Wednesday, May 7, 2014

2014 Okoboji Open – The Tournament

  As entertaining as it was getting to Okoboji (I wrote about it here last week), the tournament itself was one of the more interesting I’ve been around, speaking both as a tournament director and amateur writer. I really hit the daily double this year by being able to direct Tim Mc Entee's Expert Open in February and the Okoboji Open in April, which are the only two tournaments I'll direct in 2014 aside from my monthly youth tournaments that aren't quite in the same league. Both tournaments had lots of drama on the board and unique people away from the board. But I wasn't there to just hang around and soak in the atmosphere - I was there to help by directing the tournament.

John Bartholomew, Tim Mc Entee, Oke Iwu, and Awonder Liang provided most of the over the board drama at the tournament. Unfortunately, my idle chatter got in the way.

  As a tournament director I was competent enough with only two glaring errors and just as I have my students go over their losses before their wins when they show me their tournament games I'll take this opportunity to mention what went wrong before what went right. After the fourth round, John Bartholomew, Tim Mc Entee, and Okechukwu Iwu were tied for first place. Oke and I were talking after the fourth round and I mentioned that since he was higher rated than Tim, he would likely be playing John, the top seed with the white pieces. Oke agreed and went to lunch and I expect he was mentally preparing himself to play the top seed. Once all the games finished, I paired the round and the computer showed Tim playing John. Tim and John were both hanging around and when I expressed my surprise they both said they expected to be playing each other because the rule about having the players alternate colors (Oke would have had double whites in the last two rounds) would take precedence over Oke's higher rating because the rating difference wasn't enough to justify a switch. I felt about two inches tall when Oke came back and I had to tell him he wasn't playing John with the White pieces but instead was playing the 10 year old world champ Awonder Liang with the Black pieces. Oke lost rather quickly and I don't know if it was because he had prepared for John instead of Awonder but all the same I should have just kept my mouth shut and my opinions to myself or at least just put some temporary results in the computer and printed them out when I talked to Oke about the parings.

  My other mistake could have been a disaster. On Saturday morning instead of putting up the 3-day reserve section round 2 pairings I reposted the round 1 pairings from a sheet I should have thrown away! I was very lucky that one of the players came up to me and mentioned he was playing the same person again. I made the quick switch so it was a case of no harm no foul but like I said, it could have been a real mess if the players hadn’t questioned who they were playing and just sat down to play. My other errors were putting up the cross tables for the open section two times (and no crosstable for the reserve section) before the last round and forgetting to get the picture of the master players before the fourth round on Sunday morning. I ended up getting the picture a little after the final round started but didn't even get that right since I missed getting Oke in the picture and had to put him in as an inset when I got home and realized I missed him. Two of my mistakes involved Oke so I guess the old saying about 'When it rains it pours…' has some merit. Last week I wrote about 'Slappy' on the road crew and this week I get to write about 'Slappy' directing a chess tournament. 'Slappy' is my pet term for that person who has a job but doesn't seem to get anything done or done right like the road crew guy that just stands there or the clerk at the Wal-Mart express register that spends five minutes chatting with the person in front of you and then you get to wait an extra couple of minutes because they rang something up wrong or there is a price check. I know there just has to be a niche market for a 'Slappy' blog and merchandise just waiting for the right entrepeneur.

  Since I've gone over what didn't go right I think I'm entitled to give a mention to what did go right (the entitlement mentality at work!). The pairings were up quickly and correctly, I never had four people sitting down at the same board (not so easy when there are four sections starting at different times), and when the players got low on time I was right where I needed to be, standing nearby keeping an eye on the games and being available in case of any questions or problems. Of course when you have a bunch of great sportsmen and top level players like there are at this tournament it is rare occurence when I need to be consulted. One time I was asked about whether a player could get two minutes added to his clock when his opponent made an illegal move but otherwise I was like a shadow, there but unnoticed and exactly as it should be.

   In the 55 hours I was in Okoboji, I got to play exactly one game of chess – And I use the term 'play' very loosely. I competed in the simul against John Bartholomew and did a reasonable impression of 'Slappy' plays chess. Maybe the Britt road crew has a job opening...

pgn4web chessboards courtesy of

  There were only six players in the John’s simul this year but 2011 Iowa champ, master Bob Keating played a great game and eventually was the last man standing. The pair put the game on a clock and went man-on-man and finally agreed to a draw just minutes before the 6pm start of the three day tournament. I asked them if they wanted to switch to the two day section so they could relax but they both wanted to play. Right in the first round, John allowed a huge attack and a draw by perpetual check to Life Master Jim Ellis who was rated 500+ points below John. I played Jim two years ago at a CyChess and wrote about how he had a stroke and petitioned to have his rating floor removed by the USCF. He has a lot of chess ability and how he plays has a lot to do with how he is feeling that particular day. Anyway, the draw gave John little room for error in the rest of the tournament and the open section had a wide-open feel that anything could happen and anyone could win.

