Should we bring a laptop or will we have trouble getting it through customs?
If you have a laptop, travel with it. You will not have trouble passing it through customs.
Will it be safe to carry around our laptop and/or leave it in our hotel room?
I would not leave the laptop in the hotel room; I would carry it with me at all times. If you are leaving the room to enjoy the city, leave it with another American that will be staying at the hotel.
Will the hotel have internet connectivity and is there a cost?
The hotel has wireless internet in the entire facility, meaning the rooms, the lobby and the restaurant. You must ask for the password as you register. There is no additional cost for usage of this service.
If we don't bring a laptop are there computers available at the hotel with internet connectivity so that we can communicate back home through Skype or email? Is there a cost?
The hotel does have some computers available at no extra cost; however, it is my experience that with so many competitors, parents, and coaches – you can forget that.
Are there beaches located close to the hotel?
The hotel is located in front of the ocean.
What will be best for parent meal choices? If the official representatives are being fed buffet style then is it possible for the parent to also eat at the buffet? What is the cost?
It is my understanding as I have spoken with the hotel that the food is included in the hotel price. You see, hotels are inexpensive in Mazatlan and the competition is fierce. Therefore, there are numerous offers and choices.
Are there restaurants located nearby?
The hotel is located in “EL MALECON” which is the ocean front; there are numerous restaurants and other hotels in our location.
We have been told that it is very easy to get sick in Mazatlan by drinking the water? How do we avoid problems in this regard and what are the alternative options that are safe? My son probably won't play very well if he has five days of soda pop.
Mexico has always gotten a bad rap concerning the water issue, but in reality it’s the same throughout Latin America. In the hotel room there is bottled water and you can also purchase bottle water in any convenience store. It is inexpensive. Always drink bottled water not because it is Mexican water but simply because you want to avoid your son or daughter excessive bodily changes due to climate and water.
We have been told that there is a fee to leave Mexico. Is this something that is part of the fees and taxes with our airfare or is this a separate tax that must be paid? How much is this fee?
Any and all fees and taxes are already included in your airfare. Some countries do charge to enter their country but it is done simply because the United States does the same; therefore, those countries feel compelled to act like they are treated. You will fill out a customs declaration while in flight, but it is provided to you in English. In our personal situation, because we live in a border city, we never fly into Mexico, we simply drive; however, as a child a recalled flying every summer to Mexico from Chicago, my hometown, and the one or two page forms we had to fill out.
What is the best way to communicate back home? Internet, pre-paid phone cards?
This is an excellent question. Due to the fact that Mazatlan is a major resort, it’s actually in the top 10 in the world, American cell phones work properly there. Call your cell phone provider to inquire on charges when you use your cell phone in Mazatlan and what is the cost per minute and codes to dial. During the last North American Youth Championship in Aguascalientes, Mexico, several parents used their cell phones in Mexico. Internet is also a great way to communicate back home. You can buy Mexican calling cards in any convenience store in Mazatlan. You can also call back home from your hotel room, they will simply bill you on your credit card in the hotel at check out.
If there is more than one person from your country in your section of the tournament will you eventually meet up with them as an opponent if you both do well, or do they strictly keep members of the same delegation from playing one another?
In some categories in our delegation there is more than one player. There is a possibility that two team members could face each other according to their performance. In a case such as that, I will never as Head of Delegation pressure a parent to offer a draw or manipulate a result. Not only is it unsportsmanlike but unethical.
Is there a registration list of the other players (not from our delegation) so that we can see what the competition is shaping up to be?
We have a list of the Canadian team, which will be posted in this blog, not for reasons of preparing against the Canadian team but because Ms. Beatriz Marinello requested to Mr. Jorge Vega – President of FIDE America that the team registration lists be posted in their website. However, I can basically tell you who Mexico’s official representatives will be since they had a national tournament in order to choose their official representative. I will explain this later.
Are there other activities besides the tournament for which we will be participating as a group?
No, there are no other activities during the tournament; there is not a blitz tournament or a bughouse event like in the United States.
Can we use our Visa Card locally in Mazatlan for credit card transactions or do we need cash or traveler's cheques?
Mazatlan is like an American city outside the continental United States. That should explain everything. Whatever we have in the United States they have in Mazatlan, they simply speak more Spanish. Mazatlan depends on foreign tourism; therefore it is a city that caters to foreign tourism. With this answer I clarify that you can use your credit cards. I have not seen traveler’s cheques in such a long time, but credit cards are used and accepted in Mexico.
