Sunday, April 10, 2011

Hitting my Stride

  I had the latest chess tournament in my monthly series yesterday in West Des Moines. I expected some serious slippage with the school chess clubs winding down and spring sports starting, but I was pleasantly surprised to have 54 players attend, only 6 less than last month. I caught a bad break when the St. Francis chess club I help with didn’t have school on Friday and I lost a chance to remind them one last time. I only had 3 players from the host school, which makes the 54 seem even better today.

  In the 4 tournaments, I’ve had a 154 different players and 224 total. Yesterday I had 24 new players out of the 54. I’m encouraged by how many different players have shown up, but I’d hope to have retained more players. In particular were 3 or 4 families who played in the first 2 tournaments but not the last 2. I wonder why but think it would be a little too forward to ask. Next month is my last scheduled tournament but I’m working on a summer initiative to keep the tournament momentum going. With 150 separate players, I have the possibility of having a tournament with 150 players any month. When I started these tournaments I thought it would take me a year to get to 50 players, so averaging 55 is fantastic. My next job is to try and get attendance to 100 players, but that will have to wait till next year.

  Something that has happened at the last 2 tournaments is that players in the beginner section are finishing their games so much quicker than the advanced section that rather than make them wait for the advanced section to finish before starting their next round, I’m just making the pairings and letting them finish their tournament an hour before the other section. I could make them wait to see how the more advanced players take their time, but I know that if I was a parent, I’d like to get home an hour earlier if I could.

  The tournament went very smoothly and I think most of the players and parents had a great time. I’ve got my routine down and the tournament process ran like a well-oiled machine from the pre-tournament publicity to the post-tournament write-ups. My son Matt was in Iowa City playing for the state championship and Kathy took him, so that left me with beagle duty on Friday night so I got very little sleep. I was really tired when I got home, but stayed up till midnight getting the tournament rated and posting the tournament report and pictures on the internet. I wish I hadn’t posted the report because when I reviewed it this morning, I caught at least 20 errors. I fixed them by 8 and hopefully, there weren’t too many night owls!

  Next week, I’m off to Okoboji, Iowa to direct the Okoboji Open for my friend Jodene Kruse. The tournament has lost money the last 2 years and the prize fund has been scaled back considerably as a result. Alex Yermolinsky, the grandmaster that has attended the past 2 years, won’t be playing and there are some good and bad points to that. Having a grandmaster gives the tournament a lot of prestige and convinces some players to attend that otherwise wouldn’t, but on the other hand it is customary for a grandmaster to have his room paid for and not pay an entry fee when playing in a minor event. With one week to go, it looks like the tournament has an excellent chance of breaking even but there is very little participation from Iowa players (Okoboji is less than an hour drive from South Dakota and is just south of Minnesota. 2 years ago, IASCA president Tim McEntee saw the value of the tournament. He scheduled the state class championships for the month after the open and held the IASCA annual meeting at Okoboji during the tournament as a way to entice Iowa players to make the trip to play. 16 Iowa players played, but only 13 from Iowa attended last year and this year the class championships were set up the week before the Okoboji Open. This is very typical of Iowa chess. While Tim, myself, and precious few others will invest time, money, and effort to groups who are trying to get chess initiatives going, many of the others who could be helpful will mouth their support but immediately set to work to protect their little chess territories by counter scheduling, bad mouthing the organizers, or just plain trying to sabotage the initiatives. I've worked very hard on trying to have my Des Moines chess tournaments as self-contained as possible for that reason. Jodene wants to have a premiere chess event in Okoboji, but she will always be at the mercy of other chess groups to make her events successful unless she builds her own base of players in northwest Iowa.

  I’ve had a great time directing the Okoboji open the last 2 years and am looking forward to meeting old friends and making new ones. It will also be my first 2 days off from work this year so I’ll be having a mini-vacation at the same time.