I've been excited about this trip for a while now. I get to travel to Saint Louis for the World Chess Hall of Fame opening and witness a successful chess organization in action. I packed my best clothes, and I spent way too long deciding on which chess set I would bring. Winner: my Marshall Series plastic set from House of Staunton. It's the set I take with me to tournaments. Yes, I'm a big nerd (prefer the word "aficionado") when it comes to chess pieces. After school, I drove to DFW airport, parked my car, and took the shuttle to terminal C. I landed in Saint Louis around 7 PM, and took another shuttle to Enterprise Rental. I reserved an economy car. They upgraded me to this really cool Fiat. Maybe because it's a small car and there's just one of me? Either way. I took it. Then, I kid you not, as I was driving into downtown, there were fireworks going off near me. It was as if Saint Louis was welcoming this earnest visitor. Or at least, I'm going to think the fireworks were for me. I checked into the hotel. I chose the Chase Park Plaza because it was closest to the museum and chess club. It was a little more expensive, but I knew this was where everyone was staying. Holy crap. This hotel is nice. I have a living room with an office area (where I'm currently typing these words) and a separate bedroom. Two TVs. This is supposedly a single, but it feels like a lot of space for just me.

I dropped off my luggage and walked to the museum for the private opening event. Kelly Logue, membership and communications manager, was kind enough to invite me. As I walked to the museum, Anna Zatonskih walked by in the other direction. To you, that may not mean much. As someone who followed the US Championships closely on livestream, it was cool to spot a familiar all-star chess player. I was running a little late, and I got to the museum just as they were wrapping up. I was able to take a few photos, and I'll take more when I return tomorrow morning.

(I promise I was smiling a split second before the photo was taken.)

I also walked over to the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis. It's such a beautiful facility. The photos just don't do it justice. Talked with executive director Tony Rich briefly, and he invited me to Bar Italia for dinner. Another upgrade. I sat next to Jim Stallings, a fellow Texan and director of the UTD chess program. At another table, I saw a few of the other tournament competitors: Irina Krush, Hikaru Nakamura, and Ben Finegold. Great restaurant and a great neighborhood. After dinner, I wandered back to my sweet, sweet hotel room -- and I've been relaxing here since.

I've posted photos to our Facebook page. I'll have another report tomorrow.