Saturday, September 8, 2007

A Fischer Boomer? Sorta, But Not Really.

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.

0-0-0. Ouch!

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?


Loomis said...

I'm sorry I haven't found your blog sooner, I love your very descriptive writing style.

Your remarks about playing hall temperature in your previous post reminded me of a tournament experience from a couple years ago. The tournament was held in a semi-private room at a restaurant. The players were separated from the regular patrons, but the room shared a thermostat with the rest of the restaurant. Adding to the problems was the fact that the management had decided that, despite the fact it was summer time, having the fireplace on in the main room would create a great atmosphere. This meant they had to blast the A/C to keep a decent temperature out there, which in turn chilled the players room uncomfortably. Since the thermostat was shared, the only change they could make was to change the second room from "cool" to "heat." That meant we were blasted with heat until the room was uncomfortably hot and then put back on "cool" until frozen again. The whole day was back and forth from hot to cold -- you could literally watch players putting on and taking off sweaters and jackets as the temperatures changed.

Polly said...

That's a great story!

Unfortunately I'm at the age now that I don't need the thermostat to be changing back and forth for me to be taking my sweater off and putting it back on. Though I do notice that the more intense the position the more likely I'll be off and on with the sweater

Anonymous said...

Nice chess blog. Your posts might be a little too long.

I hope you can continue to contribute to Jack Le Moine's monthly carnival.

You spoke of sweaters during games. I won $250 once because I drew the last game instead of lost it: I was in a losing position, but my elderly opponent was seated directly under an A/C vent, for which he was under-dressed. He offered a draw and went up to his hotel room to warm up -- it was May in Reno NV!

I think there are PGN web viewers better than ChessPublisher. Good viewers give long notation (such as Bc5xd4 instead of just Bxd4). Though most neglect to give the type of piece taken, leading the watcher to click backward just to see (a pain).

Rook Van Winkle has a better PGN viewer on his blog.

Rook Van Winkle said...


Anonymous suggests using a viewer that can include comments and game annotations, so let me mention the one that is being referred to. It's not too much harder to use than ChessPublisher's viewer.

Anyway, the viewer mentioned is Priit Parmakson's adaptation of Lutz Tautenhahn's fantastic LT-PG-Viewer program.

Parmakson's adaptation is not perfect (the comment window is small and comment text is too big - being in bold print). It is only a little more difficult to use than ChessPublisher. To be honest though, you do have to be VERY careful in the formatting of your move list you paste into the code snippet provided and in not accidently altering the code snippet tags.

I'm trying to switch over to the ChessBase viewer - it is my favorite - but it is a little more involved than Parmakson's or ChessPublisher's viewer.