Tuesday, February 17, 2009

USATE - Back To Our Regular Progamming

Yesterday was the breaking news day highlighting numero uno. Complete results are now posted on NJSCF site. Today it's back to life in the slow lane. It was back to playing with the big boys in the ballroom. I hate the fifth round. It comes way too early. 9:00 AM Monday morning. Talk about the Monday Blahs. Maybe Monday Blags is more like it. This was the battle of the Blagojevich teams. We were "Blagojevich Gambit: f pawn for sale" and they were "Blagojevich Defense: Never Resign". Unfortunately for us, they weren't buying, and we couldn't follow their advice unless we wanted to play down to mate. We were the ones having to do all the resigning. It was another round of losing the match 4-0. On the bright side it took much longer then 2 hours for our opponents to put us out of our misery. I lasted three and half hours against my 2057 rated opponent. Note to self: 5+1 = 3+3 unless the opponent has the bishop pair, and I don't.


Sitting at the table next to us was another team of kids from our area. Since their average rating was very close to ours there was no danger we'd ever have to play them. This team was a family affair. They had the three Dell'Orto brothers; Dario, Giancarlo, and Antonio, and father/son, John and Connor Riddell. John is a master and played the first three rounds. Then Antonio played the last three rounds on board four. Antonio is the only one on that team I have not played. I have a losing record against both families. Even though I'm undefeated against Connor, his dad more then makes up for that. I was happy we didn't have to play their team, since I can play John or Dario without having to drive 45 miles to do so.

Dario, Giancarlo, Connor and Antonio

After another tough round Alan, Silvio and I found solace in getting out of the hotel for a nice lunch at an Italian restaurant. Guy did not join us since he had his son, and his teammates. Somehow with a group of kids their idea of Italian food is pizza. What I've learned out three straight years of playing with Alan and Silvio, they like to eat. Since we had over two hours to kill before the final round we had time to pick and choose. I'm glad to hang out with a Jewish guy who thinks he's Italian, and an Italian guy who is Italian. The food was decent, and the chocolate cake was outstanding. What more can I ask for? A win in the last round would be nice.

When we arrived back at the hotel the lobby was swarming with players. That's always a dead give away that the pairings are not up yet. That's alright with me. It gives me a few more minutes to let the food digest.

Waiting for round six pairings.
Hotel lobby becomes an ad hoc skittles room and picnic area.

As the pairings were being posted in the usual places, Steve Doyle comes in to the lobby to do another one of his pre-round give-aways. This time he was looking for a New Jersey quarter. This would get the owner his very own copy of the pairings. Nobody produced a New Jersey quarter, but one kid came up with a New Hampshire quarter so he won the set of pairings. All his friends were all over him to see where they were paired. He finally gave me my shot at them. I looked all over the two score group, and could not find our team. Where were we? I finally decided it would be easier to fight the crowds looking at the alphabetical list to find our name. A new twist on an old game "Where in the world is Blagojevich Gambit?"

As I mentioned in my report from rounds 1 and 2, there is clearly a hierarchy in terms of board assignments and where they're located. For the top rated teams they may spend the entire tournament in the best seats in town, behind the ropes in the main ballroom. For the teams on boards 10-80 they get to fight the crowds in the main ballroom, but it's the ballroom. All the fun stuff happens in there. It can be a circus in there, especially when Steve Doyle does his give aways before the round. "First person with a YMCA card from Connecticut gets a prize." "First person to come up and sing YMCA and do the motions, gets a prize." Yes and there is mad dash to be the person who comes up and sings in front of the assembled masses.

View from Board 80 - Main Ballroom.

For the teams on the fringe (lunatic fringe?) such as ours, we spend the winning rounds in the Heritage ballroom, and the getting hammered rounds in the main ballroom. Tell me again, why is so great to play in the main ballroom? It's fun to watch people go berserk over getting free stuff from Steve before every round? It's great to fight a crowd of kids to win some random book you might not otherwise buy? It's inspiring to be in the same room with grandmasters? It's a good place to hide from the guy you owe $100 to for losing at blitz? It's good for our game to get hammered by a much higher rated team? It's the US Amateur Team East, and that's where all the cool people are? Truth be told, no self respecting adult wants to be seen playing in one of the Morris conference rooms where the average age of the players is around 10.

No that's not an unused table in the background. A match quickly concluded. I took this picture about an hour into the round.