As the tension mounted in the Awonder Liang - Dane Mattson game,
more and more players gathered to watch the game.

  For the second year in a row Awonder Liang came to Okoboji to play. Last year Awonder was the reigning World Under 8 year old chess champion and last December he won the World under 10 year old chess championship (there is no 9 year old world championship). For the second year in a row, Awonder got in a bad position in severe time trouble against a master player and for the second year in a row he kept moving super quick, posing problems for his opponent, and winning the game when his opponent got into time trouble. As you can imagine, the game attracted a lot of attention from the other players and since I was keeping an eye on all the time pressure games I got a chance to snap a picture of the players and onlookers for the second year in a row also. I didn't talk to Awonder but I did get a chance to chat with his dad, Will. Awonder received an invitation to represent the US at the World Youth Championships in South Africa this September and Will is hard at work to find funding for the trip and to get grandmaster coaching for Awonder. After the tournament he told Jodene, Oke, Dane Mattson, and me a lot of stories about his and Awonder's experiences the past six months in Dubai for the World Championships and Reykjavik, Iceland and just about being the parent of a chess prodigy.

  The Open had a fantastic finish on Sunday as John (who had won his two games on Saturday to get to second place) beat Awonder in the morning and in the afternoon he played Tim Mc Entee with the championship on the line. Tim is about as good a friend as I have in the chess world. When he semi-retired from chess in 2009, I wrote his 'chess obituary' and also predicted that he would eventually return to competitive chess. Tim continued to support the Okoboji tournament and got back to playing on a regular schedule last year, culminating in winning his 4th state championship in March. It was great to see him playing at such a high level. Tim looked to have an advantage against John in their matchup but eventually John prevailed in a titanic struggle and showed what a great champion he is by coming from behind to win his fourth Okoboji Open in a row.

Destiny on her game!
  Along with the Open section, there was also a reserve section going on for players rated under 1600. Daniel Johnson, a player who got his chess start playing in my youth tournaments seven years ago and was playing in his first Okoboji Open, won all his games to win the tournament. My friend Sam Smith, who helps Jodene with the Okoboji tournament and runs the Jackson Open that I've gone to the last two years, was a half point behind Daniel and played him in the last round for the championship. I know Sam wanted to win the Reserve tournament in the worst way but couldn't pull it off and settled for third.

  One of the games that caught my interest from the reserve section was the Sunday morning game of Destiny Jorenby. I played Destiny at the 2012 Jackson Open and have met her dad, brother Josiah and her at the last 2 Okoboji and Jackson Opens. When I played Destiny, I was very impressed with her play but at that tournament and the subsequent times I saw her games she would get a big advantage but let her opponent confuse her with tactics and lose. In her Sunday morning game, Destiny got a big advantage and her opponent tried to confuse her, but instead of getting confused she got tough and turned the tables on her higher rated opponent.

  While not at the level of the master games in the Open section, this was a real nice win by Destiny. Her opponent threw all kinds of tricks at her and not only didn't she blink, she played some neat tricks of her own. Destiny won 3 of her 5 games which may sound slightly above average at first blush but she only lost to the winner and second place finisher of the tournament. It was a very impressive performance and I expect even better results in the future.

Doctors, lawyers, basketball coaches, piano teachers, politicians, commodity traders, and 10 year old national and world champions... just part of the amazing variety of chess players at Okoboji!

  I wrote for the chess audience about the tournament here and here and when I'm writing for the chess audience I focus on the results and the 'road to first place' because most of that audience are interested in who won what and how. When I'm writing for my blog I write about the things that are notable to me and they aren't often the results. Two weeks later the things about the tournament that stick with me are my mistakes and near mistakes, watching Destiny playing this great game over the course of a couple of hours, rooming with Sam on Friday and Sam’s friend Joel Saturday night, giving a lower rated young player from South Dakota some advice on taking his time and not trading down when behind and watching him execute it, of course the annual Saturday Night dinner, and just hanging around with the players that I only meet once or twice a year and getting to meet and hang out with a lot of people that I'd never met before. When I'm playing in a tournament I've had people tell me I'm like a mushroom and I agree because in that setting I'm the type that likes to keep to myself and not get all chatty. Not that there's anything wrong with mushrooms: they are an incredibly versatile sort of fungus that can be used as food, poison, medicine, and even as a psychedelic recreation. But there are a lot of other players that are more on the sociable side or like to talk as a way of relaxing before or during a game. When I’m not playing I enjoy meeting and chatting with anyone and everyone and the variety of great people I get to hang out with for a weekend is what makes the Okoboji Open so special for me.

1 comment:

Bethany Carson said...

Sounds like it was a great tournament! Enjoyed reading about it!