Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Wacky Wednesday! - 70's Chess Road Trip

This is inspired by Chess Loser's recent post on doing a chess road trip. In college I used to get load up my car with 3 or 4 junior high school kids and we'd go off to Boston, Springfield, Hartford or where ever else there might be a tournament outside of Vermont. I think back on those days and compare to today. I'm not sure any parent these days would entrust their teenage sons to a college kid for a weekend out of state.

After I relocated to New York I used to enjoy returning to New England to play in some of the tournaments that I played in during college. One weekend I had driven up to Leominster, Massachusetts to play in the Central New England Open. It was held ever year in the fall. Any of my New England readers who are familiar with that area will tell you it's not exactly the "sun and surf" capitol of the Northeast. However it was nice tournament. In fact it was where in my freshman year of college I was introduced to the devil's tool of chess destruction, bughouse.

My intention had been to drive up for the tournament on Friday, play and drive back on Sunday. Sometimes plans change. I was hanging out with Canadian Grandmaster Peter Biyiasis and Ruth Haring. They mentioned that after this tournament they were planning on taking a bus to Burlington, Vermont and then head up to Montreal. Suddenly I got this crazy idea that I wanted to return to my college chess stomping grounds and play in the Vermont State Championship that was being played the following weekend. I offered to drive them up there. At the time I was working for Bill Goichberg as the office manager of Continental Chess Association, so it wasn't particularly hard to ask for the week off to drive an Grandmaster up to play in another tournament.

The Burlington Chess Club ran these one game a week tournaments for 5 weeks at at time. People could come and go as they please. Bill Mc Grath the club president had a stack of pairing cards withe everyone's information on it. If you showed up on Thursday he pull out your card and you would get paired. If you didn't show up then your card stayed in the pile and you got a bye for that week. I had surprised everyone with my appearance on a random Thursday that November. They were in round three of that particular tournament so I jumped in for the round. I got paired against some player with a 1092 rating. It wasn't any of the kids that I used to take on my college chess road trips. When I found the scoresheet last week I was trying to visualize who this person was. I don't know if he was a kid or an adult. I don't have a first name, just an initial. All I know is that my opponent was not a female. I tend to remember my female opponents since they're few and far between.

Here is one butt ugly, but amusing loss to some random E player from Vermont.


What the hell was I thinking about when I played 16...Rc7? Obviously not about getting mated by a knight. That was kind of a bad way to make my return to my old stomping grounds.


Anonymous said...

Hi Polly,

So you're from Vermont? I've been living in this state for 11 years now.

Say, do you know anything about the Burlington team that won the National HS Championship in 1977?

I was at the 1976 National HS tournament in Cleveland, the year that Two Rivers WI won it. Before that a team from LA, and before that Evanston, IL which won it three years in a row.


Polly said...


I'm originally from Maryland. I attended UVM from 1973-1977. That team was made up of Alan Shaw, David Carter, Chris Richmond and Kyle Stevenson. These were the kids that often went with me on my chess road trips in college.

It was quite an accomplishment for them to win since they were only a four player team so they all had to pull their weight. Many of the top teams had more players so that if one person had a bad tournament someone else could pick up the slack. Chris Richmond beat 16 year old Yasser Seirawan.

David and Alan still play some. I don't think Kyle and Chris do. Their coach Bill Mc Grath is still active running the Burlington Chess Club.

es_trick said...

I had been wondering how a team from a locale with few tournaments in the vicinity (although the Burlington CC sounds like it was awesome in those days) was able to rise up from obscurity to take a national title. Your chaperoning of them to out of state events helps to explain how they overcame that obstacle.

I know what you mean about how difficult it is for a small team to succeed. The odds of all four players having a great result at the same event are slim. The year before, when Two Rivers, WI won it, they had something like 12 – 15 players, and their fourth highest scoring player was probably not among their top 10 rated players, but evidently turned out the performance of his life (up to that point). There’s definitely strength in numbers, which makes Burlington’s accomplishment all the more remarkable.

It must have been a thrill for you to be a part of that.

Polly said...

I did not go to the HS nationals with them, but I certainly felt that my taking them to various tournaments over the years helped out. We had some great trips together, except maybe the year we played in the New England Open in Portland Maine and decided to save money by camping.

That was a disaster. It poured the first night. Only one of us remembered a flash light and the batteries died. We put up the tent by light of the car headlights. It was a big old clunky tent. I'm not sure how we managed to keep it up. We played a lot of blindfold chess that first night. We also spent a lot of time kicking and elbowing each other. I don't think any of us had a good tournament. I vowed I'd never camp again for a tournament.

A year later I got a ride out to the US Open in Columbus, OH. The guy I got a ride with wanted to camp. I said there was no way I was camping for 12 nights. I got a hotel room at the site. It didn't matter that I was a broke and unemployed college graduate. I was not camping!