiki Beach, Chess, Sunset

On the first day after late night arrival, we sunbathed on the beach and dipped in the Pacific.  Ethan played chess with the locals in Kuhio Beach Park.  In the evening we caught the perfect sunset and strolled along Waikiki main drag, Kalakaua Avenue.

Waikiki beach, Honolulu

Chess in Kuhio Beach Park, Waikiki

Day 2: Oahu Viewpoints, Ko Olina Resort

Our local friends took us to viewpoints around Honolulu, then to the western part of Oahu Island, to Ko Olina beach resort.  Every day during our stay in Hawaii, Ethan used every free minute to run to Kuhio Beach Park on Waikiki to play chess with locals.  Which totally justifies including this post in our Chess Travel blog!

View to Diamond Head from Puu Ualakaa park

Day 3: Honolulu Zoo, Hula Dance Show

We explored the nearby zoo in the morning and attended an unforgettable hula dance show on Waikiki beach in the evening.  Click to view the videos, you will not regret it!

Hula dancer

Day 4: Surfing Lessons, Fireworks

We bought semi-private surfing lessons for the kids, just the two of them and an instructor.  They went surfing, giving us a couple of quiet hours on the beach, and a few very cool photos on the surfing boards.  A fireworks show closed the night.

Naomi surfing (telephoto lens from the beach)

Day 5: Art Museum, Iolani Palace

After King Kamehameha united Hawaii at the end of 18 century, the Kingdom of Hawaii quickly evolved into a European-style monarchy.  For most of 19 century they built palaces, received ambassadors and visited other kings and queens of the world.  

King David Kalakaua built Iolani Palace, which we visited right after Hawaii State Art Museum.  This historic full-fledged royal palace is unique in the US, a republic.  From the State Dining Room adorned with European royalty portraits, to the Queen Liliuokalani imprisonment quilt, the palace offers a poignant tale of acculturated native rulers in search of modern identity and their nation’s place in the world during the last quarter of 19 century.

Iolani Palace

Day 6: Pearl Harbor

Pearl Harbor museums, exhibits and memorial sites provided a perfect ending to our visit to Hawaii.  They encompass the entirety of Pacific War with the Empire of Japan, from the Dec 7, 1941 Attack on Pearl Harbor, remembered at USS Arizona Memorial, through many war exhibits, Pacific Aviation Museum, USS Bowfin submarine all the way to Japan’s surrender documents signing on the deck of USS Missouri.  From the war start to its end.

We decided not to go for an early morning hike on the Diamond Head trail.  Instead, we packed our bags, checked out, and rode to Pearl Harbor in the morning.  This paid off big time as we were able to catch almost last walk-in tickets for USS Arizona Memorial for 2:15pm.  So we explored Pacific War in reverse order: first USS Missouri (Japan surrender, war ends), then Pacific Aviation Museum, next USS Arizona (sunk in Pearl Harbor Attack, war starts), then Road to War Museum, Attack Museum and finally USS Bowfin submarine.  Ethan said: “Good day.  Learned something”.

USS Arizona Memorial: Oil leaks from the sunken battleship, “teardrops” of the fallen

Target finder

Monday, August 12, 2013

Pan-American Youth Chess Championship, Brazil again!

Naomi becomes Pan-American Co-Champion!

At the 2013 Pan-American Youth Chess Championship in Brazil, in the Girls Under 10 category, Naomi tied for first place with a Bolivian girl, 8 points out of 9, and got second place by the first tie-break, while all 3 other tie-breaks were in Naomi’s favor.

Thus, Naomi becomes Pan-American Youth Co-Champion!  And gets FIDE title of Woman Candidate Master (WCM)!

And Ethan plays great, beating players with FIDE ratings ~2000.

We Saw It Coming

Here are Naomi's other amazing achievements in 2013, just this year:

- US National Girls Champion at the All Girls Nationals in the Under 10 category.

Great job, Naomi!

2013 Pan-American Youth Chess Championship

US Head of Delegation FM Aviv Friedman wrote this great article on the chess tournament:

And my article here focuses on our family chess travel experience in Brazil -- where the sun moves right-to-left in the northern sky and where there are many wild monkeys in the forests.

