The cover story from September's Chess Life is on the fallout from Bobby Fischer becoming World Champion 35 years ago. How time flies. It's hard to believe I played in my first rated tournament in the fall of 1972. I remember it as if it was last week. It's funny because any time I mention that I started playing in tournaments in 1972 some will say something to the effect of "You must have gotten caught up by the Fischer Craze." My answer has always been, "Not really, it just happened that I attended my first tournament in that fall." The timing just worked out that way.
I attended a girls' boarding school in Massachusetts. Yes, I admit it. I was a preppy. I was known for two things there; sports and chess. I played on any sports team that would have me (JV field hockey, basketball, and lacrosse), and I played chess with anyone I could. I was considered a bit of an odd ball, being a combination of jock and geek. I wasn't part of the in crowd, and I didn't have a whole lot of friends. My friends were fellow odd balls, and they knew how to play chess. I was much better then them, but I often let them take moves back or I'd lose pieces on purpose to make it more interesting. I thought I was hot stuff because I could beat the teachers and all the students at chess. Playing in USCF rated tournaments would wake me up to the reality that actually I was simply a big fish in a very little pond.
In the spring of 1972 the lady who worked as the evening receptionist invited me over to her house for lunch on a Sunday. She knew how much I loved chess, and her husband was an avid player. She thought it would be nice for the two of us to meet and play. That little lunch has taken me a long way since then. We played several games of chess which he won. He had a 1600 rating, but at the time he had switched from OTB chess to postal. He gave me a copy of Chess Life and Review, a USCF catalog, and a postal chess album. (I still have it, though it's missing pieces from a couple of the sets.) I saw in the back of the magazine that there were chess tournaments, and that some of them were not far away from school. I think I sent in my $7.00 to become a USCF junior member almost immediately.
In the fall I returned to school, and early on the trimester planned how I was going to get to my first chess tournament at U Mass in Amherst. When one goes to a girl's boarding school going away for a weekend isn't a matter of hopping on a bus and checking into a hotel for a weekend. One has to have a specific person she is going to be staying with and visiting. Fortunately my chemistry teacher and his wife lived in Amherst and they offered to put me up for the weekend and get me to and from the chess tournament each day.
On September 30th, 1972 I entered the world of USCF rated chess, and found out that I was actually very little fish in a bigger pond then I was used to. My first game I resigned after 20 moves in a position where I was already down 3 pieces to a 1400 player and about to have to give up the exchange to stop mate. "Gee Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore." And so the first day of this tournament went the way of many that have followed over the years. Castling queen side on the wall chart.
Sunday I returned to do battle once again, but unfortunately I would make the acquaintance with the infamous bye. Sad to say, an acquaintance that I've made way too many times over these 35 years. Back then there were no house players hanging around so I had to wait around for the fifth round.
So after getting the bye, I finally put a real point up on the wall chart. Above you can see my original score sheet in all it's English Descriptive glory. I actually kept fairly neat notation. Putting it into Chess Base to show it here was a challenge. I don't know how I went almost 3 years before I made the plunge and switched to Algebraic. I guess it was because all my chess books were in English Descriptive, and Algebraic seemed so foreign.
I was black in this game against a guy whose last name was Barrelson. I don't know his first name. Back then I never bother with first name on my scoresheets.
This is not high quality chess. This was a game between an unrated and an 1191 player. Also this wasn't a kid. There were not many kids playing then. I was probably one of the youngest players there, and I was an 18 year high school senior. I look at some of the moves both us made and wonder what in earth was I thinking about?