The Bashkansky family Chess Travel blog

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

Sunday, July 21, 2013

World Open Chess Tournament

Chess, Art and Fireworks in Washington, DC

There is no other place as conversely appropriate and torturous as Washington, DC to spend the Fourth of July, the Independence Day.  The hot, humid, sticky, balmy East Coast summer is really harsh on us, transplants to the Pacific Northwest.  So why did we go there?

The Money!

$13,000 for the first place.  That’s a good motivator.  Back in May, when we registered and bought flight tickets to DC, it looked like both Ethan (15) and Naomi (then 9) might have a good chance in their rating sections.  

Previous years, we used to drive to Las Vegas for the supposedly big chess prizes.  But it turns out it’s Washington, DC where the big money is distributed.  Which should’ve been obvious, in the hindsight ;-)

However, just before this tournament Ethan played too good for his own good...  After the Supernationals in Nashville in April, his US Chess Federation rating was 1986.  Thus he had a great chance in the Under 2000 section at the World Open.  

But then, at the WA Open late May he managed to defeat players with USCF ratings of 2400 and 2200!  This is one of his greatest achievements, we all were amazed, happy and proud.  However, now his rating jumped from 1986 all the way to 2040.

This caused the World Open organizers to move Ethan from the Under 2000 section into the Under 2200 section, where he had no chance to win first place.  Hello glory, goodbye money!

But we had another dog in this fight, Naomi.  Or maybe a cat.  Her rating 1580 hasn’t changed at the WA Open, thus she was well-positioned to fight for the first prize of $11,000 in her Under 1600 section.  Let the games begin!

Washington, DC

On July 1 we arrived to the Reagan National Airport by an overnight flight, in the morning.  For the next 7 days we stayed at the tournament venue, the Hyatt Regency Crystal City at the Reagan National Airport.

After getting to our room on floor 17 of the Hyatt, we collapsed and slept until late afternoon, and then rode the metro to see the White House.  We walked to the North Lawn, the South Lawn, the Sherman Monument, the Washington monument, noticed Hungarian folk pavilions on the National Mall, and returned by metro, Smithsonian to Crystal City.

On July 2 we had a pre-scheduled tour of the U.S. Capitol.  Actually, two tours: one special, scheduled through the office of WA Senator Patty Murrey, and another regular, scheduled online for backup.  After getting into the Capitol through security, we discovered the regular tour is about to begin, while the special one starts in another building, and would require to separate from our friends, so we just went with the flow.  Forgive us Senator Murray for giving one of your staffers a short respite.

The tour guide took us to three spaces: the Capitol Rotunda, the Statuary Hall, and the Crypt.  The Rotunda is every bit as impressive as it was designed to be.  Many important buildings in DC have rotundas, I’d say there is a well-developed case of rotunda envy ;-)

Then we went up to the galleries of the House of Representatives and the Senate, using special tickets provided a few months upfront by our WA 9th Voting District Representative, Adam Smith - a generous soul who also mailed us tons of useful maps and guides.  Forgive us Congressman Adam Smith, we are not citizens yet and cannot vote.  Catchy name, though ;-)

From the Capitol we walked underground to the Library of Congress for our most enjoyable guided tour (at least since the Stockholm City Hall tour many years ago).  Besides stunning exterior and interior, this exquisite building houses many important artefacts, like the first printed book and the first world map with America as a separate continent.

The Capitol cafeteria’s quarter chicken kids meal replenished our powers and on we went to the National Botanical Gardens, the Museum of the American Indian, and finally the National Air and Space Museum.  

There, Luda, Naomi and Ethan collapsed on the floor under the Sputnik and refused to walk.  This prompted the biggest mistake of the day: buying pricey tickets to the museum’s IMAX theater, which shamelessly shows an antique 1985 Space Shuttle movie, The Dream Is Alive.  

Later, as I was shooting the Wright brothers first plane, my Canon T1i stock lens stopped working, probably because of all the DC humidity.  I had to switch to a phone camera ;-(

The World Open

On July 3 the World Open has started in the morning on the below-lobby floors of the Hyatt hotel.  The usual initial chaos gradually quieted down as players found their pairings.  After making sure Naomi and Ethan started playing the first round, we bolted for the city.  I abandoned my humidity-stricken Canon T1i camera for the backup Fujifilm FinePix point-and-shoot.

We started with the glorious outdoor National Navy Memorial near the namesake metro.  Initially, we didn’t plan to visit the National Archives, but Luda noticed a throng of people in line, and applied the logic “popular is desirable”.  On that day, the Archives displayed the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and a number of interesting exhibitions.

On the National Mall we discovered a folk festival, where we ate cholent and goulash at Bistro Budapest.  In the evening, with a few friends who also left their kids to play Round 2, we rode to the Foggy Bottom metro and walked to the invariably impressive Lincoln Memorial.  The Korean and Vietnam Wars Memorials are to the north and south of the Reflecting Pool.

As Luda and I immersed in the DC experience, both Ethan and Naomi have won in Rounds 1 and 2.

