A leap of faith

My first opportunity ever to travel to Europe for tournaments came in February, 2016. I played two tournaments in France where I crossed 2000 Elo for the first time.

I remember flying into Paris along with my friends on the first day and we were greeted by the cold European weather in its element.

We took the airport bus to our hotel, literally dumped our luggage and headed out to explore the city. Paris, the fashion capital of the world and of course home to the Eiffel tower. A mandatory photo later we headed out to the Louvre Museum, and simply walked the day off from one place to another.

The organizer of the first tournament had arranged a direct bus for players to reach the small town of Cappelle-La-Grande, next to the city of Dunkirk. We arrived around midnight and the organizer was kind enough to drop us off at our hotel. Next morning we woke up to a highly welcome snowfall. The tournament hall was 4 kms away from our hotel but we braved the distance and took a walk through the beautiful landscapes of the french countryside.

Yes ofcourse, we came a little early for the game to click a few pictures. 🙂

As the tournament began, it was surreal to play with the Indian flag next to the chess board. It gave me some extra purpose during the game and I just couldn’t stop smiling all throughout the day. As a cherry on top I won the under 2000 rating category prize as well.

This position is from my round one game at the tournament at Cappelle la Grande.

It’s White to play, what do you think he should play? Give yourself 10 minutes to figure it out, this one is difficult.

The answers will be revealed in the next post.

Our next stop was Cannes, the gorgeous coastal town in southern France. We had to switch three buses and one train from Cappelle to actually reach there. A long 20+ hour journey, but the views were amazing.

We didn’t have a local sim card with us, you can see my friend here desperately trying to find an open Wifi connection even inside a moving train!

Later, as we were talking a walk I noticed another difference from my home country. In India, if you intend to cross the road as a pedestrian, it’s a real struggle. No one driving a vehicle wants to stop and if there were no traffic lights, you would probably be waiting for hours to cross a major highway. However, the moment I stepped on the footpath with the intention to cross the road, I was in for a pleasant surprise. One by one 15 cars stopped just so that I, the pedestrian, could cross the road first.

The playing venue was the Palais des Festivals, the venue for the Cannes Film Festival. A red carpet, lots of drama, and a perfect place to go all SRK.

The tournament went well for me, I crossed 2000 Elo for the first time, won the under 2000 rating category prize as well.

This is an interesting position that arose in my last game of the tournament at Cannes.

It’s White to play, what do you think he should do? Give yourself 5-10 minutes to figure it out.

After the tournament was over, I remember sitting and cherishing those moments, trying to run them through my mind once more. It was one of the best experiences of my life and I definitely wanted many such adventures in the future.

Next morning we left our apartment and took a walk to the train station. The weather was amazing, the views were tempting. It was difficult to walk away from what were probably the best days of my life thus far.

We headed out to Paris by the TGV, which is France’s intercity high speed rail service. We booked the tickets the night before so they were just as expensive as a flight, but travelling at the speed on 300 km/hr by train is something I had never experienced in my life before and it was totally worth it.

Finally we reached Paris the same day and this time we had little time to explore but we went out anyway. We stayed at the St Christopher’s Inn Hostel at Paris which was also a new experience as I personally had never stayed at a hostel before. They were nothing like what I had imagined they would be. With a luxurious hotel like atmosphere, an amazing restaurant, and plenty for people from different countries that you share a room with, it was a pleasant experience that really tempted me to stay at hostels in many of my future trips.

Next morning I boarded a flight to New Delhi and it was long flight back home where I just couldn’t stop smiling.

I think getting ourselves to try new things, to push ourselves out of our comfort zone is absolutely essential to growing as a person. A leap of faith today for a better us tomorrow.

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