Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A Day at the Mall

The Marshall Town Center Mall features two traditional jewelry stores and a bakery/snack store that serves hot dogs, chili, and homemade breads. Non-traditional jewelry is also available.

  On Saturday I had my third annual speed chess exhibition at the local mall for the Salvation Army in Marshalltown. It’s my way of paying the Salvation Army back for hosting our chess club and helping them with the incredible work they do for people who have trouble making ends meet at Christmas time and all the other times of the year. Aside from helping a great organization do great things, I get to meet up with old friends and make new ones during the exhibition.

Matt Kreigel warmed me up for the exhibition on Thursday. On the right is just some of the food the Salvation Army collected and gave out to needy families last week. There isn't a worthier organization to help!

  During the exhibition I play anyone who makes a donation to my red kettle at the time odds of one minute to ten minutes and if they beat me or run me out of time they get to pick a chess book from a remainder selection I purchased from and I gave away chess sets the past two years but I figured that anyone who wanted one already had one and anyone who could beat me probably already had a chess set. I got some practice in on Thursday at chess club when Matt Kriegel took up my challenge to play at the exhibition time odds. I generally beat Matt two out of three games at even time odds but on Thursday I beat him two out of three games while giving him ten to one time odds. That great result combined with plenty of tactics exercises and one minute chess on the internet made me feel like I was ready for the exhibition.

The new store in the Marshalltown Mall this year is Delusions, a body modification shop. I was too busy with the exhibition to wait in line to meet the Piercing Princess or partake in ear tapering, suspension on hooks, or any other body modifications...

  I got to the mall on Saturday a little before noon and there were three tables set up for me in an out of the way place to the side of the J C Penney entrance right behind the area where parents would bring their children to meet and have their picture taken with Santa. I set up my boards, laid out the books, and took a walk around the mall, which was about as half empty as it was for last year’s exhibition. Kathy’s collection of over 1,000 Christmas candles were on display in one of the empty storefronts and there was a couple of new stores: a gift shop where you could buy giant sized wall hangings of Elvis Presley or Marilyn Monroe and ‘Delusions’; a full service body modification store where you can get pierced, tattooed, corseted, ear tapered, or even suspended from hooks that are pierced through your flesh (Here is their web site). Believe it or not, this was the busiest store in the mall!! I know at work many of the 20 and 30 year olds have face piercings and large tattoos on their arms and necks and does anyone really know which of their coworkers have tattoos or piercings or underneath their business casual wear? Any weekend trip to the Wal-Mart in the summer will reveal copious amounts of 50 and 60 year old tattooed and pieced flesh so I'll assume I missed out on this particular trend.

First up - Isaac (and family) and Seth!

Mike from the paper at work.
  I sat down at the chess table a little before noon and I immediately had my first customer, Isaac. Isaac was with his two daughters hanging around the mall while his wife was shopping in J C Penney. Isaac kept on forgetting to hit his clock and I reminded him a couple of times but then his daughters reminded him so I didn’t have to. I won a piece with an opening trick but Isaac was a pretty strong player and found a king side attack and won the piece back. We got to an even endgame but I only had nine seconds left on my clock when Isaac’s cell phone rang! Isaac said it was his wife and she was ready and he said good bye and left without finishing the game. I can only assume his wife was a stickler for punctuality.

Seth gets some advice...
  As soon as Isaac left, Seth was ready to play. Seth comes to play every week at our club and beat me at last year’s exhibition. I tried to take a picture of Seth but the batteries on my camera died and I didn’t have any spares. I started swapping out the batteries from my chess clocks but none of them had enough juice to take more than one or two pictures. I got a picture of Seth and then Mike from the local paper showed up to take a picture of the exhibition. Mike’s timing was perfect since every year there are plenty of dead times when no one wants to play. I got a picture of Mike taking pictures and then Seth and I sat down to play. Mike must have been busy because he took some pictures while we were playing and then left before our game was over. I was beating Seth easily in our first game but I got down to less than ten seconds and had to salvage a draw by taking all his pieces before I ran out of time.

Andrew Smith(l) and Aaron Anderson, Marshalltown High School chess legends. I wore my cool Punisher t-shirt in hope of intimidating my opponents, but Andrew and Aaron were the ones doing the punishing...

  I beat Seth in our next game and during the game, Aaron Anderson and Andrew Smith stopped by to play. I first met Aaron when I gave a chess exhibition for the high school chess team in 2004. Out of the half dozen or so players that were there, Aaron was the one who started coming to the club at the Salvation Army and the next year Andrew came with him. They combined with Matt and Ben to share 3 High School team chess championships from 2005 to 2007 and were always great with the other kids at club and super ambassadors for chess in Marshalltown. Andrew spent a number of years as a manager at Menards (the hardware store) and is now back at college. Aaron is a music graduate from UNI who works at Menards when he isn’t performing. They are two of my favorite people in the world and I was very happy to see them come out to play some chess. Having said that, Aaron and Andrew are both almost as strong as I am and I would like nothing better than to beat them with the time handicap so I could have lifetime bragging rights!

