I'm certainly glad there were no chess tournaments to play in tonight. I think I had enough bad luck this week. Actually it's not so bad. Tomorrow I'm off to Parsippany to play in my all time favorite tournament, US Amateur Team - East. Maybe my team will get paired up against Derek's team again. We can't do any worse then we did last year in round one. From 0-4 the only way is up. Any of my fellow bloggers playing this weekend? I would tell you to come look up my team, but we're having naming rights issues.
This year the 60s is the theme for the tournament. I came up with the name "Give Piece a Chance". Simple, and a nice play on words. The problem was by the time one of my teammates sent our entry in, the name had been taken. Back to the drawing board.... (Hmmm, there's an idea for a name.) Staying with the 60s theme I then thought of:
Let's spend the knight together
Twisting the knight away
Knights in White Satin
Black is black, but I'd rather be white
Something in the way we move
You see where this is all going. Silvio threw out a few song related ideas too, but we couldn't come up with an idea. Then I thought let's skip the 60s and do a current events name. Those are the ones that tend to win the best name contest. With that in mind, I thought of "Blagojevich Gambit: f pawn for sale". I never heard back from the organizer if that name has been taken, and my teammates are rather indecisive over the name issue. So for the time being we don't have a name. Maybe we should be "Somebody Madoff with our name."
So why is this my favorite tournament? It's one big social time with a lot chess thrown in. I see people that I only see once a year at this tournament. There are always very clever team names which are fun. Also teams dress up in funny costumes and sometimes do goofy skits on Sunday night when they have the best chess-related gimmick contest. I've been known to put together some pretty goofy skits and costumes over the years. When I've played with kids on my team, they're all for that type of stuff. My adult teammates of the last few years don't want anything to do with that type of stuff.
This will be the 29th year I've played in this event. This is the 39th annual team tournament. Next year will be the 40th anniversary, and it will be my 30th. I've only missed 10 of them which is not too bad considering that the first time I played in it was 1978, and I didn't play in it again until 1981. I would have a really impressive streak of consecutive tournaments if I had not skipped it in 1990 to attend a pin collectors event in Lake Placid. I guess back then I didn't realize how much the tournament would mean to me over the years. The 1978 event was my first tournament in New Jersey, so look for an update on Checkmate State by State with my story from that event. I seriously doubt I'll get to it this weekend unless I have a super quick round where I go hole up in my hotel room for three hours.
This will be the third year in a row that I'm playing with Alan and Silvio. Our 4th player keeps changing every year. The first year we played together I played board three. Last year I played board two. This year I'm playing board one. I've played board one a number of times in the past, but it's normally been for a low rated team with a bunch of little kids. It will be tough this year playing on board one with a team average of 1607. (Many teams make a huge effort to have their average fall at xx99. As you can see we didn't.) Depending on the composition of our opponents' line up, even when we get paired down I could be playing a higher rated player. That's fine with me. I've had my fill of low rated players lately.
Team play can be very difficult because my game is no longer just about me. If I blow a won game there's not only the aggravation that I might feel because I messed up, but there's also the feeling that I let down my teammates if it costs us the match. There's also the loss of control in terms of opponents. It's not like we really have control of who we're playing in an individual tournament, but the competition is going to line up consistent with how the tournament is going. If I'm having a bad tournament sooner or later I'm going to get paired with somebody who's having an equally bad tournament. If I'm having a good tournament then my competition is going to get tougher.
In a team tournament my individual results may have nothing to do with the overall team performance, or they may play an important part. In 1989 I scored 3.5 - 2.5, including a win and draw against masters. Our team scored 4.5 - 1.5 (3 wins and 3 draws.) and won the under 2000 prize. Every single player contributed with an important win or draw in each round to allow us to not lose any matches.
In 1991 I had the I had the team tournament from hell. I was playing board two on a pick up team of four random players. Our team name was "Practice Safe Sacs". I had a big work project going on over the long weekend. My staff and I were having to work 48 hours straight doing massive back ups, compressing the data, reformatting the hard drives and reinstalling everything. When setting up the schedule I managed to take a shift where I'd go to work, skip the Sunday morning round and make it back it time for the Sunday evening round.
You know you're having a bad tournament when your alternate who only plays one round scores more points then you. Our alternate went 1-0. I went 0-5. I spent almost every game in horrible time pressure. The time limit was 50/2 and there was no time delay. 2 hours seems like a lot of time, but having to make 50 moves in that two hours is harder then it looks. The difficulty for me in that tournament was despite my total lack of help the team was doing pretty well so my opponents were rated almost always higher rated. My only two down pairings were against a 1614 and a 1757. I was rated 1869 at the time. Here's the one game that had no clock issues. It didn't last long enough. Perhaps it could have been saved for a future Wacky Wednesday post. However it's Freaky Friday the 13th worthy also.
Hopefully this weekend will not be filled with horrible missteps and other assorted ugliness. If you're at the tournament look for me. Even if I don't know the name of my team, and I'm not hard to miss. I always have some piece of chess themed clothing on. Hopefully we won't get banished from the ballroom too quickly.