Thursday, May 19, 2016

In The Zone

I've seen it and now I've lived it!

There was no beginning, there is no end
It wasn't born and never dies
There are no edges, there is no sides
Oh yeah you just don't win
It's so far out, the way out is in

Any Road by George Harrison

  After a 21 hour day in which I walked my beagles, taught a chess class, drove five hours, directed the first round of a chess tournament, got in a hyper-caffeinated state, and finished in the Okoboji blitz tournament I was dead to the world for all of 5 hours when I woke up at 6am on Saturday morning for the second day of the Okoboji Open. Getting up only five hours after being up 21 hours at the age of 55 is insane but since I wake up at 4am every day it's almost impossible for me to wake up much later. I made my way down to the Arrowwood’s free breakfast and by 8am was back in the tournament room getting ready for the two day section of the Okoboji Open chess tournament and the second round of the three day section.

  The entire day went smoothly for me as a tournament director which I attribute to the smallish crowd of 46 players (the lowest since 2012) and that I had two volunteers to be house players. I didn’t need to call on them Saturday but their availability gave me a certain comfort level knowing that I woudn’t have to deal with any unhappy players that travel to Okoboji and don’t get to play all 5 games. What made the 2016 Okoboji Open unique was that since there wasn’t a Grandmaster or International Master present for the first time in 8 years a number of the top players that patronize the tournament year after year had a chance to finish first without having to go through a super strong player. It also meant that losing a game or giving up a draw wasn’t fatal in terms of winning the tournament. Tim McEntee had given up a draw in the first round and battled his way to two wins on Saturday to get near the lead. Bob Keating won his first three games to take the lead heading into Sunday but he was the only master to have a perfect score heading into Sunday since Friday night’s blitz champion James Neal defeated Dane Mattson and Robert Reynolds beat master Okey Iwu to join Bob in the lead. In the reserve Lynn Adams had the only perfect score with fellow long time Okoboji players Sam and Joe Hall-Reppen a half point behind along with young Okoboji newcomer Calvin York. It was an exciting tournament in both sections where any of the leaders could take first place by winning both their Sunday games.

  I got Sunday’s pairings posted and we were off to El Parian for our annual Okoboji Saturday night feast of story telling and great Mexican food. I had called ahead to El Parian to let them know a group of us would be there a little after nine. The tournament had gone remarkably smoothly. There were no controversies, the tricky merge between the two and three day sections had gone off without a hitch, and as a bonus when Jodene was recognizing all the players who had participated in at least five of the ten Okoboji Opens she gave me a fancy clock and blanket to thank me for directing the Okoboji tournament 9 of the past 10 years. Life was good.

  I was in a group of three cars with nine people making our way to El Parian, We got to the restaurant which seemed unusually empty and went to the front door which was…


  Locked. Locked even though there were a few people eating inside. Locked even though the sign on the door said that the restaurant was open until 10:30 on Saturdays. Locked even though I had called to let the restaurant know that we were coming. Locked. We waited around for a few minutes and then left for the Los Pueblos restaurant in neighboring Arnolds Park, Iowa. I had a great steak at Los Pueblos and spend the night chatting mostly with Tim Mc Entee, author/entrepreneur/chess expert Andres Hortillosa, and Okoboji newcomer Austin. Austin is a waiter/college student who came to the tournament with Tim and since I read ‘Keep The Change’ (a book about tipping that I reviewed here) I insisted on peppering him with questions about what his biggest tip was ($160) and what the biggest check he didn’t get a tip of even a penny ($90). Austin explained that Ames has a multicultural population and some cultures think leaving a tip is demeaning to the server. Andres seconded that opinion which I already knew from ‘Keep The Change’. Someday I’ll tell a server that I’d love to leave a tip but my culture prevents me from insulting them by doing so and see what reaction I’ll get. In case you’re wondering about the tip I left, I was going to pay for Andres’ dinner but one of the other players picked up my check so I left the cash I was going to use to pay for two dinners as a tip. It was a great meal at a great restaurant but since no one knew we were going there the crowd was way smaller than in years past.

