Today started like any other day. I woke up in a cozy king-sized bed in a luxury hotel. You know, because that's how I roll. (Update: That's not how I roll.) While ironing my shirt, my pant belt loop got caught on a door knob and I tore my pants, my brand new purchased-for-this-weekend-because-I-want-to-impress-people-I-don't-know pants. Then, I dropped a drinking glass in the sink and it broke. (Update: This is how I roll.) Fortunately, my tweed sports coat covered the tear in my pants. After my morning adventures in chaos theory, I had an omelette at a wonderful place next to the hotel called "Crepes Etc." I know, I should have had crepes. Tomorrow. This morning, it was also raining lightly outside, which was actually very pleasant. I'm sure it has everything to do with the fact that I haven't seen rain in months.
When the World Chess Hall of Fame opened this morning, their first official day open, it was without much fanfare. The fanfare was last night. A few people wandered in. I spent more time today, than last night, looking at the exhibits. Here's a few of my thoughts:
OVERALL: * The way they were able to coordinate the interior design between the Hall of Fame and CCSCSL across the street is so sensible. And yet, I cringe to think of what might have happened in less competent hands. * They use the three floors effectively. It's a solid layout, and makes for a pleasing experience. * The gift shop. Of course, there must be a gift shop. This one is nice. It's a nice counter balance to the CCSCSL store. Whereas the CCSCSL caters more to students of the game, the Hall of Fame offers items more appealing to the casual visitor who wanders in off the street. I bought a t-shirt.
FIRST FLOOR * The first floor featured an exhibit of modern artists and their interaction with chess "as strategy and mental process." * The collection is damn good. Diverse in form and yet completely cohesive. This floor will appeal to anyone (chess player or otherwise) who appreciates good modern art. * The large installation called "Anatomy is Destiny" is a bit terrifying, but in a job-well-done sorta way. There is a video to accompany it, an abstract theater/dance performance, pawns in burlap bondage, strange noises and movements. It gave me chills. * My favorite piece was Yoko Ono's white chess set. It was a powerful way to transform chess as a war metaphor into a metaphor for peace and collaboration. * I liked the large photograph of the symphony orchestra in the chess hall. * I also enjoyed the photo series exploring chess as a meditation on space and topography. Trust me. You'd understand it if you saw it.
SECOND FLOOR * The second floor featured highlights from the Dr. George and Vivian Dean Collection. This floor evaluates the design and development of chess sets. A truly well-designed set is a melding of form and function. This is why the Staunton design is such a triumph. * The second floor could keep you busy all afternoon. Seriously. I wasn't able to get to everything. Many of the chess sets were incredibly ornate. You discover something new that you missed with each viewing. The materials used, the ridiculously high level craftsmanship -- I greatly enjoyed the collection. * Each set on display was arranged to feature a famous chess position. The display cases showed a diagram of the position, and explained the moves. This idea deserves a gold star. It's a clever way to avoid the boring alternative: every set in the starting position.
THIRD FLOOR * The third floor is the hall of fame portion of the World Chess Hall of Fame. One wall features the world hall of fame inductees, and the other wall is for the U.S. hall of fame. I enjoyed reading each of the bios included with each framed portrait. * The third floor also included items of historical significance from the world of professional chess. It gave me a greater appreciation for this game's elite. * I really like the Paul Morphy silver cup set. These cups were given to him in lieu of a cash prize for winning a tournament. * I also liked the case that featured handwritten letters and notes from famous chess players.
Afterward, I went across the street to see if anything was going on at the chess club. I had a chance to meet Jennifer Shahade (twitter). It's always a little odd introducing yourself to someone who is famous only in certain circles. I know her from a cover story I read in Chess Life. I know her books, her chess-related performance art, and her commentary during the U.S. Championships. I read King's Gambit. "Hi. I'm a big fan of your... persona?" or "Hi. You work hard to promote chess for girls in U.S. and I donated $20 to 9Queens a few weeks ago." Jennifer is a very nice person, a point which would surprise no one.
I befriended Jeff from California. We went to lunch at an Indian restaurant. Great food and good conversation.
The Kings vs. Queens opening ceremony was at 6 PM at the hall of fame. The guest seating was filled. Overflow was allowed to watch the ceremony live on the flatscreens at CCSCSL. I went upstairs where they had catering and an open bar. Maybe I was better off at CCSCSL? I made a decent dinner out of the appetizers that kept coming to me on silver trays. After the ceremony, everyone came over to where we were -- and thankfully I didn't eat everything before the crowd arrived. I met Jean Hoffman, executive director with 9Queens and I greatly enjoyed talking with her. I also met Joel Berez, who I didn't know this while talking to him (thank you Google) but apparently he's the President and CEO of ICC. Wow. I gave Joel money this year, and didn't even know it. Bless the ICC. Susan Polgar, Yasser Seirawan, Alexandra Kosteniuk, and other well-known chess folk were there. They all left almost as soon as they arrived. I'm now in my hotel room, and I just know there is some craaazy chess party going on somewhere, and I'm missing it. I heard people in the hallway speaking Russian. So maybe I'm close?
Anyways. After the after party for the opening party (think about that one for awhile), I saw Columbiana at the movie theater in the hotel. Yes, the hotel has a movie theater.
Tomorrow is round one of Kings vs. Queens. Come back for the day 3 report.
Also, I loaded more photos onto our Facebook page.