Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Marathon at Zanzibar's

Zanzibar's Coffee Adventure was packed for the big shopping weekend.
Luckily there was enough room for a chessboard....

  Last week I used three days of vacation in combination with last week’s Thanksgiving holiday to have an entire week away from work. Except for an hour or so hosting a FiltroPur demonstration in a futile attempt to get a $100 gas card I had a relaxing time hanging out with family (Matt and Ben were both home from college), working on the software project I started in August, taking plenty of beef stick walks with Daisy and Baxter, and playing lots of one minute chess.

  Two weeks ago I ran into my friend Mike Jeter on the Des Moines Skywalk and arranged to head over to Zanzibar’s Coffee Adventure for some coffeehouse chess with Mike and Dan Troxell on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The timing was extra perfect because when Ben needed to get to the airport in Des Moines on Saturday at 5am for his flight back to school I readily volunteered to get up at 2:30 to take him there because I would be in town to play chess anyway.

  After dropping Ben off at the airport it was still hours before Zanzibar’s even opened so I headed to my office in downtown Des Moines for a couple of hours and headed to Zanzibar’s at 7:30. No one was going to get there until 8:30 so I bought a giant mug of Ethiopian Coffee, an everything bagel with cream cheese, the Des Moines Register and $5.25 later was sitting at a table reading the paper, drinking my coffee, and eating my bagel. I brought along my camera to take some pictures for my blog. I was also hopeful of catching some of the many famous people that tend to stop in Zanzibar's for the fine coffee. In the past, I've captured pictures of Richard Gere, James Brolin, and Robin Williams (you can see them here). No one ever believes that these celebrities are actually who I say they are, but I maintain that they are experts at slightly disguising their looks and avoiding direct frontal photographs to keep the paparazzi at bay.

On the left is my friend Dan Troxell : poet, beer maker, comic collector and chess player. On the right is one of the many celebrities who happen into Zanzibar's Coffee Adventure. I believe that is World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen getting a cup of Ethiopian Coffee just like me. You can compare this pic with other images of the champ (at better angles of course) by clicking here.

  Around 8:30, Dan showed up. Dan is a renaissance man who moves from hobby to hobby. He was a mainstay at my monthly Parents and Friends tournaments until April of this year and placed well in my Time Odds Blitz tournaments over the summer but has devoted most of his attention lately to the art of making beer (You can follow his progress at his Beerhenge page on Facebook). We made a little small talk and then got down to playing.

pgn4web chessboards courtesy of

  Dan and I just started another game when Mike came in. He sat at the counter eating breakfast while Dan and I contested another 10 minute game.

After a healthy breakfast and some strong coffee, Mike was ready to play some chess!

  Dan wasn’t in top form and I was feeling pretty good about my play when Mike and I sat down to play our game. I topped off my cup of Ethiopian Coffee before sitting down to make the most mistakes I've made in some time and also one of the longest games I've ever played (so long that I had to break up the game into two parts!)

  What a struggle. The game took almost two hours and while we were playing Steve and Zack came in to watch and play. Steve is a beginning player who played in one of my Time Odds Blitz tournaments this summer and Zack is a former tournament player who meets up with Tim McEntee and Jose Gatica at Smokey Row on Friday nights. Zack was showing Mike and I where we had gone wrong in our game and had a lot of better ideas than we came up with but things look a lot different when you are playing as opposed to when you are watching. When I play in a chess tournament every move is super important because I'm normally investing time, effort, and money and want to have good results but at Zanzibar's I just want to sit down, drink some coffee, hang out with my friends, have a good time with my friends, and let winning and losing take a back seat. I enjoyed this game against Mike as much as any I've played in awhile even though I was thoroughly outplayed for the first 80 or so moves. I liked my dogged defense even if I wasn't so pleased with the passive opening and loss of the queen that made me have to defend.

Steve is on the left, Zack is in the center, and on the right is someone who looked suspiciously like former world chess champion Viswanathan Anand. You can click here to compare this picture with other images of the ex-champ (who may have been looking for some pointers).

  After playing for three hours straight, I was ready to take a nap but because I was the 'guest' player Steve and Dan both wanted to play me. So I loaded up with another giant cup of Ethiopian coffee and went back at it against Steve.

  By this point I was feeling a little punch drunk, but Dan wanted to play another game before he left:

  We all spent some time going over the titanic game with Mike before Dan and Zack left. It was about one in the afternoon and I played one more game against Steve before leaving.

As I was leaving, I managed to get these pics of actor Billy Bob Thorton. I would have gotten closer or asked for an autograph but having seen the movie 'Sling Blade' thought the better of it.

  I left Zanzibar’s at around 1:30 and as usual I had an awesome time. I expected to play a game or two and hang out with the gang all morning but instead played almost 5 straight hours of chess while drinking cup after cup of Ethiopian coffee. Even though I had gotten up at 2:30 in the morning, the Ethiopian coffee kept me going for hours and hours and I even got to see the amazing finish of the Alabama-Auburn game late on Saturday before finally taking a well-deserved nap. I appreciate the great hospitality the Zanzibar's crowd once again showed me and my celebrity snapshots will look great in the album with my other Zanzibar celebrities.