After being LOCKED out of El Parian, a small group of us had a great time at Los Pueblos,
sharing stories and feasting on great Mexican food!

  While we were eating dinner a younger player and his parent came to the restaurant. I invited them to join us but the parent told me that the player was going to withdraw from the tournament since he hadn’t won a game yet and it was his birthday besides. When we got back to the hotel I hung out in the lobby with Sam and Joel Katz. I was planning on posting a tournament report on the internet and checking my email but the Arrowwood’s wireless internet had gone down while we were eating dinner. I asked the clerk about it and she said it wouldn’t be back up until the next morning but I was more than welcome to use the complimentary computer in the lobby which had a wired internet connection.

   Unfortunately the complimentary computer in the lobby was also using the wireless internet. I told the clerk who got someone to look at the complimentary computer in the lobby who verified that the complimentary computer in the lobby indeed was using the wireless internet. I hung out with Sam and Joel for a little longer and when I got to my room a little after midnight the wireless internet was back working. I was able to check my email, post my weekly beagle pictures, put up a short tournament update and was in bed by 1pm.

  I woke up at 6m Sunday, had another free breakfast at the Arrowwood breakfast bar (which included eggs, sausage, and waffles) and was once again back in the tournament room by 8am. I took the player who withdrew the night before out of the tournament, repaired the round, and posted the pairings. Some of the players were looking at the new pairings when I realized I was sloppy and forgot that when I repaired the round the software I use removes the players who asked to skip the round in return for a half point. This led to a player that had asked for the round off being paired and I had to repair the round and repost the pairings and then I realized there was a second player who also asked for the round off and I had to repair and repost the round a third time. After all that I had an odd number of players but the two people who had volunteered to be house players didn’t want to play anymore. I eventually pressed Jodene into service to be the house player and the fourth round was underway.

  The round itself went smoothly enough after setting my personal best with pairing a round four separate times. I paired the fifth and final round and only had to redo the pairings one more time when I missed that a player who lost in the first round and reentered the tournament was paired against his first round opponent. In the open section James Neal and Bob Keating drew to get to 3.5 out of four points while Tim Mc Entee beat Robert Reynolds to also get to 3.5 points. Reynolds, Okey Iwu, Dane Mattson, and Joe Knapp were all at 3 points. Tim and James were going to play on board one while Bob and Dane were on board two with Okey playing Joe on board three with Robert on board four with all seven players having a shot at the championship with a win. In the reserve Lynn Adams drew his game against Joe Hall-Reppen and was caught for the lead by Calvin York when he beat Sam. This left Lynn and Calvin to play for the championship. A few people withdrew and left early but there was still an odd number of players in the open section. Jodene was willing to play but the player decided to just head home instead which always leaves me with a crummy feeling to see a player travel all the way to Okoboji and not have a game.

The action was intense on the final day of the Okoboji Open with the players battling to the last second and the last pawn!

  The final round started nicely enough. Tim and James was the first game to end. The result was a draw which left Bob a chance to take first place outright by beating Dane, or share the championship with a draw. Meanwhile Okey, Dane, Robert, and Joe still had a chance to share the championship with a win combined with a Keating draw or loss. All the games in the reserve section finished (Calvin beating Lynn for the championship) and the prizes were given out. Reynolds’ game ended in a draw to take him out of the running. There were three games left with two having a bearing on first place. I was outside the playing hall talking to a couple of players and then a massive lightning bolt flashed around the hotel…


  It was still daytime but the skies were very dark from the storm that had been going through the area. I went into the tournament room and told the 6 remaining players to stop their clocks. A few minutes later the lights came back on and I resumed the games. Then the banquet manager from the Arrowwood came running up to me holding a piece of paper saying the playing hall was only rented until 5pm and it was now 6pm and she had to set up the room for a state trooper convention the next day and when was ‘the chess going to be over’ and could I ‘hurry them up’. I pointed her to Jodene and was then called back to one of the games to resolve a dispute.

