Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Tale of 2 Tournaments

  On Saturday, I helped Bill Broich direct the Drake Chess Festival in Des Moines. Just like the Des Moines Winter Chess Classic that I helped Bill with last November, my main duty was to run the beginner section. There were a lot of Drake students playing for the first time among the 29 players in the beginner section tournament. One of the students finished second, but all of them seemed to be taken aback by how strong the younger players were. The tournament was won by Frank Li, a 4th grader from Ames.

  One thing that I like about running the chess tournaments is that good sportsmanship is prevalent amongst the players. The rare times that a player causes a commotion makes for a good story, but they are by far the exception and not the rule. I introduced a high school player from my club, Chris Johnson to my friend Lee Cole and his son Sam before the tournament. As fate would have it, Chris and Sam played in the last round and Chris won, but there were no hard feelings from Lee or Sam, even though I could see Sam was not happy at losing. Instead they were all just talking after the game as friendly as they were before the tournament. The adult section also went smoothly (except for Bill’s temperamental printer and computer) and it was a pleasant, albeit long day. A bonus was that my son Matt tied for second in the open section and Marshalltown Chess Club player Jaleb Jay tied for second in the reserve section (Class C and below). Their free entry to the tournament was the payment for my help.

  On Sunday, I helped the Optimist Club by being a timer and scorekeeper for the 5th and 6th grade semifinal and final rounds of their annual boy’s invitational basketball tournament. As opposed to the good sportsmanship of the chess players, almost all the young basketball players would make faces, scream, pout or whine when a foul or an out of bounds call would go against them. If the clock wasn’t stopped or started quickly enough, the coach who stood to benefit by the mistake would be quiet while the other coach would start yelling at us to get it right. Some of the coaches would yell at the referee, mostly to see how much they could get away with or if they could sway the next decision one way or the other. And the parents would also do their share of hollering. Two particular incidents stand out in my mind. With 19 seconds left in the game and his team trailing by 9 points, the coach called a time out. Why? Did he have a 10 point play drawn up on his little basketball clipboard. These games had no 3 point shot so they would need to get 4 baskets, be fouled on 3 of the baskets, make all 3 free throws, and stop the other team 3 times. In 19 seconds. Right… In the other situation, the coach called a time out with 8 seconds left and ahead by 5 points. Was his team really going to lose the game? Was this something the coach saw on TV last week? I’ll stick with chess, thank you.

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