Saturday, April 16, 2011

A busy, busy, day

  Today was my first day off from work this year. I walked the beagles at 5 and hung out with them until a quarter till six. Then I packed up my car with my computer and tournament directing supplies and drove 60 miles for chess club at St. Francis of Assisi where I’ve been the assistant coach this year. Normally, I would have skipped the club, but it was the last meeting of the year and not attending would be sending the wrong message to all the kids about how much I enjoyed working with them this year. Besides, I committed to helping coach, I haven’t missed a single class all year, and I wasn’t about to start now. Anyone can start and quit, but I believe in finishing what I start.

  Once the club was over (head coach Jim beat me 2 out of 3 speed chess games and I’m not so sure the one I did win wasn’t out of pity), I headed 200 miles northwest to Okoboji, Iowa to direct the Okoboji Open chess tournament and help out my friend Jodene Kruse. I took a couple of breaks from driving in the rain to eat a $4 Big Mac (4 DOLLARS?) in Emmetsburg and fill up my gas tank with some $3.79 a gallon gas in Mason City and got to Okoboji at 1:30 in the afternoon. I checked in my room, set up my computer and waited for the players to arrive for the first round at 6.

The highly impressive International Master John Bartholomew.

  It was very touch and go as to whether the tournament was going to be able to make expenses, but Riaz Khan from Minnesota not only talked International Master John Bartholomew to play, he also took 4 other players with him from Minneapolis and promoted the tournament last weekend at a huge scholastic tournament. Thanks to his efforts, the tournament is certain to show a small profit. Riaz is a great guy that everyone likes and trusts and Jodene is very lucky to have him in her corner. Bartholomew attends the University of Texas at Dallas on a chess scholarship. I remember taking my kids to the big AmericInn tournaments in Minneapolis and watching him win 3 $2,500 scholarships. You'd almost expect a guy whose had that much chess success to be a little standoffish, but he is a great guy who thanked Jodene for holding the tournament. He won his game against a strong 11 year old and spent well over an hour with him afterward going over their game. The 11 year old got an invaluable glimpse into a top level player's thought process that he'll probably never forget. It was a very gracious thing to do and it impressed me to no end.

  16 players showed up to play 4 hour games tonight and tomorrow morning with another 30 or so coming to play 2 3 hour games tomorrow before everyone finishes up with a 4 hour game tomorrow night and 2 more 4 hour games on Sunday.

Alex Golubow pulled off a big upset in his first game and autographed the Nebraska state chess magezine "Gambit" that featured his article for me.

  I got to meet a lot of friends like Riaz, Sam Smith, Jodene, and Alex Golubow that I only get to see once or twice a year so it was a nice treat just to hang out with them and chat about chess and life in between checking in on the tournament games, chatting with Kathy on Facebook (a first for us), and keeping an eye on the Yankees losing to the Rangers. The last game finished around 9:40 and I got the games posted onto the internet within an hour. In most of the Iowa tournaments, the games aren’t available until the quarterly state chess magazine comes out and sometimes the games are never posted. When I directed the state championship in 2009, I made the first day’s games available that night and the response I got was overwhelmingly positive. I did the same for the Okoboji tournament the next week and the players really enjoyed having the games available quickly so i did it last year and intend on doing it this year also. It is an extra touch to help make the tournament something the players will want to go to every year. Other tournament directors know the rules better than me, or can do the complicated pairings and figure out the prizes better than me, but no one works harder than me so when I have an opportunity to play to my strength by making sure the pairings are done for the next day’s round; the games are posted; and a tournament summary is written, I take full advantage. I’m just getting to bed at midnight, but I thought I’d get my blog posted this before Sunday because as busy as today was, the next 2 days promise to be even busier!