  Bob and Dane's game ended in a draw leaving Okey and Joe playing for a chance to share the championship with a win. Both players had less than a minute left with Okey having a queen and Joe 2 rooks along with two pawns each. Joe claimed Okey had made an illegal move and instead of stopping the clock and getting me he pressed his side of the chess clock which started Okey’s clock. Joe then realized that Okey had not made an illegal move after all and then stopped the clocks and I was called over.

  Everyone agreed that Okey had lost no time from the pressing of the clock because of the delay and that no illegal move had taken place. I believed there was no rule specific to this situation but checked the rule book anyway and couldn’t find one. Given that Joe had illegally touched the clock I could have given Okey two extra minutes but without a specific rule violation it would have had to been done using a sportsmanship clause or distracting the opponent clause that gives me a lot of discretion to impose penalties. I explained to both players that I was going to just rule that the game be resumed without assigning any penalties since I didn’t think there was any intent involved and no one lost any time on their clock. The decision was accepted if not agreed upon with a round of applause and the game ended a few seconds later when Joe walked into a checkmate.

Despite the trials and tribulations of the last 24 hours of the tournament, the competitors that come to Okoboji are a pleasure to hang out with and as usual I had a great time!

  So after having to re do pairings five times in one day, going through a power outage, having the banquet manager asking if I could hurry the players up, the tournament was over. There was a four way tie between Tim, James, Bob, and Okey for first place which was pretty cool since except for Tim winning the very first Okoboji Open none of these players had won this tournament before. The prize money was given out and the pictures were taken and I was ready to post a short report and get the tournament rated except…


  I asked the front desk and the same clerk who told me the night before that the internet wouldn’t be working until nine in the morning even though it was working within the hour told me that the wireless internet would be up in a few minutes. I hung around for a half hour and the internet still wasn’t up so I went across the street to the McDonalds, bought an Egg McMuffin, and used their wireless internet to get the tournament rated. The good part about getting the tournament rated at the McDonalds was that the Egg McMuffin was as outstanding as the one I had 57 hours before in Mason City. The bad part was that the McDonalds free internet wouldn’t allow me to access my databases to update my tournament report so I had to wait until I was home to take care of that.

   Because I waited a half hour for the Arrowwoods’ wireless internet to not come up I finally left Okoboji a little after nine and got home a lot after 1am on Monday. I posted my tournament reports and pictures before going to bed for a couple of hours. Since I had arranged to have the day off from work I spent the rest of the day entering the games, walking Daisy and Baxter, and napping. The last 24 hours of the tournament felt as if I had stepped into the twilight zone with constant repairing of rounds, locked restaurants, power outages, bad internet, and obtuse banquet managers but I made it through the twilight zone and out to the other side. I should have been exhausted heading home but instead was energized like I always am after heading back from the Okoboji Open. Each year brings different circumstances, different winners, different obstacles, and even wildly different results in the blitz tournaments but the one constant is that I always get to hang out with a group of great people I see maybe once or twice a year and hanging out with the players and doing more watching than playing whets my appetite for playing myself. At the tournament I found out that this year that the Twin Ports Open in Duluth has been moved to the first week in August. In previous years the tournament was only a week away from the Jackson Open which made it impossible for me to go to both but this year there is a 2 week gap which will allow me to play in Duluth for the first ever. I have 10 weeks to get ready and not a moment to lose.

As long as I've been on a George Harrison bent I'll leave on this note to remind me why I think I'll find great success in Duluth this summer at the Twin Ports Open

You can worry your life away with
Not knowing what each new day may bring to you
Or take each day as it goes on
Wake up to the love that flows on, around you.
If you believe - if you believe in you
Everything you thought is possible, if you believe . .

If You Believe by George Harrison