Wednesday, May 8, 2013

2013 Okoboji Open - Part 3

  After the Saturday night Okoboji feast, I got to bed around midnight and without any beagles to walk I was able to stay asleep two hours past my usual wakeup time of 4:30 and at seven I was back in the breakfast room of the Arrowwood Resort enjoying a free breakfast of free coffee, free fruit juice, and free English muffins with free butter and free jelly. In between free sips and free bites (did I mention the breakfast was free?), I continued entering games in the computer and posting them on line. Even though many of this year’s players were entering their games in journals and not providing me their game scores and there are always plenty of unreadable scoresheets, all told I was able to enter in 97 of the 154 rated games.

  While I was at my computer, many of the players came wandering in and out of the breakfast room. I got to talk to Lynn Adams, Dave Wagle (the father of the father/son duo I had mistakenly paired on Friday Night) and Dan Buck, the father of the young man I played an offhand game with on Saturday, Luke. Whenever someone talked to me, I stopped entering the games since that was mostly busy work for me and there was no way I was going to get them all in by the end of the day anyway. After a bit Luke, his mom Lynna, and his older brother Finn came to the breakfast room and joined me at my table. Finn was one of two players (Dave Wagle was the other) in the reserve section with perfect 3-0 records and would clinch a tie for first if he could win his fourth round game. Finn didn’t show any signs of nervousness and he reminded me a little of my son Matt. Finn was rated a little higher than Matt was in the fifth grade, but in the summer before he went into the sixth grade, Matt had a breakout tournament at the 2003 Western Open in Milwaukee; beating a 2100 and a 1900 and drawing a 2000 rated player to finish 3rd in a very strong tournament as the lowest rated player (you could look it up). Before I knew it, it was after eight and time for me to get back to the tournament room.

The 2013 Okoboji Masters (l to r) - Front : Jodene Kruse, Awonder Liang. Middle: Okechukwu Iwu, Tim Mc Entee, John Bartholomew, Andrew Tang. Back: Prasantha Amarasinghe, Bob Keating, Jim Ellis, Kevin Wasiluk.

  The fourth round of the tournament was paired the night before and with no one withdrawing from the tournament we were able to start almost on time after letting the three tournament organizers in attendance promote their tournaments and continued the tradition Sam Smith thought up last year of taking a picture of all the master chess players in attendance. The round itself was uneventful with no problems of note. Finn Buck won his game to clinch at least a share of the reserve championship and John Bartholomew drew his game with Prasantha Amarasinghe while Andrew Tang won to go 4-0 to set up a final round matchup where top seeded John Bartholomew had to win against Tang in order to finish first.

  In the reserve section Finn Buck had four points and there were 5 other players with three points, 2 of whom Buck had already defeated. I expected that Buck would play the highest rated player he hadn’t already played but the computer spit out different pairings. Normally I let the computer make all the decisions but in the final round of money tournaments closer attention is required. I was tempted to change the pairings but I was lucky enough to have Tim Mc Entee nearby. In addition to being a master chess player, Tim is a senior tournament director, has always done his pairings by hand, and understands the rules about pairings better than anyone I know. I explained the situation and what matchups I thought were correct. Tim looked everything over and said my pairings seemed reasonable and didn’t have any mistakes (like having a player with the same color three times in a row or matching the same opponents twice) so I made the adjustments and posted the Reserve pairings. I then printed out the Open pairings, saw no problems with them and put them up also.

  I didn’t have the Open pairings up more than a few minutes when Sisira told me the pairings were wrong and I needed to turn off the teammate feature. I took the pairings down and removed the games from the computer, turned off the teammate feature, redid the pairings and sure enough the pairings were different. BUT on further review I noticed that when I removed the games I also removed the players who told me they were leaving early and they were included in the new pairings. So I then removed the early leaving players, redid the pairings without the teammate feature, and they were exactly the same as before. I told Sisira, thanked him for the heart attack (which got a laugh out of him), and put the pairings back up.

