Monday, August 24, 2015

2015 Jackson Open - The Econo-NOT-Lodge

  I headed to Minnesota last Friday to play in Sam Smith’s Jackson Open Super Reserve. This was the fourth year in a row I’ve played in this tournament which is only open to non-experts. I don’t drive 240 miles to Jackson for a chess tournament every year because I have a better chance of winning a top prize with no experts around. I come to Jackson every year because I get to hang out with Sam, Jodene Kruse, Riaz Khan and the rest of the crowd I only get to see once or twice a year and because I feel welcomed. And the fact that I have a better chance of winning a top prize because there are no experts around doesn’t hurt either!

  In my previous three attempts to win the Jackson Open and get my name inscribed on the Flores Cup I’ve won five games, lost three games, and had two draws. Every year the pattern was similar – I’d play lower ranked players in the first two rounds to be among the leaders and then lose to one of the top seeds in round three. In my first two Jackson attempts I was so exhausted after my third round game I withdrew from the tournament and took a nap before heading home. I broke that string last year when I played in the fourth and final round after losing to a top seed in round three.

  Last year at Jackson I had only one goal - to play in all four rounds of the tournament. I had slightly more ambitious goals this year:
  1. Play all four rounds It's good have an attainable goal and keeping it in mind would help remind me to conserve my energy for the long haul.
  2. Be aggressive against the stronger players Last year I had cramped positions in my games against Sam and top seed Dan Voje. This year I wanted to make sure I had active positions.
  3. Take at least one minute on each move after my opening knowledge was exhausted I wanted to avoid playing in the too fast fashion that led to a blunder that cost me second place last year.
  4. Win a cash prize I’ve never won a cash prize at Jackson which requires finishing in the top three. Winning three out of four games has historically been good enough for a top three finish.
  5. Win the tournament and get my name on the Flores Cup A long term goal but well within my capabilities any year with good form and the right breaks.

On the left is $2.64 Casey's gas in Marshalltown, Iowa - home to a Republican Governor that accused his opponent of plotting to raise the gasoline tax during his last election and then raising the tax himself months after his reelection. One the right is $2.59 gasoline at a Casey's in Jackson, Minnesota - a state that elected profession wrestler Jesse 'The Body' Ventura as Governor and Saturday Night Live writer Al Franken as Senator. Is it any wonder that Donald Trump is so popular with Republicans?

  I woke up at 4am as usual and after going on walks with Daisy and Baxter at 4:30 and 9:00 left for Jackson shortly after 10am. I didn’t want to get loaded up on coffee too early in the day so I stopped at the Casey’s General Store on my way out of town to fill my Chevy Spark with $2.64 a gallon gasoline (THANK YOU GOVERNOR TERRY BRANSTAD, REPRESENTATIVE MARK SMITH AND ALL OF THE OTHER LEGISLATORS WHO RAISED THE GASOLINE TAX BY ANOTHER 10 CENTS A GALLON THIS YEAR!) and got a Naked Juice Blue Machine drink which I sipped all the way to Mason City. I didn’t want to load up on a bunch of food like I did in April by wolfing down a fried egg cheeseburger and plate of rueben bites at Cylinder Iowa's famous Rack Shack like I did before going 0-5 at the Okoboji Blitz. Instead of stopping at some diner or restaurant to load up on more calories than I can burn in a month I packed a bologna sandwich along with apples, lemons, grapes, and almonds. I munched on the almonds until I got to Mason City and then stopped at a rest station and ate my bologna sandwich.

  After eating my sandwich I drove the additional 100 miles to Jackson non-stop and arrived at the EconoLodge in Jackson, Minnesota at 2:30. I’ve stayed at the EconoLodge in Jackson, Minnesota twice before and found it to be a clean, quiet, inexpensive motel. I made the reservation last week over the phone and didn’t think to ask about the price. This was a big mistake since the room for one night in 2015 cost $131! I asked if there was some sort of mistake and the owner/clerk said I could have gotten 3% off if I asked for the AAA discount when I made my reservation. I checked my credit card bill from last year and the same room at the same time of the year for the same Friday night cost $93!

Rusty refrigerators and water in place of juice at the breakfast bar - and all for $131 a night at the EconoLodge in Jackson, Minnesota

  I got to my room which was #23 of the EconoLodge in Jackson, Minnesota. I saw nothing worth an additional $38 except the racks on the refrigerator were all rusted out and the toilet barely flushed. I did notice at the complimentary breakfast the next day that there was no bowl of watermelon in the little refrigerator and that the cranberry and grapefruit juice slots in the juice dispenser had been replaced by handwritten signs that simply said ‘water’.

