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WPC 2008 Commentary: Before the Tournament
Go to: Before the Tournament, Round 1, Round 2, Round 3, Round 4, Round 5, Round 6, Round 7, Round 8, Round 9, Round 10, Round 11, Round 12, Round 13, Round 14, Round 15, Round 16, Round 17, Round 18, Round 19, Round 20, Round 21, Round 22, Round 23.
John Chew and I arrived at the DFW airport at around noon today. Bryan Pepper sweetly parked his bright blue Cruiser in the nearby parking lot and swept us up, luggage and all, and deposited us at Chez Cree minutes later. Chris answered the door with little Faith in her carriage. We oohed and ahhed at this miracle of blue eyes and dimples in her pretty in pink shirt, matching socks, and brown velour pants. This kid sure knows how to throw together a look!
A respectable time later, after baby photos galore, we headed out for Mexican at El Fenix. There is nothing on this planet like Tex-Mex food in Texas. Chris buttered, rolled up, and dipped corn torillas in salsa and queso. We all gorged and plan to meet for a staff dinner tonight. I'm praying for salad!
The lot of us drove over to the Crowne Plaza to meet up with the already working team of Dee Segrest, Kate Watson (the event annotators), and Mary Rhoades. John is busy loading print drivers (and hoping it doesn't turn out to be Manhattan all over again, ask him sometime about that!) and putting last-minute touches to the pairing.
To give this World tournament the international flair that it deserves, Chris Cree (USA) hired Wilma Vialle to be the event's head director. Wilma lives in the Wollongong area of Australia. She has, for years, directed the World SCRABBLE Championships, so having her here at this inaugural World Players Championship was only fitting. The two who normally hold that job at larger Texas tournaments organized by Chris, Mary Rhoades and Bryan Pepper, were happy to be codirectors to Wilma. So, this event, in effect, has three directors. One will wear the grand poobah hat and two others will be assisting her. Bryan, not sure he has enough on his plate, is also serving as the event alternate. In case we are odd (and we all know we are!), he'll jump in to even out the numbers and keep us from having a bye.
As I type, we've got 48 players expected from 16 countries. A disconcerting list of 12 others remain on the "uncertain" list. Some players have a terrible time negotiating obtaining visas out of their countries and sometimes decisions as to whether to let players attend is made at the very last minute.
The hotel has opened one of the four rooms that will eventually be our playing space. To one side of us, a meeting will go until the late afternoon and on the other side, a meeting will wind up at 9 pm. Undaunted, we rolled out a 20 foot by 4 foot banner and had it hung above the Windsor rooms in the foyer. We put out registration tables and currently Mary, Bryan, Kate, and Dee are handing out nametags, event T-shirts, and a set of Bob Schoenman's Protiles (of various hues). Players are gathering in groups and catching up before we head to dinner in about 10 minutes.
Wilma Vialle, delayed at LAX has just arrived. She has sleek fishnet stockings, groovy midcalf boots, a pretty black dress, and a shimmery, sheer beaded jacket. This woman has just made a 24-hour flight across the world, her THIRD in two months, and she looks like a million bucks. When I asked if she was tired, she said, "No, not too. I was upgraded for a portion of the flight so I was able to rest a bit."
Dinner was scrumptious and attended by workers, players, and their friends. Tilapia, eggplant parmesan, caprese, chicken, pasta, breads, and delicious chocolate and carrot cakes where there for the having. Chris Cree (USA), wanting to make the Aussies as comfortable as possible, walked around with a couple of six-packs of Foster's beer and handed it out. A big hit!
After dinner had wrapped up, Chris made a few remarks to the room, which began with, "I'm just so frickin' happy you all are here!" He went on to mention his long-term plans for this event, which includes more players, more prize money, and more fun! The players were excited about all three!
After dinner, players once again gathered around the hotel's expansive lobby to play their favorite game. Some even sat at round tables in the open air bar, with friend gathering around kibbitzing.
We are all here bright and early. One player arrived close to midnight, but was able to make it to the pairings, so we are even at 48 players and the relieved co-director, Bryan Pepper, will not be playing.
For this first round, players are slated to play someone not from their home country, but after this, anything's a go!
Chris made brief welcoming comments, bending down to speak in a microphone more attenuated to someone Wilma's height. She took over and had us acknowledge the players from the 14 countries represented at this WPC. Each country's participants stood and received a round of applause. Everyone but Albert Hahn (CAN), who was jeered at for being the lone Canadian ("where are the rest of the Canadians, Albert?"). We found equipment for Stuart Goldman (USA) and Nigel Richards (MYS), and then we commenced!
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