  Since most of the players had a long trip home, having the pairings for the final round available as soon as possible allowed some of the games to be started early, which the players appreciated since it meant a little extra daylight on their drive home and a little extra sleep that night. Even so, most of the games ended up starting at the regular 2:30 time.

Show me the Money!!

  On each the first seven boards of the Open section, one or both of the players were competing for some of the cash prizes and all of the games were still underway at 4:30. Tim Mc Entee commented to me that he had rarely if ever seen a tournament where all the top boards were still playing well into the third hour of the final round. The Reserve section was also going strong. Finn Buck lost his final round game to Gokul Thangavel (a sixth grader from Iowa) to create a two way tie and also gave four other players a chance to claim a share of the championship by winning their last round game. Two of the players (Dave Wagle and Louis Leonard) did indeed win their games to force a four way tie. There was only one game left in the reserve that had no bearing on the prize money, so I figured out the prizes and Jodene gave out the cash while I got pictures of all the players with their awards. Many of the prize winners were kids who weren’t used to getting cash instead of trophies, so instead of telling the kids to say ‘Cheese’ or 'Smile' I told them to say ‘Show me the money!’ which got them all laughing. The last game to finish was going to have an impact on who was going to get the trophy so we had to wait to give it out. The Bucks decided not to wait and headed back to Madison, Wisconsin while the other three players hung around.

  After getting a draw in the simul, Sam was having a sub-par tournament and in the last round was in all sorts of trouble against this little seven year old girl that beat a 1400 in the first round of the tournament. Sam was had 2 pawns and a knight to his diminutive opponent’s 3 pawns and a bishop, but had managed to a neat blockade to create a drawn position, except that his opponent wouldn’t agree to a draw and wanted to keep playing. Sam caught ahold of me ourside the tournament room and explained that he had a dead drawn game but his opponent wanted to play. I told him (and he already knew) that he had no legal claim to a draw and had to keep playing until he had a valid claim by the 50 move rule or a repetition of position. Sam went back to battle and the little girl’s parents asked me if they should instruct their daughter to accept the draw. I advised them to let her play and not offer any advice and she did offer a draw a few moves later. All’s well that ends well, but I hope I don’t see her across the board from me at the Jackson Open!

  During the next to last round, Lynn Adams brought over two nice wooden chess sets and told us that Paulette Swanson, the widow of 2011 Reserve Champion Russ Swanson wanted these sets to go to the winners of the Open and Reserve championships. Russ passed away suddenly in October of 2011 and Jodene named the 2012 Reserve trophy after him. Lynn was Russ’s good friend and was happy to drop off the sets to keep Russ’s memory involved in the tournament. Lynn left early but gave me free reign to decide who was going to get the sets in case of a tie with his only wish that the Open champion get his choice of the sets. The Open wasn’t going to be decided anytime soon and I needed to decide which Reserve player was going to get a set so I made up a 3 man blitz tournament between Gokul, Louis, and Dave, which Gokul won handily. I then challenged Gokul to a couple of blitz games. I won a pawn in each of the games but then faded fast and barely managed to get a draw in the second game. I was enjoying myself playing but had to excuse myself when I was called into the tournament room to solve a dispute on the last game still going on in the Reserve section.

  In the last game of the Reserve section the player of the black pieces was a pawn down in a rook ending with 40 minutes on his clock while the player of the white pieces had 36 seconds on his clock. The player of the black pieces claimed that his opponent’s available time was going up instead of going down (the clock belonged to White). I handled the situation as poorly as I possibly could have because I had seen this model of clock in action (Saitek) and thought I knew how it worked. At first I thought that White had run out of time and the time was running up instead of down (this situation occurred to me at the State Fair speed chess tournament). I started punching the clock and the time wasn’t running up. Then I thought the clock was set to add the delay afterwards and if the player only used two seconds, two seconds were added back to the clock so I started punching the clock again, but no it wasn’t that either.

