Friday, April 21, 2017

Grand Pacific Open - 2017

Ghosts, spiders and odd plagues

The Grand Pacific Open, British Columbia's largest chess tournament, took place in the Hotel Grand Pacific, Victoria, on 14-17 April 2017.  The main event has been a 6 round FIDE rated Swiss with $5,000 in prizes.  Brian Raymer, Paul Leblanc, Roger Patterson have done a great job organizing this event.

Naomi has played in the top section and placed in the middle of the Final Standings, befitting her chess rating rank. She has shared the 2nd/3rd Top Women CA$90 prize sponsored by Goddess Chess.  Not bad.

We traveled to Victoria many times in the past, and always loved it: 2009 road trip, 2014 Grand Pacific Open (a Chess Travel blog post), 2015 Grand Pacific Open.

Victoria is one of those places you come back every time to discover something new on top of old memories and familiar places.  It occupies a special place in our hearts.  A favorite travel spot.

Day 1: Victoria Clipper, Bug Zoo, Round 1

To get there, in the past we always took a ferry: either Port Angeles - Victoria (with or without car), or Anacortes - Sidney, or Tsawwassen - Swartz Bay.  This time we decide to live large and pay up for the Victoria Clipper.

As we sail into Victoria's Inner Harbor, my smartphone's camera does blank.  This wouldn't be unusual, since my smartphone's screen needs to be literally warm in order to work.  I habitually press it against my skin, to use body warmth for reanimation, as usual.  Only this time the trick doesn't work!  The device seems to have died, finally, after half a year of daily agony.  That's the First Plague.

We get the room at the fabled Hotel Grand Pacific, and head straight to the Bug Zoo.  There, our amazing guide Jeanine shows each insect (or, more precisely, arthropod) with indefatigable enthusiasm.  This needs to be seen:

Day 2: Legislature, Round 2, Miniature World, Round 3, Ghostly Walks

In the morning, on our way to the Miniature World we pass a quiet and well-organized demonstration of Venezuelan dissidents on the steps of the British Columbia Legislature.  

The Miniature World initially feels a bit claustrophobic and noisy, with tight spaces, voice recordings in loops, and kids running around.  It takes time to adjust.  The experience is both slightly tiresome and very rewarding.

The miniature displays are fantastic.  Meticulous, masterful work done over many years.  They are organized by category: war history, frontier, Canada, castles, dollhouses, London, circus, Camelot.  Take a look:

At night we go for the Ghostly Walks tour with a guide who might one day become a great comic actress.  It's a riot.  Her stories about the unfortunate dead and the ghastly ways they become ghosts resonate with the crowd.

Later that night my Surface tablet dies.  It has been my favorite nighttime e-reader.  The flipback keyboard stand allowed to read hands-free.  This is no joke, the place is definitely cursed!  That's the Second Plague.

Day 3: Round 4, Churches, Round 5, Fisherman's Wharf

This being Easter Sunday, we go for a walking tour of Victoria's churches.  We discover many impressive neo-gothic buildings proudly shown off by each confession.  Victoria's synagogue is the oldest one in Canada.  In the evening, we go to see the picturesque floating houses at Fisherman's Wharf. Click on the link:

The Third Plague: Luda's fancy Google Project Fi Nexus 6P smartphone goes into the infamous boot loop.  We call support, they send an email with a 72-hour link to replacement, but it will only work back in the US.

Day 4: Round 6, Abkhazi Garden, Beacon Hill Park

The Abkhazi Garden turns out to be the hidden gem of Victoria, with a deeply compelling background love story.  

She was an English girl born in Shanghai, he was the last prince of Abkhazia, on the Black Sea.  She was adopted by rich aristocrats, his mother ran away with him into exile while his father was shot by the Bolsheviks.  They met in Paris in 1922 and fell in love, but he was penniless and her mother considered it a mésalliance.  During WWII she was interned by Japanese in China, he was interned by Germans in France.  They lost track of each other.  After the war, she moved to San Francisco and then bought a rocky plot in Victoria for $1800. He moved to New York and found her from the ship manifest.  They married a quarter century after they first met, and together Mr and Mrs Abkhazi created this beautiful exquisite garden.

There we meet the resident docent Joe Harvey, a botanist and geneticist, who tells us about all this, and about the special Bella Bella magnolia he bred:

After the last round, we take Naomi to the Beacon Hill Park and show her the flowers and the peacocks that made a lasting impression during our 2014 visit.  

We sail from Victoria knowing that we'll return.

P.S. Back home, my smartphone and Surface have miraculously revived, and Luda's smartphone replacement should be arriving soon.  The Odd Plagues are gone!


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