2015 – We’re Back, Baby!
After a long hiatus, the blog is back. I decided to trial a Christmas/New Year period offline, coinciding with a much-needed trip back to Australia. I was fortunate to be invited to play in the Australian Open chess championships in Sydney, which provided the perfect escape from my annual European Winter chills.
The tournament, my first in Australia since I left in 2011, was what might be called a mixed success. I’ll hold off from a full report for now, consistent with a new philosophy of keeping the ‘chessier’ posts separate from my other rantings. In the coming weeks, in keeping with the tradition of davidsmerdon.com, I’ll also write my two regular January posts: my 2015 New Year’s Resolutions, and my top ten songs for 2014 as submitted to Triple J’s Hottest 100 poll.
For now, as I write this from a plane flying back from Brisbane to Singapore, I’ll leave you with three quick and amusing anecdotes from this trip, highlighting what it’s like now that I visit Australia as a ‘tourist’ rather than ‘coming back home’:
In Agnes Waters, Tristan Stevens and I wandered into a quaint little ‘hippie clothing’ store:
OWNER: Where are you boys from?
ME: One of us is from Gladstone and the other is from the Netherlands.
OWNER: [Cue dry Queensland drawl] Ah yeh?
ME: Yep. He’s from Gladstone and I live in Amsterdam.
OWNER: Yeh nah, I thought you had a foreign accent.
As my boarding pass was being scanned at Brisbane Airport before boarding the flight:
ATTENDANT: Have a pleasant flight, Mr Smerdon…Smerdon? Are you the chess-playing Smerdon?
ME: Uh, yes. That’s me.
ATTENDANT: No way! I saw you at tournaments when I was in school. Have a pleasant flight…
(If you find that snobbish and self-aggrandising, read on…)
Before the first round of the Australian Open in Sydney, while browsing the starting list of participants. Two spectators are doing the same.
SPECTATOR 1: Hey, are you playing in the tournament?
SPECTATOR 1: Do you know who the players are? We’re trying to spot one of the top guys.
ME: Um, sure, yeh.
SPECTATOR 2: We wanna see this top Aussie guy; his name’s Smer…Smer…
ME: [Sheepish grin] Ha, yeh, actually…
SPECTATOR 1: …Smirnov. Anton Smirnov. Do you know him?
ME: [The grin fades] …Oh. Right, yeh. He’s over there. [Walk away in anonymous shame]
Happy New Year!