Wednesday, September 4, 2013

2013 Jackson Open - Part 2

  I found it difficult to get a good night’s sleep in the Jackson, Minnesota Super 8 motel following my Friday Night draw against Steve Heinisch. I got a 2AM call from Kathy to let me know she was back safely form Idaho and that Daisy and Baxter had made it through 14 hours in the kitchen by themselves without getting into trouble and after that I was able to sleep until 6:30 which was the latest I’ve woken up in over a year. I washed up, took my bag to the car, checked out, and went to the breakfast room to have the free breakfast that comes with the room.

The Super 8's complimentary breakfast
I never thought of hard boiled eggs as a 'Regional' breakfast item, but I've not been to many regions.

  When I got to the Super 8, I thought it looked different from last year and when I asked the clerk about it he told me they were indeed undergoing extensive renovations. It was only when I started writing this post that I realized that the hotel looked different because it WAS different since I stayed in the Econo Lodge last year. The Super 8 motel had a very nice and quiet room, but except for some old looking apples the breakfast bar was entirely prepackaged with even the toast and waffles wrapped in cellophane. I unwrapped two slices of toast and was toasting them while I ate an Activia yogurt (Sorry Jamie Lee, it was the only choice available). While my toast was cooking, I saw a sign proclaiming a ‘Regional Breakfast Item’. Since I was in Minnesota (land of 10,000 lakes) my mouth was watering at the thought of some smoked Walleye or perhaps some Lutefisk or at the very least Swedish meatballs. I looked all over for some Minnesotan ‘regional breakfast items’ when I finally realized that the ‘regional breakfast item’ the Super 8 was proclaiming was the tray of hard-boiled eggs that was sitting on top of the microwave.

  I didn’t realize that hard-boiled eggs were a ‘regional breakfast item’ but having been educated as such by the Jackson, Minnesota Super 8 Motel, I felt extremely lucky that I was able to sample such a regional delicacy in my youth in New Jersey (since they must have been imported from Minnesota). I had not one but TWO of the regional treats with some coffee and apple juice and made my way down the street to the Jackson Public Library for the final three rounds of the tournament.

  Since John and Jodene took half point byes instead of playing Friday night and there were no other players at a half point except me and Steve, I knew I’d be playing Jodene if no other players arrived. I got to the library and chatted with the other players and when no one else showed up to play I was paired with the Black pieces against Jodene.

Jodene Kruse
  Jodene Kruse is one of the most inspirational people I know. She plays tournament chess and organizes the Okoboji Open every year despite having cerebral palsy. And I don’t mean she does them poorly but because she has this affliction it only matters that she tries – I mean she excels. Jodene does all the organization of the Open from setting the dates and prize funds to getting sponsorships to welcoming the participants to making sure all the players get an extended checkout time on Sunday. As a player, she had a big year in 2012 with cash prizes for her class at the National Open in Last Vegas and the Catfish Days tournament in Minnesota. After hanging around with Jodene and John and Sam, it makes it kind of hard to feel bad because my job isn’t going as well as I’d like or some construction made me wait a few extra minutes in traffic or that I only got a draw with Steve Heinisch the night before. But having said all that, I’ve also seen Jodene have some poor results at chess tournaments. Whether it happens because she gets tired due to her affliction or some flaw in her game that gets exploited I couldn’t say.

  What I can say is that I was determined to do my best to win this game and I wasn’t above some gamesmanship. The player of the Black pieces gets to decide which side of the board the chess clock is placed. Normally the player chooses to have it on their right hand side, but when I’m Black I like to put it on my left hand side. There’s no deep reason for this but the way it works out is that no matter what color I have the clock is almost always on my left hand side and I’m pretty comfortable having it there. Jodene asked me to put the clock on my right hand side and I respectfully declined (although I did remind her to press her clock when she forgot once).

pgn4web chessboards courtesy of
  Jodene was not at her best in this game which only took around an hour and a half, leaving 2 and a half hours till the next round. I took a nap in my car for an hour and since it was another spectacular day I spent the next hour in the courtyard outside the library hanging out with John and Sam and the other players on the tables and chairs Sam provided waiting for the top boards to finish their games. When the dust settled there were three players with 2 wins: defending champ Eric Bell, Minnesota super tournament director Dan Voje, and Dane Zagar. Steve Heinisch and I were tied for fourth with 1.5 points. This meant that I would be playing the lowest rated undefeated player who was Dane Zager.

  Dane is a graduate math student at the University of Wisconsin who has also organized the Twin Ports Open chess tournament in his hometown of Duluth the past two years. Dane was the Minnesota Amateur champion last year. I knew it would be a tall order to beat him but I did have the White pieces so after a light lunch with John Flores at the Pizza Ranch, Dane and I shook hands and started our game.

Dane Zager
  When this game finished I was exhausted and pretty discouraged. I can’t imagine playing any better than I did and it just wasn’t good enough. Almost three hours of intense chess without making any obvious mistakes and I didn’t even know where I went wrong. Dane and I talked about the game afterwards and he thought the game was over once he got the pawn to g3. I’ve looked at the game with the computer and it didn’t look like I missed anything obvious. After looking over the game a couple of times since I think it showed the differences between a player like Dane Zagar and a player like me in a very harsh light. When I doubled Dane’s pawns he pushed them to make weaknesses in my end of the board instead of defending them as weaknesses. Dane used every second of his time in order to get a winning position while I left my time on the clock that could have been used to consider when the a-file became less important than the c-file. And when Dane had the advantage he went straight for the kill which made my dithering around in my game against Jodene (trying to trade queens instead of searching for a sure checkmate) look almost silly in comparison.

  I was so beat after this game that when one of the players decided to take the last round off I put the field back to an even number by taking the last round off myself since I was locked out of any prize money. I hung out in the skittles room at the Senior Center that was next door to the library, found a comfortable chair to sit in and chatted with Sam’s sister Leila for a bit. I fell asleep and when I woke up it was a couple of hours later and half the players were in the senior center going over their completed games. Dane and Eric were going over their final round draw that let them share the championship and John was looking over his upset win against Destiny Jorenby’s brother Josiah. I played a few games of blitz with Shaun (an active player in the 1980's who was only playing in his second tournament this century), the final few games finished, Sam and John gave out the prizes, we said our good byes, and it was time to leave Jackson for another year.

Here's to Sam Smith (center) for another great Jackson Open and the 2013 co-champions : Dane Zagar (l) and Eric Bell (r).

  It was nice to spend a mini vacation playing chess and hanging out with my friends John, Jodene, Sam, and Riaz. Looking back on my Jackson Open from a chess perspective I think I played quite well with my only mistakes being sins of omission, but unlike many other tournaments I’ve played in where I was able to escape punishment for my errors I paid for all my Jackson mistakes with points off the scoreboard. My chess errors were in judging middlegame positions and not tactical which was very encouraging because this tournament notwithstanding most of my tournament games are decided by either tactical or endgame mistakes. But my biggest problem was a lack of stamina. I slept as late as I have in years and took a mid-day nap but I was still exhausted after 4 hours of chess. If I'm ever get to my name on the Flores Cup, I’ll have to train for longer games and be in much better physical condition. Hours and hours of blitz was good preparation for last week’s speed chess tournaments and great fun as well but it did nothing to prepare me for the rigors of a full weekend of chess. This is a conclusion I probably wouldn’t have reached if I had managed to skate by with my mistakes against Steve and Dane, but it's up to me to make this a case of ‘it’s not how hard you hit, but how hard you can get hit…’