  I didn’t really care as much about the rusted refrigerator racks or watermelon or cranberry juice in the EconoLodge in Jackson, Minnesota as I cared about the extra $38 dollars I had to pay for the same room as last year. I made a mental note to make mention of the 'EconoLodge in Jackson, Minnesota' in my blog post as much as possible so it will get on all the Google searches and took a nap at 3. In April I didn’t take a nap before the Okoboji Blitz which (in addition to my 3,000+ calorie lunch) contributed to my Olympic ring (5 zeroes) performance.

  I woke up from a great nap at 5:30 and headed over to the playing site. In past years, the tournament was held in the Senior Center and Library with the courtyard in between the two buildings serving as a skittles area. The library is undergoing construction this summer so Sam held this year's edition at the Jackson United Methodist Church. When I got to the church, Sam was setting up and I was the first player to arrive. I liked the playing hall a lot. In prior years the top five boards would play in the library and the bottom boards would play in the Senior Center. The church hall had enough room for all the players with the top two boards having their own large quiet room with glass walls that allowed for the other players to admire their top two board-ness and view the games without disturbing them.

  Sam was excited and rightly so; the tournament had 24 players signed up which would make it the second biggest Jackson Open ever. Sam doesn’t put the tournament on to make money – he puts the tournament on because he loves chess and wants to show off his town to the chess players and vice versa. Sam showed me the entry list and it looked to be a pretty strong crowd despite the absence of three time defending champion Eric Bell due to his passing the 2000 rating mark and being no longer eligible.

  There were five players rated higher than myself and two more that were among the eight players that were arriving Saturday and taking a half point for the Friday night round. Then players started arriving for Friday night’s round one, including Riaz Khan. Riaz is a big supporter of the Jackson Open and brought two other players from Minneapolis’ Chess Castle crowd with him. Riaz asked me where I was staying and I recounted my tale of the unexpected $131 bill from the EconoLodge in Jackson, Minnesota. Riaz had a laughing fit and told me that he paid $150 total at the Earth Inn for three separate rooms (one for him and one each for his two traveling companions). Riaz was really enjoying my unsavvy consumerism and called me Hank Moneybags or Hank the Bank – I forget which. I was making a mental note to call the Earth Inn next year and when my facebook and friends Destiny and Josiah Jorenby showed up to register on site. I excused myself and chatted with the Jorenbys and their dad, being careful not to mention anything about lodging or the $131 I paid for a room at the EconoLodge in Jackson, Minnesota.

On the left is the church hall at the Jackson United Methodist Church. On the right is my round one opponent Mark Hansen.

  Sam waited to make sure all the players had arrived and we had the final pairings at 7:10. With Josiah’s arrival I became the 7th seed in the evening session and was scheduled to have the black pieces against Mark Hansen. Mark is a short muscular guy in his 40s who moved and talked slowly like he maybe had suffered a stroke. Mark was rated 1435, 250 points below me and likely more than capable of beating me if I wasn’t on my game. Two years ago I gave up a first round draw and was still able to play the top seed for the third round but with so many higher rated players this year I had to win this game to have a chance to cash in the tournament. A must win game fit nicely with my goal to be aggressive. Mark and I shook hands and my 2015 Jackson Open was underway.

pgn4web chessboards courtesy of
  Mark used 53 minutes and I used 60. I felt like I pushed the action for the most part and except for my soft Be7 move was fairly aggressive throughout. Mark played well but was unfocused about where to put his pieces in the beginning of the game and wasted time with h3 and f3. I spend the bulk of my time deciding to take on g2 and got it mostly right. I missed the timing and nearly got my knight trapped but in the end a pawn is a pawn and the extra pawn ended up winning the game for me.

There's no better treat than an Old Trapper beef stick from SuperAmerica (Home of $2.59 gas)!

  All the top seeds except one made it through the first round with a win and I was happy to have my first point. In my previous Jackson Opens I started as the fifth seed. The difference between being the fifth seed and the seventh seed was that instead of playing a lower rated player in the second round I’d be playing one of the top seeds. I played the top seed in the third round in my three previous trips to Jackson with a 0-3 record so I thought it might help to play the top player first thing in the morning. None of that mattered until the next day so I headed back to my $131 room at the EconoLodge in Jackson, Minnesota to get a good night’s sleep. I felt like I deserved a reward for my victory so I stopped at the SuperAmerica convenience store for a snack. The BrokenPawnophiles amongs my readership will remember that last year I was able to purchase two Old Trapper beef sticks for a dollar from the Jackson, Minnesota SuperAmerica convenience store and that Daisy and Baxter were soon hoping we’d all move to Minnesota. The SuperAmerica still had the Old Trapper beef sticks but at a 38% price increase of 69 cents apiece. I bought one Old Trapper Beef Stick and ate it while sitting in my $131 room at the EconoLodge in Jackson, Minnesota. The Old Trapper beef stick was as awesome as the two I had last year and I was soon fast asleep with the prospect of three long games of chess on Saturday.