  So after playing with this clock for a couple of minutes, I realized that it was indeed set to add five seconds back after each move (Saitek must have added this feature recently). I got one of my clocks and set it to 36 seconds for White and 40 minutes for black with the proper delay and told them to continue. The Black player was very upset and thought I should at the most forfeit White since he would have run out of time if the clock had been set properly and if I was going to continue the game Black should have had no more than 26 seconds. At this point White decided to offer Black a draw, which was accepted and the situation was over.

  I made a number of mistakes in this situation. First, I should have gotten both players to agree on what was on the game clock and written it down before I did anything else. Then, I should have gotten the rule book out instead of relying on memory so I could explain why I had made my decision. And third, I should never have touched that game clock unless I knew exactly how it worked instead of thinking I knew and then continiued guessing even after I had convincingly demonstrated that I had no clue how this clock worked.

  Having said all that, after looking up the situation in the rule book I think I got the call right. I could have disqualified White if I thought the clock had been intentionally set wrong, but I believe it was an honest accident. I suppose I could have given Black a couple of extra minutes but since he already had a 40 minute to 36 second advantage it probably would have been more insulting than anything else. Getting the correct decision is important but getting it in the way a school child gets that two times two is four because they don’t know how to multiply and will tell you in the next breath that three times three is six is less than optimal. The Black player seemed quite unhappy with me, but having someone upset with you is as much a part of directing a tournament as people telling you what a great time they had and what a good job you did.

John and Gokul
  As soon as that situation got resolved, Gokul came up to me and wanted to know when he could get his chess set and go because he and his dad had a long ride. I told him that once John’s game was over they could get their set and go. I had looked in on John’s game and while it looked like he was winning against Andrew Tang, Andrew had some passed pawns so I couldn’t tell for sure. I took a walk into the tournament room and John’s game had just ended and he was walking to the pairing sheets to post his score. I asked him if he had won and when he told me he did, I explained Gokul’s problem and asked if he could pick out his chess set. It could have been seen as a pretty rude request coming immediately after a long struggle, but John once again showed why everyone thinks so highly of him. He smiled and came into the room where the sets were. I introduced him to Gokul and John told Gokul to pick out the set he wanted and started comparing notes with Gokul about their respective tournaments, making Gokul feel like a million bucks! Then a young player from the reserve section who was playing in his first rated tournament and lost all his games came up to John and asked him to autograph his chessboard. John signed his board and stuck up a conversation with this young player and started encouraging him and made him feel like a million bucks also. I’ve seen a lot of GM’s and IM’s at a lot of tournaments and I’ve rarely seen them treat lower rated players like that, but for John it’s just a natural part of who he is.

  Slowly but surely, the top boards finished up and the last game to finish was Eric Bell’s big upset over the youthful Awonder Liang. As soon as the game was over, I quickly had the prizes calculated and had Tim double check my work. Sam and Jodene counted out the cash and gave it out, the remaining players said their goodbyes and filed out and at 7:15 Sam, Jodene, Tim, Tim Harder, and me were the only ones left. I told both Tims when we started out to Okoboji that Jodene and I were the last ones to leave so it was no surprise to them when I sat down at the computer to put a small blurb about the final results on the website and send the ratings in to the USCF office so the tournament would be rated before most of the players got home. Normally getting the ratings into the USCF office is a no brainer, but they upgraded their website and because the tournament had two and three day schedules with different time controls, I had to enter the time control for each round in each section and enter which schedule each player competed in. My tournament software was no help meeting these new requirements so I had to enter in which schedule each of the 63 players competed in manually. It took me an extra 20 minutes to do this and at 7:50 I said goodbye to Jodene and Sam until August when I'll see them at Sam's Jackson Open, loaded up my car with both Tim’s help, and left Okoboji 55 hours after we arrived.