Sunday, October 16, 2011

Back to Zanzibar's

  Early in the week, I arranged to meet my friend Dan Troxell and the gang at Zanzibar’s Coffee Adventure on Saturday morning to hang out and play some chess. I hadn’t been there since June and have been meaning to head over for quite some time, but as the prophet Willie Nelson said ‘Ain’t it funny how time slips away’.

  When Zanzibar regular Dan Troxell (of the Innocent Bystander blog) came down to my outdoor chess tournament in July, I had introduced him to Robert Vance. Robert is a longtime volunteer Des Moines chess teacher and since that introduction has started giving lessons at Zanzibar’s. Dan's been over to Marshalltown to play blitz 4 times since then. In August and early September, he won 1 out of 6 games, but in 2 tournaments over the last 4 weeks he reversed that score, winning 5 out of 6 including a 3-0 mark this past Thursday to join the list of Marshalltown Thursday Night blitz Champions.

On the left is Robert Vance conducting a lesson in tactics. On the right is a $2.25 coffee, Mike's $3 orange juice (freshly squeezed), and a $2.60 bagel with cream cheese.

  I was looking forward to meeting up with the Zanzibar gang again, seeing how their chess was getting along, and I also wanted to gauge how my chess was doing. I’ve been playing very poorly lately, barely even looking to see what my opponents were planning and not bothering to check my calculations to see if there were holes in my logic. As a result, I’ve been getting a lot of lost games and even though I’ve managed to win most of these games by swindling my opponents, I’m planning on playing in a big tournament at the end of the month and need to correct my problems before then.

  Like I do every day, I woke up at 4:30 and since it was a weekend, Kathy and I walked the beagles to the Jiffy for a beef stick treat. When I got my coffee, the clerk told me the price had gone up to $1.29 for a 20 oz coffee. It was only $.99 for me since I had been bringing my refill cup since the last time Jiffy had raised the prices, but I was pretty annoyed at this sudden 25% increase in the price of my coffee. I’m sick of all these rich convenience store owners and coffee growers gouging me. I looked on the side of a soda cooler where everyone puts up their used car and used trailer park space ads to see if there was an ‘Occupy Jiffy’ protest going on that morning. Since there wasn’t, I was able to carry out my plan to head to Zanzibar's.

  I left the house at 7:30 and 55 miles later pulled up to Zanzibar’s at 8:30. Robert was there giving a lesson in endgames to Mike and Dan. I went to the counter to get a coffee and a bagel. They were out of everything bagels so I got a sesame seed bagel with cream cheese to go along with the coffee of the day, Peru Java. $4.75 later I was back working on the puzzles with Dan, Mike, and Robert. We talked about baseball , politics, and the high price of coffee (not to mention Mike’s $3 shot glass sized freshly squeezed orange juice) while we were solving puzzles and before I knew it, it was 10:00. I had told Kathy I’d be back by 12:30, so I suggested we play a game before I left. Robert squared off with Mike and I got another Peruvian coffee ($1.10 refill) and bagel with cream cheese before starting a game with the reigning Marshalltown Thursday Night Blitz champion, Dan Troxell.

  It sure looks like Dan has gotten a lot better since we last played at Zanzibar's. I played good, still it was a long hard struggle even with the extra piece and I think it got me in a good groove of trying to anticipate my opponents plans and replies. Robert had beaten Mike a couple of times while Dan and I were playing and I suggested he try to play Mike without his queen since our game was going to be awhile. Normally this is not something I’d suggest in a friendly setting like Zanzibar’s but since Robert was in an instructive capacity, it seemed reasonable and they tried it. Mike lost the first game, but got to a pawn up ending in the second match and managed to win (I did offer some advice at one point about keeping all his pieces involved which I probably shouldn’t have done). I’d love to run an odds tournament in Des Moines someday. I doubt the players would go for it, but I know I’d enjoy trying to take on the top players in the state with an extra piece or pawn in my pocket and try to comeback from a piece or a pawn down against a lower rated player.

  It was around 11:15 when we were finished. Dan and I were going over our game and then Paul walked in and started a game with Dan. We talked a little more and then it was time to go at a little before 12. I had another great time at Zanzibar’s and I’m looking forward to my next visit.

I left Zanzibar's just as I found it, with people playing chess and drinking fine coffee.