Getting to Poços de Caldas, Brazil

2 adults with 2 kids:

  1. Drive 3 hours from Seattle to Vancouver, passing the Canadian border, wait 3 hours
  2. Fly 4 hours from Vancouver to Dallas, passing back the US border, wait 2 hours
  3. Fly 10 hours from Dallas to Rio de Janeiro, passing the Brazilian border, wait 5 hours
  4. Fly 1 hour from Rio de Janeiro to Viracopos airport (Campinas, north of São Paulo)
  5. Ride a van 2 hours from Viracopos to Poços de Caldas, Hotel Golden Park, wait 1 hour
  6. Get money transfer receipt from organizers for 2 double rooms, get the keys, crash!

Daily Chess and Photo Albums

Pan-American Round 1

Naomi wins against a girl from Paraguay.
Ethan loses against a player from Argentina with FIDE rating 1951.

Pan-American Round 2 and 3

Naomi wins against players from Mexico and Brazil.  
Ethan wins against 2 players from Brazil (FIDE ratings 1828 and 1889).

We get some local TV reporting -- look for the blue visor hat in the background ;-)

Pan-American Round 4

Naomi loses to Ana Paula Condori from Bolivia (and eventually ties with her for first place).
Ethan wins against another Brazilian; his next opponent has FIDE rating 2097.

US chess team at Pan-American Youth in Brazil

Photo session of the US team, which achieved great results at the championship.

Naomi and Ethan's coach Michael Khodarkovsky is leftmost in the second row, and rightmost in the coaches-only photo inside the album.

Pan-American Round 5, US team

Ethan loses to a Brazilian player, FIDE rated 2097. Naomi defeats an Argentine girl.

Pan-American Round 6, Pocos de Caldas

Ethan draws with a 2078-rated Peruvian. Now he has 3.5 points of 6.  It’s a tough fight.

Naomi plays a long and dramatic game with a fellow US player.  Both get into time trouble, and Naomi wins on time.  Now she has 5 points of 6.

We used the long game to escape from the chess tournament pressure cooker into the city by bus.  Poços de Caldas is a typical lively Brazilian town, with a lot of small shops, many young people and statue-decorated squares full of playing children. The picturesque highlight is the ruins of a 60s-era monorail overgrown by trees and lianas.

Pocos de Caldas Rounds 7 and 8

USA beats Cuba ;-)  Both Naomi and Ethan defeat Cuban players in the morning Round 7.

In the evening Round 8, Naomi defeats another fellow USA player in a long and difficult game, while Ethan loses to a Mexican.  Luda and I ride a bus to the city again, to escape the pressure.

Pan-American Final Round 9

Naomi defeats WCM Carolina Vargas from Bolivia.
Ethan loses to Daniel Arias (2163) from El Salvador.

Pan-American Youth Chess Championship award ceremony

Naomi tied for first place in the Girls Under 10 category with Ana Paula Condori from Bolivia.  Both girls got 8 points out of 9, and Ana Paula got first place by the first tie-break (personal match result) - while all 3 other tie-breaks types were in Naomi’s favor.

Ethan got half of all points, 4.5 of 9, which is a very good result given he’s only 15 in the Open 16 category at such high level Pan-American Championship.

Pocos de Caldas city tour

The kids worked hard for the whole week, and the parents jittered.  Now we all got to decompress at the Poços de Caldas city tour.  The tour van took us to the Japanese Gardens, volcanic caldera view, Cristo Redentor monument, Fonte dos Amores, waterfalls and glass workshops.

Pocos de Caldas center and flight to Rio

We used the last few hours to tour Poços de Caldas city center, then rode a van to Viracopos and flew to Rio de Janeiro.  

We first appreciated the enormous size of Rio when an Aerotaxi cab took us from the airport to Hotel Rio Colinas, midway between Copacabana and Ipanema.

Rio de Janeiro

Where everybody wears white pants... (which is related to the subtitle of this blog).

Rio - Copacabana walk, Ipanema swim

This goes with a music theme: Aquarela do Brasil - open in a new tab, to listen in background while browsing the photos.  

Our Hotel Rio Colinas was located in Arpoador, right between the famous Copacabana and Ipanema beaches.  Each morning, our main dilemma has been: should we walk 8 minutes to Copacabana, or same 8 minutes to Ipanema?  Both beaches have endless stretches of fine sand, filled with even finer Brazilian bodies.  They differ in wavy boardwalk pavement patterns, as distinctive Copacabana and Ipanema brand trademarks.

