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This past weekend, I spent my time away from Harvard in Ithaca, New York. The Harvard  Men’s Tennis Team headed to Cornell to play the Regional Championships. All eight schools in the Ivy League were represented, as well as several other schools such as Marist, St. Johns, and Buffalo. In this tournament,  each school was allowed between one and six players depending on the team’s ranking and the players’ individual rankings. Harvard had six singles players and three doubles entered in the 128 draw field.

Our team left Harvard around 2 o’clock last Thursday to head down to the tournament. Our trip down to Ithaca was very scenic, as we got further away from Boston and into the more rural areas of New York.   The team bonded over card games and other activities during the 6 hour drive to Ithaca.  We ended up reaching Cornell around 8, and we practiced at the Reis Tennis Center for an hour before checking into the hotel and going to bed.

Friday was the first day of the tournament, and Harvard had a perfect day in singles with all participants advancing and two out of the three doubles team advancing as well. In my match, I played an international player from the University at Buffalo. In the first set, I got off to a good start, and had the lead throughout the first set.  My opponent started to gain momentum near the end of the set, but I was able to win the first set 7-6, winning 7-4 in the tiebreaker. In the second and third set, he played much more aggressively, winning the second set 4-6, and in the third set, he was up 4-3. After a talk with my coaches, at the changeover, I came out with a new, aggressive game plan, and I was able to win the last three games closing out the match 7-6 (4), 4-6, 6-4. The match lasted nearly four hours!  Afterward, I went back to the hotel to rest and get ready for the next match on the following day.

Coach Fish giving me advice at a changeover.

On Saturday, I was scheduled to play the #1 player from Yale. He was a junior and had been named Ivy League Player of the Year as a freshmen. It was a really tough match, and I fell in straight sets.  My opponent played a very clean match, and it was a great learning experience. For the rest of the day, I cheered on teammates and started homework that was due later that week. We were planning to leave  Sunday, but ended up traveling on Monday.

After the tournament, I spent the week catching up on schoolwork. This past week, I also did something I have never done before. I had the opportunity to play a Grandmaster in a game of chess. A Grandmaster is the highest honor a chess player can receive. Larry Christiansen the Grandmaster played on the U.S. Olympiad Team nine times and has a 2,585 rating (one of the highest in the world).

Larry Christiansen and I

He played a simul with 20 players, meaning that he played twenty players at once. He would make his move and move from board to board. My game lasted for about 40 moves, but he ended up getting a piece advantage and was able to control the rest of the match. The fact that I was able to play a chess Grandmaster was truly remarkable. There aren’t many places in the world where I would have been able to do this.

Larry Christiansen is about to move in the chess game.

That was the end of my week. This weekend, the Harvard Men’s Tennis Team will compete in the Harvard Halloween Invitational, and I will also be attending  celebrations in honor of Diwali, the Indian festival of lights, on Sunday. I’ll write again next Saturday, and in the meantime, have a great week!

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