Thursday, October 20, 2016

Everything Old is New Again

This song was released weeks before John Lennon's assassination in 1980 and never fails to leave me more than a little depressed.

   Less than 10 days after my friend Bill passed away at the age of 96 I had to confront my own advancing age when I turned 56 the Saturday before last. I didn't really do much confronting because I don’t spend a lot of time considering how old I am. I’m older than some, not as old as others, and that’s about the extent of my thoughts on the subject. One thing I’ve gotten better at as I’ve gotten older is not wasting time. I'm gotten quick to hang up the phone and close the doors on salespeople and I patronize businesses largely based on how little time I have to spend to get what I want. I even try to save time on social media. I like using Facebook but when one of my ‘Facebook friends’ starts posting items or opinions that I find disturbing or people that annoy me start popping up in my feed because of their comments in these posts I just click the button to not show this person's posts in my feed. I save time by not getting annoyed or disturbed and there's a lot less to look at that way too.

  And what do I do with all this time I save by not wasting it? Play one minute chess of course! Not only is a game of chess with each player having one minute to make all their moves incredible fun it also doesn't cost nearly as much time as a game where both sides have 90 minutes for all their moves PLUS an extra 30 seconds for each move like when I played at the Twin Ports tournament in Duluth a couple of months ago. The last time I wrote about my one minute chess escapades on the Internet Chess Club was in March of 2015 when I set a personal high rating at one minute chess of 1619. I then set my sights on trying to better my personal best ICC 3 minute rating set in 2010. That attempt was unsuccessful and on November 1st I was back playing 1 minute chess on the Internet Chess Club. I proceeded to drop my first 6 games to lower my rating exactly 100 points to 1519 and my quest for a new 1 minute rating high was on.

  I was made no progress on getting my one minute high until late September when I suddenly started winning a lot of games on time. This was a sure sign that my normally crummy Mediacom internet service was better than usual. I took full advantage of my blazingly fast internet in this game against NAVARRO-GO that pushed my rating over 1600 for the first time in 18 months.
pgn4web chessboards courtesy of pgn4web.casaschi.net


  In addition to winning games on time I also won a few well played games like this one against NC3-4Me.

  Having fast internet and playing well is a great combination to get a high online rating because in addition to the games I win by outplaying my opponent I also get plenty of undeserved wins when my opponents run out of time in winning positions. Both factors combined in my game against macuco.


  I thought that this game would have given me my new high rating but it left me at 1619, exactly where I was on March 10, 2015. Two days later I woke up on my birthday and since it was a Saturday Kathy and I took Daisy and Baxter on a long 5am walk to the Casey’s for coffee and a beef stick treat. We were home by 6 and I spent some time watching chess on ICC with Harry the cockatiel and then I hit the one minute button.


  A good game that I could have won with more time and could have lost with crummier internet. The draw was good enough to give me the solitary rating point I needed to get to get to 1620 for a new personal best after 1 year, 6 months, 28 days, and 7,372 one minute games.

19 months in the making but well worth the wait!

  After setting my new personal best I headed to Grimes, Iowa to run the latest of my youth chess tournaments. I used to hold the tournaments at St. Francis of Assisi school in West Des Moines but a funny thing happened on the way to summer last spring. After spending a year working with some private students I came up with the idea of a twice a month Saturday afternoon chess class/club with a lesson, homework, and chess play without the pressure of a tournament. I went to the parish office to reserve dates and the person who never gave me any trouble about getting dates for my tournaments told me how busy the summers were with weddings and other functions. When I mentioned I only needed a small classroom and that I was going to make this activity free for St. Francis students while charging everyone else the person who never gave me any trouble about getting dates for my tournaments told me it was “parish policy not to have the facilities used for activities that charged fees.” I said I didn’t see how that could be the policy since it was no secret that I charged entry fees for my tournaments and besides every activity I’ve ever seen at the gym next to my tournaments had a cash box. Then the person who never gave me any trouble about getting dates for my tournaments told me that the parish was doing an audit and I needed to fill out a form for a background check (I had already had one when I started at St. Francis) and my helpers needed to fill out the forms also (even though my helpers were parents paying thousands of dollars a year to have their children attend the school). That made things a little more clear in my mind and I figured that something happened that was being hushed up that made the parish less interested in outside activities. I wrote to the school principal and head of the PTA about my summer activity idea and didn’t waste any more time thinking about it.

  That was in May and I never heard back from anyone. I had an agreement to coach the chess club at St. Francis for free and in return use the facilities for chess tournaments. Given the ‘fees’ policy I felt I could coach at St. Francis and have free tournaments (meaning I needed sponsors), not coach at St. Francis and not have tournaments, or coach at St. Francis for free and still not have the tournaments. As much as I enjoyed working with the kids at St. Francis the reason for my coaching there was to have a place to hold tournaments. I didn’t want to spend time looking for sponsors so in mid-July I wrote to St. Francis to let them know I wouldn’t be available to coach their chess club given their ‘fees policy’. St. Francis then wrote me back to tell me there was no policy about charging fees and that I could still have the tournaments if I would coach the chess club, I gave it some thought but ultimately decided not to continue. I think that once the people who never gave me any trouble about getting dates for my tournaments start making policies as a way to say no it wasn't going to change because I happened to be the beneficiary of some political infighting – I would just have to deal with more made-up policies in the future.

  I told the parents of my students and anyone who asked that I wasn’t planning on having tournaments but within a couple of weeks I had inquiries about holding tournaments in the fall at different sites. One of my students’ parents had an in with the Grimes Community Center and we easily settled on three dates in the fall as a trial run. I normally wouldn’t have had a tournament on my birthday but it just so happened that it was also National Chess Day. I’ve always tried to have a tournament on National Chess Day so I had the tournament on my birthday. It also helped that having the tournaments so early in the month will keep me away from Thanksgiving and Christmas weekends where a lot of players tend to be traveling.

  So after setting my personal best in one minute chess on the Internet Chess Club I opened some of my birthday presents one of which included a pack of Old Trapper beef stick treats from (and for) Baxter and Daisy and headed 60 miles southwest to Grimes, Iowa to run my first chess tournament there. The Community Center is located in the middle of Grimes (a suburb of West Des Moines with 8,500 people) in an old school. The tournament room has space for at least 50 players and there is plenty of room for parents to hang out either in the tournament room or a nearby cafeteria. I can see a long run at the Grimes Community Center. The middle school is starting a chess club which should provide a base of players. The only problem I can see is that even though the Community Center is located just 7 miles away from St. Francis, West Des Moines chess parents tend to not travel outside their own neighborhoods. But that isn’t really my problem and certainly not worth spending any time thinking about.

A great new tournament location in Grimes!

  The tournament itself was successful with 28 players over the day and everyone seemed to have a good time, including me. I hadn’t run a youth tournament in six months and forgot how much fun they are. I also forgot how much energy it takes. I got home at 5, did my after tournament stuff, walked my beagles, and gave my now 56 year old body a well-deserved nap. A few months after saying goodbye to a chess association of six years and ten days after going to my oldest friend's funeral (oldest in terms of age, not in terms of how long we were friends), I have a brand new high one minute rating and a brand new place to hold youth chess tournaments. My best birthday presents were getting new beginnings to take the place of some old endings...

This song was also released weeks before Lennon's assassination yet never fails to encourage me.
A fitting song to commemorate turning the page to 56 years old!