I thought I would have felt a lot worse than I actually did after my 0 for 5 performance in Friday Night’s Okoboji Blitz tournament. I was so awful that the tournament took on more of a surreal quality and left me kind of numb. It seemed as if someone else had been losing all those games and I was in a pretty good mode after the tournament rearranging the tables and setting my website up with a page for the pictures and tournament games. I headed up to my room and hung out with Eric Bell (who rented half my room) and had a good night sleep. Without any beagles to walk I was able to wake up at 6am which was the latest I had woken up all year and soon found myself in the Arrowwood lobby.
I hung around the lobby until the breakfast room opened at seven and then headed over for the free continental breakfast. Slowly but surely the other players filtered in and out of the breakfast room. By eight I was back in the tournament room for the bulk of the next 12 hours.
Saturday morning used to be really busy with the two day section starting and the three day section beginning their second round at nine in the morning. This year Jodene took the suggestion of one of the players to have the three day section start their second round at ten. This was great for me and dealing with the two day open and reserve sections was only half the work I was used to. I had an even number of players for both sections and the round started on time. The only problem was that two players didn't show which left two players staring at an empty chair. Normally I would have switched the pairings around so the two players who didn’t show up could not play each other while their opponents had a game. I couldn't do that this time because the two players staring at empty chairs were brothers who didn't travel to Okoboji so they could play chess against each other. After 40 minutes one of the no shows arrived and started his game. The other missing player never did show up and left one of the brothers without a game but with a free point which came in handy as he won an $80 class prize.
From my point of view the tournament ran exceptionally smoothly all day Saturday with my only extra task (aside from the missing player) rounding up some parents to play the odd numbered players in the four sections on Saturday morning. Two parents were willing to help but neither was quite strong enough to be competitive in the open section. Three people suggested that I fill in the open section since I would be more competitive. I patiently explained that when I play in tournaments I'm directing I don't perform well in either capacity and besides if they thought I would be competitive they must not have seen me in action during the blitz tournament. When I helped Tim Mc Entee with the Expert Open last year we paid for someone to be a house player. The idea worked very well there and I'll suggest this concept to Jodene next year if I’m invited to help with the tournament.
The reserve was running fairly much according to form with only one game where one of the top 5 seeds suffered an upset. The open section was another matter entirely. Grandmaster Mauricio Flores was winning his games fairly easily but the other five master players were having all kinds of trouble with lower rated players. Two of the masters lost in the first round, two more gave up draws in the second round, and the last master with a perfect record gave up a draw in the third round all to players rated 2 classes below them.
When the first two rounds of the two day and three day sections ended, I merged them together in my computer and at 4:30 there were only two sections to deal with instead of four. The round started on time and I stayed at my normal post just inside the tournament room, entering the games in my computer and uploading them to my website. Every 15 minutes or so I’d take a walk and look at all the games in progress and occasionally head outside to talk to one of the players. As the clock neared eight, there were only a handful of games in progress and one in particular caught my eye.
Eric Bell (the three time Jackson Open winner that I had rented half my hotel room to) and Joseph Wan (the youthful expert from Iowa City that was one of many to beat me in blitz tournament the night before) had a position on the board with white squared bishops and a few pawns each. Eric had one more pawn and was maneuvering his king and bishop around to try to run Joseph out of space and make a decisive invasion. Joseph had less than five minutes left and neither side was writing down the moves. There was no way for either player to claim a draw in the event of a three time repetition of position or 50 moves being made without a capture of a pawn move. I took a quick look in the rule book I had on my Kindle app and saw that I could count moves for the players so I sat by the table and started checking off the moves.
While I was checking off the moves, a player at one of the remaining games came over to me and claimed a threefold repetition of position. I assigned the move checking duties to one of spectating parents and headed over to the board. I looked at the game score and while there was some moving back and forth by the White and Black pieces to and from the same squares they weren’t consecutive moves so I decided to replay the game from the beginning. One of the players suggested we make reverse moves on the game board but I said there was no way I was going to touch the game board. I’d learned my lesson well from two years ago when I created a confusing situation by playing with the settings on a clock that a player claimed wasn't set right.
I grabbed one of the spare sets I had and replayed the game from the game sheet. When we got to the first time the same set of moves were made I took out my camera and took a picture of the board. There were a few spectators watching this going on. I could see the ones that knew about my blog smiling and rolling their eyes. They may have thought I was taking the picture for a future post but I wanted it as a reference to go back to when the position repeated itself. I resumed the replay and it became apparent to all the parties that by the time the second set of white and black moves had been made the kings were in different positions. The player withdrew his claim and I went back to Eric and Joseph’s game.
I didn't see that any pawns had moved and resumed counting duties from the parent when the thought crossed my mind that if I wrote down the moves instead of making a mark after each move I could verify a repetition of position claim as well as a 50 move claim. I took a picture for a reference position and started writing down the moves but then the only other remaining game also got short on time in a maneuvering struggle with no pawns being moved. It was getting close to nine and a lot of the people who were heading to the El Parian restaurant for the annual Okoboji Feast had stopped in the tournament room to check out the remaining games.
Luckily for me Tim Mc Entee was one of the onlookers. Aside from being a master player and a four time Iowa champion, Tim is the most technically sound tournament director I've ever seen and offered to write down the moves for one of the games before I even asked and I wrote down the moves for the other game. Both games shortly finished, Eric winning his game against Joseph. I plugged the results into the computer and printed out the next day’s pairings before heading outside the hotel for the first time in 30 hours to head to the annual feast.
Directing the Okoboji Open is normally hectic in terms of rounding out the playing field and getting the pairings and prizes figured out. I rarely have to act in the role of the arbiter but that was my main function this particular Saturday night. I thought I handled the situations well enough and was happy to have not made myself the center of attention like I had in past years. Joseph was not pleased at losing his game and thought that the position had repeated itself before I started monitoring the game. I went over the pertinent sections of the rule book with him and his dad, making sure that he understood he could request to have someone write down the moves if he got short of time and it looked like a claim could be made for a draw by repetition of position or the 50 move rule. I left Joseph and his dad with smiles on their faces when I told him that someday he would use this information to save a draw at a big tournament and win thousands of dollars and then I was off to dinner.