Tuesday, August 12, 2008

US Open Wrap-Up

Sunday I survived a second day of delegates meetings. That session was much quieter then Saturday's. It helps that on Sunday we have a strict cut off time due to the 3:00 PM start time of round 9. Motion sponsors tend to withdraw a lot of their motions to help speed things up. Since the meeting is conducted according to Robert's Rules of Order there is always someone who will "call the question" to help move things along. Those of us who have attended these meetings over the years know that when we see Tim Just of Illinois at the microphone it means the question is going to be called. The picture below is an example of delegate humor.

Larry Cohen of Illinois calling the question while pretending to be Tim Just.

I had mentioned earlier that the US Open tends to be like a reunion where you meet up with someone you haven't seen in ages. Earlier in the week I met up with somebody I hadn't seen since the 1981 US Open in Palo Alto. Before the last round on Friday Jerry Hanken was announcing the names of people who were receiving certificates for playing in their 5th or more US Open. My name was announced even though I had already received the recognition in 2006. The mis-announcement was good because it allowed an old friend to realize that I was at the tournament. During Jerry's long presentation a woman comes up to me and says "Hi Polly, do you know who I am?" I look at the woman and I have absolutely no idea who she is. I'm terrible with names and faces, but when it's a guy I don't feel so bad when he knows who I am but I don't know who he is. Men have a much easier time remembering the women they run into at chess tournaments. There are a lot less of us to remember.

I'm looking at this woman and saying to myself, "Okay she knows who I am. Who is she? Did you meet her at one of the scholastic nationals this past year? The face and the voice are familiar, but....." Finally I admitted, "No I don't remember who you are." It turns out to be Julie Anne Desch. Talk about a blast from my past. She had been the assistant editor at Chess Life in the late 80s and had worked closely with me on an article I wrote on women in chess that was published in the April 1989 issue of Chess Life. I lost track of her after she left Chess Life, so I was pleasantly surprised to meet up with her after all these years.

Another good thing about the 3:00 PM round time is that even if one's game lasts a long time it still will be over at a civilized hour. When I finally gave up on trying to win a hopelessly drawn opposite color bishop ending I could catch up with Julie and find out what she's been doing for the last 15 years.

Since I don't like worrying about whether I'll make my flight or not, I always leave Monday morning. It does mean another night in the hotel, but it does give me a chance to socialize with people after the round. I ended out finally escaping from the hotel and eating somewhere besides Subway or Jack in the Box. Those were my cheap, within walking distance alternatives to the overpriced hotel food. I got to have a nice dinner with some of my fellow delegates, and tournament directing cronies. As we were heading to the restaurant one of the people in the car says "I hope you eat meat. We're going to a steak house." YES!!! I don't come to Texas to eat chicken or fish.

After dinner we headed back to the hotel. There I was faced with the annoying task of trying to pack all my stuff. Somehow I always manage to end out with more junk then I started with. It doesn't help when one has been away for almost two weeks, and can't leave a place without buying something. I did manage to escape the US Open having only bought two chess books, a couple of chess key rings and a sweatshirt. That's pretty good for me.

I'm sure the question everyone is asking is, "Well, how was the tournament? Were you satisfied with your results?" I have a love/hate relationship with the US Open. I love the tournament room atmosphere. There is something very impressive about walking into a ballroom that is filled with tables covered with table cloths and chess sets at every table. It's not something you see at your normal weekend swiss. I love the fact that it's a truly open tournament with a rich history behind it. Despite what some people would call the bastardization of the Open by having multiple schedule choices, I like those choices and I love the fact that they don't allow re-entries! Multiple schedules usually give people the option of re-entering on a different schedule. I like the fact that you never hear about people using high tech gizmos to cheat their way into a prize. I suppose some would say the prizes aren't worth cheating for, but that's besides the point.

There is not the paranoia often seen at the big money events. There seems to be a certain congeniality not seen at other tournaments. You have many players who have played in the tournament year after year, and when you see them every year it's like catching up with old friends. Even those of us who don't get to play in it as often as we like still feel like we're part of a special chess fraternity that makes the US Open an important part of our tournament history.

So what's not to like? It's a hard tournament, especially for players rated near the middle and lower. The middle of the pack players spend the early rounds bouncing up and down, or down and up between rating extremes depending on where you lie on the break. For a lower rated player he may spend many rounds getting paired up until he's lost enough times to finally get paired down. That can be pretty discouraging, though I applaud the perseverance of one player at last year's US Open who played and lost all 9 games. Most people wouldn't have the stomach for that, and probably would drop out after 5-6 straight losses. She gamely stuck it out through all 9 rounds.

I don't mind all the up pairings, but the extreme down pairings tend to make me a little crazy. I can't really complain about all the down pairings in this year's event. Considering my score, I got what I deserved in terms of getting paired down. There was a bright side in that I didn't have to play any players rated under 1200, and most surprising is I only played two players under the age of 18. Maybe I needed to play more kids because I scored 1.5 - 0.5 against the kids, and only 1.5 - 5.5 against the adults.

The interesting thing about my adult opponents is that most of them were older then me. All of them just played very solid chess. There weren't a lot of wild tactics. My lone win against adult competition was playing a much older player sitting on a 1400 floor. It was apparent that he had "been around the block" so to speak. He played a very solid game and it just came down to my winning a pawn and grinding out the ending. Unlike my young opponent from a later round who made me play out king and six pawns versus king until one move before mate, this gentleman resigned one move before I queened.

Was I disappointed with my results? Yes, but I didn't feel like I played horrible chess. Most of the games were interesting and hard fought. In some cases it just came down to one small error that cost me the game. Probably one of my worst games was the one where I ended drawing after my opponent missed the killer knight fork that wins my rook out right. Dodging that bullet allowed me to have a few laughs about luck in chess. I can do without having depend on luck, especially since my refrain on luck tends to be "If it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all."

This is my 3rd US Open in a row. My score has gone down by a 1/2 point each year since 2006. I keep this trend up I'll be like the 0-9 lady by the year 2014. Will I be in Indianapolis next year? I hope so. I'd like to add another state to my list of states played in. So why not the US Open for my Indiana tournament? However my traveling to next year's Open will depend on whether I can afford it or not. Who knows how much a plane ticket will cost by next year. It is an expensive proposition staying in a hotel for that many nights, especially when you're by yourself. I'd love to find a roommate, but on the other hand if I have to share the room I can't do this.

"Oops roomie! You wanted to actually sleep in that bed?"

It's safe to come out Mac. All liquids have been safely secured.


tanc(happyhippo) said...

Hi Polly,

Just want to let u know. Thanks for the terrific US Open coverage.

Well done!! I thoroughly enjoyed all of your posts from this event.


Polly said...

tanc: Thanks I'm glad you enjoyed the posts. Sometimes I wonder if anyone is listening since some of my game posts generated zero comments. I guess I'm gonna have to crush a master or something to stir up some talk. :-)

liquideggproduct said...

Men have a much easier time remembering the women they run into at chess tournaments.

To note: male chess players subtly hit on the few non-underage female chess players and remember how every one of them reacted. Strange but true.

Re: Zero comment posts. This is exactly why I hired the Mascot and Mr. E. When a post gets no comments, one of them will step in to fill the gap.

Polly said...

Maybe I should hire a few people like that to rin my comments up.