Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Father Time and other stories from the Okoboji Open

  I finished 3 weekends of chess related activities by directing the Okoboji Open for my friends Jodene Kruse and John Flores this past weekend. The Okoboji Open started out as a small 1 day tournament in January and for the last 2 years has been a 3 day tournament in April. Directing this tournament is very challenging for me. Normally, when I run a tournament, I know almost all the players and they know me, so there aren’t too many problems. In Okoboji, there are players from Nebraska, South Dakota, Minnesota, and Iowa playing and I feel like I have to prove my worthiness to be the tournament director and am more readily challenged about my knowledge of the rules. This tournament has a prize fund of a couple of thousand dollars and that also makes everyone a bit edgier when it comes to what color they play and who they play, etc… The last 2 years, Grandmaster Alex Yermolinsky has played. He is 29th ranked player in the US and one of only 1300 or so chess grandmasters in the world. Alex is very gracious and plays as a favor to Jodene, but he wants good conditions to play in. Last year he was upset because his table was too close to another table and asked me to please move the table for the next round. Another issue is that I am not privy to the communications between the players and organizers during the registration process, so the beginning of the tournament is prone to miscommunications as to which players want which rounds off and when they will be starting play. There is an option in the tournament to play 2 long games on Friday night and Saturday morning or 2 shorter games on Saturday. All the players play 1 long game Saturday night and 2 long games on Sunday. In addition to all this, my son Matt was accompanying me and I have to make sure he has everything he needs to play at a high level, but since he is 17, it is less of an issue than it used to be and John was great about getting him out to lunch when needed.

2nd Place finisher Matt Anzis receiving his winnings from organizers Jodene Kruse(left) and John Flores(right)

  The tournament got off to a good start on Friday night, I managed to figure out which players were no-shows and keep them from being paired against players who were here and ready to play. I hate to have a player drive a long way to a tournament and then stare at an empty chair for an hour, even if they do get a win. Saturday morning was more of a chore since people were registering and checking in to play the 2 short games while the players were filing in to play the longer games. I had an odd number of players and so got my assistant director (Bill Broich) to sit in the tournament so everyone would have a game. I managed a nice finesse by pairing two players who had not shown up against each other and letting the players they otherwise would have played get in a game against each other (Neither of the 2 players showed up for the Saturday morning game).

Grandmaster Alex Yermolinsky (right) won all 5 games to take the $400 top prize at the 2010 Okoboji Open

  It was a nice group of players. Many had remembered me from the year before and we all got along well for the most part. Part of the tournament director’s job is to provide a sympathetic ear for the players who want to discuss their game. You share in their joy and commiserate in their losses. Most of the problems that did arise were from clocks that were not set correctly. There was an 87-year old player named Dick Rostrum who lost his game on Friday night and lost again on Saturday morning. After the Saturday morning game, he went over to the grandmaster’s table, pulled up a chair, sat down to watch, leaning his arms on the table, coughing and wheezing occasionally. No one complained, so I didn’t ask him to move. He said he was from GM Yermolinsky’s hometown and wanted to watch him. I took a break from entering all the games into the computer and posting them on-line to play in Yermolinsky’s simultaneous exhibition (last year I was the last one to lose, this year I lost second fastest), but was fairly busy most of the day.

  On Saturday night, Dick Rostrum yelled at me because he was going to have black for the second time in a row (it happens occasionally). After he lost for the 3rd time in a row he again sat down at the GM’s table, but this time there was a loud ticking noise that seemed to be coming from his bag. I went over, bent down to look at his bag and he yelled “I’ll just keep my bag on my lap, IF YOU DON’T MIND.”, like I was going to steal his bag. I was going to ask him if his clock was running, but the GM gave me a dirty look and waved his hand so I just excused myself, but I’d already managed to make the situation worse. The problem with trying to deal with an old person is that they can’t hear so they start yelling and this guy was already upset over losing 3 games in a row. Since he was old and had a ticking clock in his bag and I was just a little a little ticked off myself, I just started referring to him as “Father Time”. John, Jodene, Matt, and myself had a great dinner with players Riaz Khan (a very nice and funny guy) and Tim Harder (who didn’t have a place to sleep and spent the night on a cot in the room I got for Matt and me) and had a good night’s sleep.

  Sunday’s games went very smoothly and the tournament was over in no time. As a bonus, Matt finished in second place (after surrendering an early draw, he won 3 games in a row) to GM Yermolinsky and took home $250. “Father Time” won his last 2 games and did not sit at the grandmaster’s table after either victory. He even won a trophy for the top scoring senior player. When John went to hand him his trophy, he grabbed the trophy and ran over to Jodene, yelling out “NOT YOU, HER!!” multiple times. He started rubbing up on Jodene and I managed to get my revenge by saying, “Do you want me to hold the trophy so you can use both hands?” We all had a good laugh, but Matt told me Father Time did not seem too amused, although it appeared to me that he had other things on his mind.

Dick Rostrom receiving the senior trophy from tournament organizer Jodene Kruse

  The 4 hour drive home went very quickly and we stopped for gas at the Kum’N’Go in Mason City. I grabbed a ‘Chorizo’ dog and wolfed it down. Either the Chorizo Dog or Father Time had the last laugh because I got food poisoned and was sicker than a dog all day Monday and still am not right 3 days later. While I enjoyed the Okoboji Open very much, I’m looking forward to a chess-free weekend!