Sunday, July 24, 2011

Second best

Nothing second best about these kids. They are top shelf all the way.

  I held an outdoor chess tournament in Des Moines yesterday at the same covered shelter I had rented in Pioneer Park for last months tournament. Unlike last month, all the picnic tables were in place and rendered unavailable to any roving bands of trailer park refugees. It rained till eleven o’clock even though the taped weather forecast on WHO kept saying the rain would be ending early in the morning. The weather reporter also said the temperature would hit 96 degrees with something called the heat index making it feel like 110.

  I had prepared by bringing plenty of fruit to eat along with Powerade and juice. I even bought some ice and duct tape at the convenience store. I wasn’t going to eat the duct tape, but I had brought some tarps to protect the shelter from sideways rain and the duct tape was for taping the tarps to the shelter posts.

A battle for first place that would have the Roman gladiators jealous.

  I didn’t think it was all that hot, but it’s good to be prepared. I wasn’t ready for the mosquitoes that were hanging around the chess players, but enough of the parents had bug spray and were willing to share so it was a non-issue. As soon as first round started, the power went out to the one outlet that was attached to the shelter. My computer only had a 2 hour battery, so I turned it off and started to fill out the manual pairing cards that were used in the pre-computer days. I haven’t had to use the cards since 2003, but I still had them at the ready. I had all the cards filled out and was ready to pair the second round by hand when I heard the happy sound of my printer coming to life. I turned my computer back on and was back to the modern age for the rest of the day. I would have been able to struggle along with the pairing cards, but it takes a lot of time and would have been the second best way for me to run a tournament. Next month, I'll have a one of those devices that give you an electric outlet from your car's lighter.

  The 21 kids and parents that played had a good time and then it was time for the afternoon cash tournament. I had 7 players including myself. I managed to win the first 2 games and was paired against 2004 state champion Dan Vasto in the third round. Unlike our previous 3 meetings where I had Black and was quickly a pawn down (managing to win one of these games), in this game I was Black and was a pawn up in the middle game. My king was trapped in the center for the pawn and I ended up giving the pawn back. I got down to 10 seconds left in and butchered a difficult ending to lose to Dan yet again. I wasn’t displeased with the game since I felt like I’d given Dan my best shot, but having come out second best in our encounter I decided to take the last round off and pack up while the other 6 players finished. If I had been playing in the last round, I could have used the duct tape for my ears when a band replete with a tuba player started practicing in the next shelter over. Amplified music is prohibited in the park, but there is no regulation against an old-school tuba and drum set.

A tuba player at a chess tournament doesn't seem like the second best option to silence...
until his drummer buddy decided to join in.

  In other second best news, I received an email from the Chess Journalists of America with a link to the list of entries for the 2011 awards. While my entries for the best feature article must contend with 10 other entries, it appears there are only 2 entries for the best chess blog, and this blog. I reviewed the competition and see that there have been only 13 posts on their site all year (and most of those posts are merely links to other chess sites - no original content) and just 3 of those since May 1st (It was much more active last year). It’s inconceivable to me that I could finish second to this particular blog, but I’ve seen stranger things happen. Once I tried out for a play in a community theatre and there was no one else auditioning for the lead role. I would always audition for the lead role and be offered the comic relief part (if I was offered any part at all), but it looked like I’d have a chance to have a leading part this time. Another audition was hastily arranged and there was no lead for me. I also remember an Abbott and Costello routine where the boys go to the racetrack. Lou bets on the races and loses every race until there is a 2-horse race between Lollipop and Jellybean. Lou bets on both horses and still manages to lose his money but the next race has only one horse (Peanut Butter). Lou bets all his money on Peanut Butter, but Lollipop finishes from the last race and Lou’s horse loses yet again (You can listen to it here at the 24 minute mark).

If I'm not at least second best in this contest,
I'll be the Lou Costello of chess journalism.