Saturday, March 26, 2011

Adventures In Directing: Club Championship Headaches!

In a typical year I'm involved with directing somewhere between 30 and 50 tournaments a year.  They range in size from a single 4 player quad to a scholastic tournament with over 200 entries.  There are times I'm involved with even larger tournaments.  When I'm directing tournaments for other organizers it's often easier because I just have to show up and do what ever they tell me.  When I'm organizing the tournament then I get to deal with all the little details.

I find directing a 200 player scholastic tournament in one day easier then directing a 26 player tournament that is spread out over the course of 9 weeks.  The one day tournament is just that. It's done in less then 24 hours.  Run the tournament, submit the memberships and results and it's done.  Yes things can go wrong like incorrect results being recorded, crazy chess parents, crying kids, bad rulings, etc.  However once the day is done the headaches go away for the most part.  There will be times where something that happened at tournament on Saturday comes backs and bites me on a Tuesday.  Fortunately that doesn't happen too often.

However running a club championship that takes a few months to complete can create new headaches almost on a daily basis.   I laid out a schedule for the club championship that would begin the last Monday in February and end in mid-April.  However Murphy's Law strikes again as sometimes life gets in the way, and I had to miss the first round.  I had another director start the tournament.  He had 14 players show up the first night.  I was a little disappointed in the turnout, but I knew there were going to be a few players who couldn't play the first round.  

I thought it was going to be about 4 players including myself who couldn't make it.  My plan was to pair those players and have them play the make up round scheduled after round 2.  However extra 4 players turned into 7, then 9 and finally 12!  I couldn't exactly pair 12 players as having drawn in round 1.  Pairing pending games as draws is a typical practice in these types of events.  However when the highest rated player is one of the latecomers, I decided I needed to schedule the first makeup round before Round 2. That entailed completely redoing the schedule and sending out more emails with the new schedule.

With a tournament like this I try to keep even numbers so that no byes have to be assigned.  I had carefully paired up the latecomers, and then got another phone call asking if I could take another player.  I told the mom to bring the kid and I would see if I could get him in for that round, or give him 1/2 point bye for round 1 and have him play in the game/30 I was running for players who did not have a make-up round.  This particular kid always takes a bye in the last round of the game/30 tournament so that added another wrinkle to the equation.

I was trying to get the make-up round going, and also run the game/30.  I thought I was going to have an even number in both tournaments.  I decided I would have the kid play in my place in the club championship so that I wouldn't have the last round bye problem in the other tournament.  I could always take a 1/2 point bye in the club championship and play in the game/30.  If this wasn't confusing enough, I forgot to put enter one of the players into the game/30 tournament.  I didn't realize that until I read the pairings and the player asked "What about me?"  Oops! I took myself out of the game/30 and put him in my place.  After everything was said and done, I played no chess that night.  Probably just as well since I was suffering from mass confusion and indecision.

I thought once I got all the make up games out of the way, and could pair normally for the second round everything would be fine.  However when you have kids playing in the tournament there is always going to be the "bug of the week".  I had two kids who got sick over the weekend and couldn't play on Monday evening.  Did one really think they would have been paired against each other?  No, that would have been too simple.  Could I repair their respective opponents against one another and have the kids play each other on another day? Nope.  The two kids were too close in rating, and it would have entailed pairing a master against a 2100 in round two.

I let the two opponents know that they would not have a game that evening and would play during the next scheduled make-up round after round three.  One of those players responded to my email with a rather lengthy rant that started out, "I know this isn't the interzonal, but..." He seemed annoyed that someone could reschedule their game like that.  Hey it's not my fault he didn't check his email until an hour before the round starts.  I sent the email out Sunday night.

Going into round three I have these two unplayed games.  With games that need to be made up there is the director's dilemma.  Pair them as if the higher rated player won and pray there are no upsets, or pair as draws and have some strange round three pairings.  We've always paired the unplayed games as draws instead of risking the possibility of totally unfair pairings in the event the higher rated player loses.   Since it's a six round tournament the top rated players are going to end out playing each other almost no matter what.  Assuming a minimal amount of upsets they will play each other in rounds four, five and six.

The way things turned out, number one ended out playing number two in round three.  It was not the ideal round for those two to play each other, but that pairing was going to come up in round four, or maybe round five at the latest.  The pairing did provoke a blistering Facebook message saying. "I totally disagree with this pairing." Once I explained that number three and five were paired as draws, and that everything would straighten itself over the course of the remaining rounds, he seemed satisfied.

Having settled the pairing issue I thought everything else would run smoothly for the third round.  Wrong!  Murphy's Law strikes again.  In this case I would call it "Wright's Rule of Siblings" If older brother gets sick, little brother will catch it a week later.  Sure enough I get another email from their dad saying that now the younger son is sick. Oh well, at least the following Monday is the make-up round.  Now both kids can come that night. To make matters worse the third round opponent of the older brother emails me and says she's not feeling too well and could she play next week during the make-up round.  Argh!!! When will it end???  I wrote back and said she would have to work it out with her opponent and play before the make-up round since he was already scheduled to play someone else that night.

All of that being said and done at least Murphy has the decency to stay away while the actual games are being played.  This has allowed me to play my own games without being interrupted by disputes or draw claims.  I had a couple of odd ball pairings due to all the maneuvering I did in order to get the first make-up round off the ground.  Since I put the one kid in my place, I paired myself against Alanna Katz who couldn't play that evening.  We would play at her house the day before round two.  I paired us as a draw since I didn't want to wait until Sunday night to put out round two pairings.  People like to know ahead of time who they're playing.  Pairing that way had me playing her father in round two. As it turned out Alanna and I actually drew our game, so our second round pairings ended out being based on the correct result.

Despite all the craziness related to running this tournament I'm having a very good tournament so far.  I have 2.5 out of 3 despite being paired up every round.  Depending on the results of the make up round I could be playing number one in round four.  I certainly was not expecting to be playing on board one or two in the fourth round.  Unlike the Westchester Chess Club Championship that I won in 2009,  I have a snowball's chance in hell of winning the Bob Peretz Chess Club Championship.  I'm ranked number 18 in a field of 26 players that includes two masters, and five experts.  I did beat one of the experts in round three.

Games to follow in upcoming posts.


chesstiger said...

As tournament director of my club I know of the problems you mention. They sure can be the cause of a severe headache.

Luckily my club opted for a closed championship. So now I only have to manage two groups of six players who play double round robin. The only problem will be to see that all games will be played, also the postponed ones.

Polly said...

A few years ago one of the clubs I go to had a big round robin that was played over the course of the summer. It was an admistrative nightmare! We had 12 players and people were constantly rescheduling games. I finally had to come up with a deadline and tell everyone that any game not played by that date would be treated as unplayed. The following year we split it into 2 6 player round robins. That worked better, but there were still some unplayed games.

Most clubs in the US do Swiss events for their club championships. Some will do a round robin with the top rated players or top players from a qualifying tournament. I like the more inclusive nature of a Swiss event even though it can cause more headaches then a round robin.