Greetings from Parsippany, New Jersey. It's US Amateur Team - East time! There are 200 teams. 283 x 4 = 1132, but add the alternates and the real number is 1207. That's a lot chess players. Outside of the scholastic nationals this is one of the largest tournament in the United States. Since this hotel lacks a convention type space that could fit 1100+ players in one room, the boards are scattered around the first floor of the hotel. Depending on where your team ranks and how it's doing determines whether you'll get to play in the main ballroom with the big boys, or you may be banished to the Morris Conference Center corridor. The flavor of the tournament certainly changes depending on which room you're in.
There were many years when I played first board on a team with three little girls, and we would spend our entire tournament in the conference center corridor. Playing in those rooms is like being in a scholastic tournament. It's mostly kids teams that are playing in those rooms. The girls and I played together for about 4 years, and every year we would vow that we'd make it to the ballroom for at least one match. It took a couple of years, but we finally made it in there.
My team finally ended out with a name. We're "Blagojevich Gambit: f pawn for sale". I'm glad we didn't go for a Bernie Madoff team name because there ae about 10 to 20 teams with a name like that. In fact in one round it was hard to tell two of the Madoff teams apart because they were paired next to each other, and on the pairing sheet the names get truncated. One of the floor directors had to find the two team captains and figure out which team was which, and make sure they were playing at the correct board.
With 200+ teams and only 6 rounds to determine a winner, they use quarter pairings for the first two rounds. In the first round one the 1st quarter plays the 2nd quarter and the 3rd quarter plays the 4th quarter. Normally it's 1st half and against 2nd half. It gets more complex in the next round because the highest rated 1-0 scores play each other. Then low rated 1-0 get paired against high rated 0-1 and lowest rated 0-1 scores play each other. I'm not quite sure where the 1/2-1/2 teams fit into the equation. The whole idea is to try to get rid of a bunch of perfect scores by the end of round two.
With our 1607 team average we were in the 3rd quarter so we got paired down. This pairing left us on board 82 which is in the Heritage ballroom. That's the room next to main ballroom. I guess you could say that's the triple A minor league room. Boards 1 -80 are in the main ballroom. Since we were on the 2nd board in that room we had a good spot. First row with the wall at our backs. I like having a wall behind me so that people aren't constantly knocking into my chair. I must say as much as I miss the atmosphere of the main ballroom it is less noisy, and not so crazy in there. There are only 10 to 12 boards in that room so you're talking about 40 to 48 players as opposed to the 320 players in the main ballroom.
The gentleman standing next to me is 86 years old. He was playing board two on our opponent's team. Being of the old school of chess he was peppering his opponent with a bunch of questions about the digital clock. Many of the questions were about time delay, what would happen at 40 moves, and what would happen at the end of the sudden death. He also had questions about how long he needed to keep score in the second time control. Having answered these questions a million time for kids, I answered them all for him. As I was answering the questions I couldn't help to think to myself, "Wishful thinking that he's going to last that long against his much higher rated opponent."
I was totally wrong on that count. He made it to move 40 with less then two minutes on his clock, and when he finally was mated on move 72 he had around 3 minutes. It was a beautifully played king and pawn ending where Guy was able to chase the king in front the advanced g pawn and bring his king down. A textbook ending. I will try to get the game from Guy and post the ending. Very instructive.
It also turns out I played the guy in 2003 at the Amateur Team East and I lost. He was only 80 at the time. :-) When I got back home I went to find the score sheet from our game. It's gone missing. Either the game was so bad I destroyed the evidence, or it was so instructive that it's stashed away in one of my folders with lesson plans.
This match was not a pushover despite winning the match 3 1/2 - 1/2. There was one point that I was looking at all our games where it seemed like we were losing on one board and looking really drawish on the other boards. Silvio pulled a rabbit at of his hat against his much lower rated opponent. The opponent had a perpetual and didn't go for it. Instead he played some horrendous rook move which allowed Silvio mate in two.
I played a high 1500 who played a very solid game against me. We went down to a king and pawn ending. We reached the following position after 42...Kd5
I spent a long time trying to figure out whether I should cede the opposition at this point by moving the king to c3 or play a pawn move. I was having difficulty counting it out if I play Kc3 and he goes into e4 and goes after my king side pawns. I actually left the room on my time to refill my water bottle, and just de-clutter my brain. I also had to change my music from Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture to Bach's Fantasia And Fugue in G Minor. The Bach is more soothing where as the Tchaikovsky has too much emotional charges in the music. I finally counted it all and realized that he can't go for the king side because I win the pawn race. The game continued 43. Kc3 g5 44. b5 axb5 45. axb5 h5 46. Kd3 h4 47. Ke3 hxg3 draw offered and accepted.
The next round we got paired up against a 2nd quarter team that lost its first round. Now the view from our board looks like this. That is only half the ballrom.
We lost the match 3-1. If you look carefully you'll see my opponent has one more pawn then me. I played the opening terribly, and got smashed pretty quickly. I was going to lose a second pawn and my dark squared Bishop on g7 would be traded off for a knight. I decided I did not feel like play down two pawns and a totally trashed king side. On move 29 I decided I had enough of the torture and decided to make an early evening of socializing.
This year's theme is the 60s so all of the directing staff were wearing tie-dyed tee shirts with the name of some 60s cartoon character on the back. The man behind all of these ideas is Steve Doyle, pictured below. He starts every round with give aways for who ever has certain objects on them or is willing to come up and sing a song.
For our next prize....
One of the TDs had the above on the back of her shirt, for Miss Polly Purebread from Under Dog. Gawd I hated that character growing up. She was way too prissy and wimpy for me. I would constantly get teased about that. That and Pollyanna. Pretty funny considering I'm going to be a brown belt next week.
Round 3 going to be a rough one. We got way paired up and are playing the #20 team with a average rating of 2180. Stay tuned for further details.