Barack Obama (accidently) at the chess tournament

It is a historic moment in the United States - the first black president Barack Obama will lead the country. No matter what your race or political affiliation is, in this extremely challenging political (two wars) and economic environment (worst economic crisis in 70 years) in US, we all hope that Barack Obama will bring a positive change.


On Friday Barack Obama and especially his security detail had to deal with unexpected experience of being at the site of a major chess tournament. We have 3 Chess Opens in Philadelphia - the biggest one in July (World Open; $30K first prize), then November (National Congress; $3K) and January (Liberty Bell Open; $2K). I am only 30 minutes from the site and had played in several events over the years, winning a couple. Lately, I don't play, but always stop by to watch my students, sign copies of my Chess Exam books and hangout with friends.


When I visited Sheraton Hotel in downtown Philadelphia on Sunday (1/18), I was told by several of my students and friends about Mr. Obama's stay on Friday night. Nobody I talked to actually saw Obama, but many had met and were questioned by his security people that were all over the hotel. The book dealer had mentioned armed personal with special dogs checking his van full of boxes. People who parked in the hotel's garage had their trunks inspected.


Also, somewhat comical was a comment about security personal observing chessplayers with their equipment bags. In US, only the tables and chairs are provided by organizers.  The board, pieces and clocks are responsibility of the players. Hence a bag like this is a popular item to carry. I could just imagine how alert security agents were when they saw a man walking with a bag that could easily hold a weapon. Then they probably saw another man and another man,.... I can see, perhaps, some relief, when they saw a few children with the bags like this, never know.



I haven't heard of any incidents and everything was back to normal when I was there on Sunday. Barack Obama continued his trip to the Washington to be sworn in as 44th president of the United States on Tuesday. The tournament continued with no problem with GM Gareev taking 1st place in the open section with 6 points out of 7.

So, next time you want to play chess, consider a trip to Philadelphia, you never know who may stop by!.




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