Sunday, April 29, 2012

From Sunday to Saturday

  Last Sunday, I was in Okoboji having a great weekend meeting old friends, making new friends, and directing a tournament that had 9 masters or former masters among the 40+ players looking for a piece of a $1500 prize fund. I got home at 12:30 Monday morning and rolled into bed at 1:30 in the morning for 3 hours sleep before Daisy and Baxter woke Kathy and I up like they do every day for their morning walk. Beagles are smart, but they have no sympathy for me only having 3 hours sleep since they rarely sleep 3 hours at a time. Of course, they aren’t awake more than 2 hours at a time, either!

Sunday : With IM John Bartholomew and his trophy.
Saturday: West Des Moines finest with their trophies!

  I was farsighted enough to have taken the day off from work and spend my Monday walking the dogs, finishing up entering the Okoboji Games, writing my tournament report and blog, napping, and watching some classic episodes of Law & Order: Criminal Intent on the USA Network. I also was taking care of entries to this years’ chess camp and my monthly youth chess tournament that I held yesterday. It was the busiest day off I’ve ever had. And even though I did get some naps in, I was dragging through the week and didn’t study chess or workout all week.

  I survived my Thursday Night Blitz tournament with a win against my fellow coach Jon McCord and draws against Matt Kreigel and Jaleb Jay. Since Matt won the Iowa Class C championship yesterday, I can’t feel too bad about only scoring .5 out of our last 2 games since I was unknowingly playing a future state champion who is obviously demonstrating a new level of ability. I had my winning chances against Jaleb, but he turned the game into an ending with Rooks and opposite colored bishops and blocked the position very skillfully. I was happy that for the first time all year I played Jaleb a game that didn't find myself lost at some point regardless of the eventual outcome.

  As usual, my entries for the Saturday tournament were trickling in until Wednesday when they started picking up steam, but just as Tim Mc Entee had predicted my attendance has lightened up as the weather got warm. I was my own worst enemy in this regard since I scheduled a St. Francis Chess Club only tournament for Monday afternoon. Since I get paid for coaching by being allowed to hold a monthly tournament in the school cafeteria, the club budget was unused this year, so I’m having a free tournament with trophies for everybody. It is a great way to reward the kids who get up early every Friday to play chess, but 2 tournaments in 3 days is a bit much for these casual chess players and their parents and I had only 3 St. Francis players come to the tournament. Throw in a big scouting event in Des Moines and little league baseball and my attendance was 47 youth players and 12 parents for my lowest attendance since last December.


Robert, Nathan, and chess coach Ben Tessman.
  I took Chandler and his brother Dalton to the tournament in return for helping me set up. Chandler had applied for and received his credentials to be a tournament director and he was going help me by taking care of any remaining games after his game had finished. I was happy to see the return to my tournaments of Sam Cole and his dad Lee Cole (the comic magician), big supporters of my chess efforts who I hadn't seen since last year due to Sam's many other pursuits (pianist, basketball, baseball, etc...) and the first time appearance of Ben Tessman, the computer expert who I met at Zanzibars last November. Ben was bringing his student, Nathan to play in his first tournament (he finished 3rd in the afternoon unrated section), and Nathan's dad Robert to play in the parents section. I also had 3 players coming from the Kansas City area to play, which was a first for me. 2 of the players were brothers who seemed to be treating the trip as a big adventure. They were wearing ‘Harry Potter’ capes (someone had to tell me that) and Star trek shirts from the original 1960’s show (those I recognized). You might think that’s a bit odd unless you saw the pictures from my last month’s tournament where kids were dressing up in St. Patrick’s gear. One of the players (Augustus) was the top rated player in the field and as luck would have it, he was paired to play Chandler in the first round.

  There was apparently some sort of problem between Chandler and Augustus during their game concerning talking or comments or something. I wasn’t there and I don’t know what happened during the game, but what I do know is that Augustus beat Chandler, and when he proffered his electronic scoresheet for Chandler to sign, Chandler wrote something that while not profane, wasn’t very nice and certainly wasn’t his signature. Everything eventually got smoothed over, but Chandler wasn’t in frame of mind to help direct the tournament. In fact, he lost his next 2 games and finished next to last in the tournament. Chandler rebounded to take fifth place in the afternoon section, but as far as running the tournament I was on my own, which was a shame since I’ve never had such an out of sync tournament. The rated, unrated, and parents section always finished at different times so I was constantly helping players find their tables, or watching games finish, or making the pairings for the next round.

  My 3 St. Francis players were in the unrated morning section. I thought 7 year old Ryan had a great chance to win the tournament before it started since he has proven to be one of the top players in the school club. Ryan won his first game, but then fell for a checkmate while a rook up and wasn’t able to recover from the shock until the last round and tied for 6th place with 2.5 points out of 5. 8 year old Will won his first 3 games, including beating a high school player and was tied for first, but then he got a little caught up in the moment and lost his last 2 games, still managing to get a trophy for a fourth place finish. 10 year old Zach was playing in his first tournament after learning to play chess 2 months ago. He lost his first 3 games before winning his fourth (he also won his last game when his opponent left early). I hope he doesn’t get discouraged from tournament chess. He was the only person playing in his first tournament, but a lot of times there is a shock when a young player runs into his first experience with an entire group of players who are the best in their house or block or class. I got to play him a game and talk to his dad and tried to show him a couple of quick things he could do to improve his results. I’d like to see these young kids keep playing in tournaments, but not if it means souring them on chess. A high school player won first place and a middle school player won second, but a 5 year old player won third place and beat both Will and Ryan when he played them. Hopefully they won’t feel like has-beens for finishing behind a 5 year old! Its one thing to be the ‘boy wonder’, but quite another to be beaten by the new ‘boy wonder’.

This was some serious basketball! I'll stick to chess, thank you....

  Early in the morning, an older lady came by and asked me if I could separate the gym from the cafeteria for their basketball tournament using the portable partition. She seemed very interested in the chess players and we talked for at least 10 minutes about the St. Francis chess club and the chess tournaments. I asked her if she was coaching a team and she said ‘oh no…I’m playing’. It turns out the tournament was a ‘Granny Basketball’ tournament (This is a real organization. Check it out here!) I had forgotten to bring my lunch, but I was in luck because the basketball tournament had a concession stand. I got 2 hot dogs, a giant pickle, and a water for lunch ($3) and ate with master chess player Tim Mc Entee and chess coach/poet Dan Troxell between tournaments. I had gotten 6 raffle tickets that they were selling at the basketball tournament and was happily surprised to win a digital picture keychain.

My week ended on Saturday with my new digital picture keychain and a great picture to go along with it. Live long and prosper!

  The afternoon tournament was just as busy as the morning, but I got a lot of help from Mark, a chess coach at a local school whose 2 children were playing. Mark was taking care of the floor and helping players whenever I was busy doing any of my many other tasks. The day ended without any more incidents and everyone went home happy. All in all, it was a great day of chess to cap a busy chess week. I’m not disappointed with the smallish attendance since I could barely handle the ones I had. I’m starting my summer outdoor series next month and since I’ll be giving out medals but no trophies, I’ll break even no matter how few or how many players show up. I’m going to start out with morning and afternoon sessions and let the players show me if I have to scale back to one session. Last year, my attendance plummeted in the outdoor tournaments but now that I’ve had a whole year to build more of a base I’m hoping to show a marked increase.