Rico, David, and Wes tried their luck.

  I beat Seth again and then it was Aaron’s turn since Andrew headed out to the Radio Shack to get some batteries for my camera. Aaron is a solid player that doesn’t go in for a lot of tactics and I had a lot of trouble mixing it up against him. Once I got down to under 20 seconds left I went for some cheapos that Aaron rebuffed but then he fell for a back-rank mate! Seth learned from Aaron’s slow careful play and he played me to an even game where I ran out of time.

  Having won his book, Seth left but Andrew had returned with some batteries for my camera and we sat down to play some chess. Andrew has a wild attacking style that has always given me fits. He completely outplayed me in our game and checkmated me before I could even run out of time. Then he and Aaron took turns beating me for the next 45 minutes or so at the time odds. While we were playing this guy was watching so I asked him if he wanted to play using a line I learned from Law & Order: SVU, saying: “Come on and play…you know you want to…” Eventually the guy came over to play and I played him while Aaron and Andrew played each other. The guy’s name was Rico and in our first game he was intimidated by the clock and fell for a quick checkmate. Rico played a lot better in the second game and I managed to find a cheap checkmate with just a few seconds left on my clock. After I beat Rico a third time he left and I spent another half hour unsuccessfully trying to beat Aaron and Andrew at the handicap time odds (although I was beating them handily at three minutes each).

Here is my wife Kathy's Christmas candle collection. They have been on display in Main Street storefronts the past four years and this year are at the mall. Yes, these are all candles.

  A young kid named David and a Marine recruiter named Wes decided to try their luck in the exhibition. Like most non-tournament chess players, they were unnerved by the clock and how fast I was moving and lost quickly. When I checkmated Wes an old farmer type named Casey in an Iowa Hawkeye hat who was watching but not playing yelled “Finally found someone you can beat, HUH!!” I asked Casey if he wanted to play for $20 because I always wanted my own ATM machine but he said he was waiting for his wife and just didn’t have time to be giving me lessons. At this point it was around 3:00 and Kathy came by to check out the action and look in on her Christmas candles. I tried one last time to beat Andrew at 10-1 odds and after another failure Aaron and Andrew left.

  Once everyone was gone, I spent some time talking to Casey the farmer and went over some games from the excellent book I brought along: ‘Secret Notes’ by David Bronstein which details the travels of the 1951 World Championship challenger in Europe after being under strict supervision in under the Russian regime before the breakup of the Soviet Union in the 1990's. I chatted with some passing by shoppers that wanted to talk about chess and worked the crowd to get some people to play against me. I got some games in against Garrett and Mike, who were both inexperienced and gave away too many pieces to make my limited amount of time a factor in our games. One older lady came up to the table where I had the chess books and started asking me about them. I told her about all the books and then she picked two out and said “I’ll take these” as if I was a clerk in a jewelry store or snack bar or body modification shop. I started to explain that I wasn’t selling them but she whipped out her checkbook and said “How much?” so I gave her a number and asked her to make the check out to the Salvation Army. While she was writing the check, she told me the books were going to be a gift for her son in California. When she left, it was around 5:30 and the only customers in the mall were at Delusions picking out their next body modification. I think Santa and Mrs. Claus were getting some body jewelry and ink and I assume the elves were getting their ears tapered since they had gone missing also. With no one to play and no desire to see Santa or Mrs. Claus undergo body modification, I packed up my chess stuff and headed home for the day.

Finishing up with Garrett, Mike, and the mystery shopper.

  It was a great day of speed chess, a special bonus to hang out with Andrew and Aaron, and as always any time I spend helping the Salvation Army is time very well spent. During the exhibition, I didn’t think I had played as many people as in past years, but as I went over my other ‘speed chess exhibit’ blogs I was busier than ever. I think my perception was off because while the last two exhibitions were slow at the start and busy at the end, this year was busy at the start and slow at the end. The idea of giving away chess books was worth trying (and I even sold two of them) but next year I’ll need to have the chess sets back because even the most basic chess book was beyond the scope of the beginning players that showed up to play. If I really want to ramp up the chess-playing crowd I may just scrap the chess sets and boards and give away body modifications at Delusions.

Speaking of speed, I mailed my first $10 gas voucher last Thursday. We'll see how speedy the rebate company is in sending me my $10!!