Imaginary Crime

In the evening Ethan and I went out to eat and get $350 in cash for tomorrow’s city tour.  Surely enough, having read wikitravel advice to expect getting robbed in Rio (and regard it as an authentic touristic experience), I’ve noticed a shoeshine boy “marking” us with a sideway thumb gesture to somebody behind us.  Our imagination ran wild and we employed an array of crime evasion techniques: reversing direction, crossing streets, “shaking off” the tail of “suspicious youths” (i.e. everybody).  We saw drug dealers making secret gestures everywhere.  Ethan took it to the heart and calmed down only when we reached the two policemen permanently stationed near our hotel.  Which was on the gentrifying edge of a favela.  At night we heard quite a few firecrackers.  At least this is what we think they were.  We survived our imagination.

Rio - City Tour

Rio is by far the most photographed city in the world.  And still, it’s hard to capture its actual natural beauty in pictures.  The frustrated photographers try again and again, easily producing half a thousand of photos in a day.  They can get no satisfaction.

Corcovado, Maracanã, Sambadrome, Catedral Metropolitana, Escadaria Selarón, Morro da Urca, Sugarloaf Mountain -- just the sound of these toponyms makes a tourist’s heart bleed.

And there are many wild monkeys in the forests.

Rio - Ipanema beach

In the morning we headed straight to Ipanema beach and spent most of the day there jumping the waves in the Atlantic Ocean, digging in the sand and dragging our beach chairs away from the tide.  As always in Brazil - it is every bit of relaxation stereotype you thought about, and then some more!

We were all very impressed witnessing a lifeguard helicopter actually rescue a drowning swimmer from the ocean.  The helicopter downed into water a sort of fishing net - in which 2 came down and 3 came up, then swung the net to the shore, unloaded it, and flew away.

Rio - Night walk Ipanema and Lagoa

The highlight of that evening was witnessing a demonstration on Ipanema.  We think it was for marijuana legalization, but we can’t be sure - Brazil speaks Portuguese, no English at all.  However, at the demonstration they did speak in the international language of music.  And that music was so familiar ;-)  Just take a listen.

Rio - Downtown walking tour

On this day we decided to enrich ourselves in the local history and culture.  Luda found a walking tour of Rio downtown and we rode a bus to the Carioca Square Clock where it started.  Carioca is the nickname of Rio natives, it means “the white people houses” - which is how the local Indians called the early Portuguese settlers village.

Our charming guide Luana took us through old narrow town streets to feel the city’s colonial history and architecture.  She made us understand Brazil’s transition from a large farm to an empire after John VI of Portugal fled Napoleon in 1807 to establish his imperial palace in Rio.

The tour highlights were Paço Imperial, Theatro Municipal, Arcos da Lapa, Escadaria Selarón.

After the tour we ate at a Brazilian street food joint, among other things, the tastiest frango (chicken) with maracuja (passion fruit juice) and got entertained when a junkie tried to steal Ethan’s glasses he left on the table.  I snatched them back from her, still got my good reflexes ;-)  Two police officers came, but there was no way for us to communicate what happened.  We nonchalantly finished our most delicious and inexpensive meal, a trademark of Brazil.

Flight Rio - Miami - Dallas - Vancouver

2 adults with 2 kids:

  1. Ride 1/2 hour by Aerotaxi cab from Ipanema to Rio International Airport, wait 3 hours
  2. Fly 9 hours from Rio de Janeiro to Miami, passing the US border, wait 3 hours
  3. Fly 3 hours from Miami to Dallas, run quickly to make the connection
  4. Fly 4 hours from Dallas to Vancouver, passing the Canadian border
  5. Drive 5 hours from Vancouver to Seattle, with the US border traffic jam + peak hour

Nothing can beat the good memories, though!


On August 22, information about Naomi’s success at the Pan-American Youth Chess Championship appeared at the popular Northwest Chess website in the “Completed Tournament / Match News” section:

Naomi (left) receives trophy as Pan-American Youth Co-Champion.
Scholastics (June-July):

  • Pan-American Youth Festival (Chess Championship) (Jul 25-Aug 1) in Brazil - blog post by the Bashkansky family. In the Girls Under 10 category, Naomi Bashkansky of Bellevue, WA tied for first place with a Bolivian girl with 8 points out of 9, and got second place by the first tie-break, thus becoming Pan-American Youth Co-Champion, and earning the Women Candidate Master FIDE title. See the U.S. Head of Delegation article. Thanks to the Bashkansky family for making this report and supplying the photo at left.

And this information was printed on page 25 of the September issue of the Northwest Chess magazine:

On September 18, 2013, we received this email from US Chess Federation:

Congratulations, Naomi!
You have been awarded the FIDE Woman Candidate Master Title.  [...]

Naomi’s WCM title is the direct result of becoming the Pan-American Girls U10 Co-Champion.