Do we need to convert our cash to pesos? Where is the best place to do so? Where do we convert it back when we return?
You can exchange your dollars into pesos at the airport or at the hotel. It is always better to pay with pesos than dollar because outside the airport they will take your dollar at a less devaluated rate. When we enter Mexico we always exchange dollars for pesos. There are numerous currency exchange businesses all over Mazatlan to exchange your dollars to pesos or vice versa. IF YOU USE YOUR CREDIT CARD OR DEBIT CARD AT AN ATM MACHINE TO WITHDRAW MONEY – YOU WILL RECEIVE PESOS AND NOT DOLLARS. The pesos you receive will be at the going rate of exchange for that day.
What type of local cuisine is recommended?
The same Mexican food you eat at home is what you should stick with until someone can explain to you what other dishes contain.
What type of foods or shops should we avoid so that we stay healthy?
Avoid street vendors. Avoid buying “gold” or “silver” from street vendors unless they are established businesses.
What is the best way to travel around the city?
Remember golf carts? Those are the cabs used in Mazatlan; they are called “PULMONIAS”. You will see them all over Mazatlan. From the airport to the hotel you will travel in a regular cab, but once you are in the city of Mazatlan, you will see hundreds of golf carts used as taxies. They are really cool!
Since this is the North American Youth Championships then does this mean that this will limit the participation to Canada, the US and Mexico or will their be participants from further down in South America that will attend?
Excellent question! Actually in the North American Youth Championship there are 4 countries according to FIDE – Canada, the United States, Mexico and the Bahamas. Why the Bahamas? I do not know, but in 2007 they were supposed to show-up yet a delegation never appeared. I think sometimes that they do not even know they are part of this event. Their flag was printed in the 2007 information kits. Could a player from the Central American or South American Zone participate? Yes, they could but two things have to happen: Mexico as the organizing country would have to invite a country and FIDE would have to approve the invitation. In the Central American Youth Championship celebrated in July, Mexico was invited to participate. An excellent player by the name of Hermes, in the under-12 boys, with Pan American and World Youth experience represented Mexico in the category mentioned. He was the only competitor from Mexico to participate and he ended up winning the Silver medal. Yet for him to participate, he had to waive his right to participate in the North American Youth Championship 2009. As of this time, I am unaware that Mexico has invited another country since the Central American Zone already had their championship and South America will be hosting their Championship while we are in Mazatlan, however, theirs is longer in duration.
How does the strength of U.S. participants in these types of international tournaments typically stack up against Canada and South America?
In the 2007 NAYCC, the U.S. team was made-up of 11-players of whom four won the gold medal, one won the silver and we also had a bronze. The U.S. got a clear sweep of gold medals in both the under-8 boys and girls, under 10-girls, and under 18-boys. The silver came in the under-12 boys and the bronze in the under 8-boys. Canada sent a team of six members, but only one girl won the gold medal in the under-12, if I am not mistaken. Mexico won everything else.
Is the US dominant as evidenced in the Pan American games or is one of these other countries or regions fairly strong?
In my opinion, the United States would be more dominant in both North America and the Pan American Youth Championships if more children participated. We do not have representation in the under-10, 14 and 18 girls and 18 boys. It makes it hard for the United States to win the overall championship with such absences in those key categories. Canada’s contingent is even smaller and is more focused on the younger categories, this leaves Mexico with the opportunity for a clean sweep of three medals per categories in which neither the United States and Canada contest them. One cannot use the excuse that the tournament was organized at the list minute, in the 2007 edition, the information was posted five months ahead of time, the result? The same amount of chess players representing the United States as this time – 11. Furthermore, upon returning to the United States, in several tournaments, when parents found out my daughter had the WOMAN CANDIDATE MASTER Title – some would get upset and demand to know how we got the title! We simply stated that our daughter was the gold medalist for the United States in major international zonal tournament; they had the same opportunity to compete as we did, yet we participated when no one wanted too. However, at the same time, the United States is getting ready to participate in the World Youth Championship 2009 in Turkey next month, so it is completely understandable. In the last NAYCC, a certain delegation called us “AMERICA’s B-team”. We all laughed.
Are there local laws, customs or curfews of which we should be aware?
No curfews in Mazatlan. Regarding customs, I will explain several in our first team meeting in Mazatlan.