The Independence Day

As the kids played Round 3 on July 4, we opted for the Independence Day Parade on Constitution Avenue.  This was the first of many days we visited the National Art Gallery, absorbing Spanish (Goya) and French 17-19 centuries painters, and then delving deep into the impressionists wing.  

And this is when my backup camera’s batteries ran out of charge...  Like a wounded warrior in a first-person-shooter video game, I switched to the bare-knuckles option: phone camera.  Eventually we ran back to the hotel, to resume parental duties, but the kids took charge and walked to a nearby McDonalds themselves.  In Round 3 Naomi won and Ethan lost a game he could have won ;-)

In the evening, we arrived to the Smithsonian metro at 9pm to admire the fireworks at the National Mall.  Sure enough, the fireworks videos ended the available phone storage.  It has been “Game Over” for me as first-person-shooter, while both kids have won their games in Round 4.

National Arts Gallery, Ballets Russes Café

On July 5 I freed up some phone camera storage and we attacked the National Art Gallery ground level.  There we discovered the Starbucks original (before it was sanitized) logotype, disguised as “Siren Candleholder”. Then we replenished ammo at the Ballets Russes Café buffet, with cold borscht, beef stroganoff, salmon kulebiaka, blini with caviar and strawberry romanoff.  Russian cuisine with French accent.  To atone for this culinary excess, in the evening we opted for the hotel gym, pool and jacuzzi.

Naomi, with 4 points already, got strong opponents that day,  She won in Round 5 and lost in Round 6 - which played a significant role in later events.  Ethan drew in Round 5 and lost in Round 6.  The life is tough in the Under 2200 section, but it’s too late to go back now.  Meanwhile we enjoy the hands-off management style:

Art Gallery from Italian to Dutch, Quiet Before the Storm

July 6 - the usual routine: from Crystal City to National Archives by metro, then a short walk down Pennsylvania Avenue to the National Art Gallery.  This time we took audio guides and thoroughly explored the upper level West side.  This paintings collection is enormous and exquisite in its chronology: 13-18 centuries, art schools: Italian, Spanish, French, Dutch - and names: Leonardo, Titian, Raphael, El Greco, van Dyck, Rembrandt, etc.

Naomi won Rounds 7 and 8, Ethan lost 7 and won 8.  Now Naomi and three other players in her section had 7 points after 8 rounds and were competing for the first place and the main prize, before the last decisive game.

The Drama

On July 7 we finally finished the National Art Gallery West Building.  The upper level south-east side houses 18-19 century paintings, from Spanish and French to British and American, while the north-east side is dedicated entirely to impressionists.

Upon our return to the chess venue in the Hyatt Crystal City, we found an unexpected development.  A player was discovered to have a Philippine rating of 1975, and therefore was expelled from the Under 1600 section.  Following the Continental Chess Association rules, players who lost to or drew with him had a half point added to their scores.  But Naomi was not one of them, while some of her competitors have received an extra half point.  

Now, before Round 9, one player was leading with 7.5 points, while a few more had 7 points like Naomi.  The odds have suddenly shifted against us.  But rules are rules, even when you feel a sting of unfairness.  The atmosphere was tense.  Suddenly an opponent’s frequent visits to the restroom cause deep suspicion.  Chess parenting is fertile grounds for paranoia.

Naomi lost the last game to the first place winner.  With 8.5 points, he got $10,175.  With 7 points, Naomi got fifth place and $786.  Ethan lost his last game too.  Well, at least we’ve got a good vacation!

Final results in Naomi’s and Ethan’s sections:

Winding Down

On July 8 we moved to the nearby Holiday Inn for the last day (the Hyatt’s chess rate has ended), and then took the kids to the Museum of Natural History.  Just the right stuff: dinosaurs, DNA extracting, diamonds, gems, minerals.   With friends and their kids, we went to the National Art Gallery, where I personally was tasked with running the kids through the whole history of classic western art in just 2 hours.  Mission accomplished!

Then back to the Museum of Natural History - Human Origins exhibition.  This topic is always a thrill.

On July 9 we went to the National Art Gallery East Building and joined a modern art guided tour.  Since photography outdated mastery of painting skills, the artistic expressions became weirder and weirder.  The Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes exhibition completed the antiquated modernity experience.

Walked the National Mall to the Smithsonian Castle, the Freer Art Gallery, and finally to the Holocaust Memorial Museum.  

Then it was time to fly home.  At the airport, Ethan managed to lose and find his phone for the third time during this trip.  My and Ethan’s flight through Atlanta was delayed, Luda and Naomi were put on it too, and we all made the connection together rather than separately, as planned.  

At home, we breathed with delight the cool and dry air of the Pacific Northwest.  Even my Canon T1i 18-50mm kit lens dried up, cooled down, and started working again - just as I bought a replacement 50mm “nifty-fifty” lens...  

It’ll be a backup for the next tournament, the Pan-American Youth Championships in Brazil. There, Ethan will be the official US representative in the Open Under 16 category, while Naomi has qualified to represent the USA as an extra player in the Girls Under 10 category.