When I play at Benasque I stay in a campsite about three kilometres up the hill from the town, hotel rooms being pricier than I reckon I can afford. When I'm on my own this means about forty minutes' energetic walk, but when I'm not, it's five short minutes in the car, a difference that's particularly noticeable when it's dark, or raining, or when you're knackered.
After watching Romain Edouard's disaster in round nine we had just set off when we stopped to pick up a hitch-hiker who, though it was neither dark nor raining, had, he told us, been walking all day and didn't really fancy the last couple of miles uphill. Having said "thank you" in English when he got in, he found himself replied to in the same language - and in the conversation that ensued he was interested to hear that I was playing in the chess tournament in the town, since - though there to walk, not to play chess - he had noticed that there was a tournament on, and was, he said, a chessplayer himself.
Obviously at first I assumed he meant he knew how the pieces move. This assumption was upgraded when he asked me what my rating was, since you'd have to be a serious player to ask, and was entirely obliterated when he said that his was 2323, a sizeable distance above my own. His accent wasn't entirely English, having a large component of Australian, but given that he said he had been busy on the English circuit twenty years before - and indeed had a couple of IM norms outstanding from that time - I said I surely had to know his name. I did. By extraordinary coincidence, driving uphill from a tiny Pyrenean town we happened to have picked up a hitch-hiker who turned out to be Erik Teichmann.
I remembered the name from my youth, if not much more than that: I don't think we ever played, not surprisingly since Erik was several classes above me as a player, his name presumably familiar from the top boards and prize lists of tournament where I probably didn't even play in the top section. But I did remember him, and I was also half-sure I had seen it again more recently, though precisely where I didn't know. He said he had been playing a bit more recently, after a long largely inactive spell, and that he'd won a couple of tournaments: indeed he had so perhaps I may have seen his name in a report somewhere.
Anyway, what with those titles Erik's rating is on the up - not bad for a guy who's forty-eight this year, albeit probably the healthiest-looking forty-eight-year-old man I've ever seen, even by the standards obtaining in Australia, where he lives. Erik is now a qualified "life coach" and it appears his old norms are valid, as he thought, so that title too, may yet be his.
Well, you never know who you'll meet on the road, so my advice is: always pick up hitch-hikers. It was a pleasure to meet and talk, so if Erik is reading this - best wishes and best of luck for the future, in chess and elsewhere.
But what's this I hear about a long beard and a single long fingernail?