Of the four regional team events held on Presidents Day weekend, the Amateur Team East draws the most players, and the most kids teams. The Amateur Team North has a separate scholastic division that drew 16 teams this year. Getting to 2000 posted the winning teams from all 4 regions on his blog. The Amateur Team East probably had more scholastic teams then regular teams in the other three regions combined. For a number of the kids playing on scholastic teams at the Amateur Team East, this will be the first time they may play an adult. For some it may even be their first tournament ever. For local area kids this is an exciting opportunity to play in a national tournament.

In 2003 I played first board on a team with 3 elementary school girls. In the first round we got paired against a team who had a 598 on board one. I think it took our team less then 40 minutes to finish the match. My game went 24 moves and was done in about 35 minutes. Teams like that eventually get paired against each other, and somebody will finally win their first match of the tournament. At the USATE there is a special prize called Ethel Collins Perseverance award. This goes to the lowest scoring scholastic team. Ironically this year's winner of that award was named "Yes We Can Mate You". I guess they couldn't, which is why they "won" the prize this year.

As I mentioned before when I looked at the 6th round pairings in board order, I could not find us amongst the two pointers. I thought it might be because I was trying to read the pairing sheet without my reading glasses on. Actually the reason I couldn't find our name in the expected spot was because we were assigned to board 200. Where in the world is board 200? Not next to board 199 in the Morris wing. It's actually in room 200 on the second floor next to regular sleeping rooms.

From the window of of room 200 you can see the lobby. The picture below is cropped from the upper left hand corner of the lobby shot I posted earlier in this article. That window is part of Room 200.

The organizers of the tournament go to great lengths to accommodate teams that have special needs. There are often teams with blind players or players in wheelchairs. It's easier for those teams if they have an assigned board all tournament. Two such teams had assigned boards in the main ballroom. Two other teams had assigned boards in room 200. Our sixth round opponent was one of those teams in room 200.

Knights of the Square Table VS Blagojevich Gambit

Alan got his wish. At lunch he said "I hope we don't have to play little kids again." No kids in this bunch. There are advantages and disadvantages to playing in the middle of nowhere in an event like this. The advantages, are it's very quiet, there are only 16 people in the room, nobody is bumping into the back of your chair, and nobody but your teammates and opponents will see if you're playing like crap.

The disadvantages are, the hotel forgets you exist so the bathroom is messy, they've run out of water, and the room is hot as hell. Somebody asked if the room was going to get any cooler. One the players from the other team says "This is cool." The air conditioner was blowing cold air, but it sure wasn't getting around the room. During the match Alan asked me if we could open the window. I showed him the view of the lobby from the window, and he realized it would not be a good idea to open the window.

I hate when the playing room is really cold, but at least I can throw another layer on. When the playing room is really hot there is only so much one can take off. The thought crossed my mind to go out to my car and grab a tee-shirt and gym shorts to change into. I decided that was way too much work. It was cool in the hallway, particularly by the elevators. When it wasn't my move I would sometimes leave the room to cool off. I was getting a splitting headache. It's hard for me to stay focused when my head is pounding and I constantly have to leave the room to get relief from the heat. Fortunately my game was over in less then 2.5 hours. Here's the game.


I'm not how much longer I could have dealt with the heat. I finally put a win on the scoreboard, and my team won the match 3-1. We ended out 3 out of 6. We won the matches we were supposed to win, but unfortunately we couldn't do any damage to our higher rated opposition. We scored 1 out of 12 in the matches where we were paired up.


Diamondback said...

Hello Polly:

Fantastic job posting on the USATE 2009 East Team Championship !
This is what Chess Blogging is all about.
I saw Atomic Patzer at the Hamilton Chess Club Championship tonight and and he could'nt stop talking about how great your chess blog coverage on USATE 2009 has been the past few days.
BTW Atomic Patzer is going to post some pictures on the USATE 2009 hopefully with some captions in the near future.
Thank you for keeping up to speed on the USATE 2009....diamondback

Polly said...

Diamond: Thanks for the kind words. It's such a fun tournament, and I like to share as much as I can about the flavor of the event. My photography is still a work in progress as I learn new things about the camera.

From the patzer said...

Seeing the results it was a normal tournament for you and your teammates, no ups or downs in the teamresults.

I wonder what you like best, teamtournaments or individual tournaments?

Polly said...

Tiger: I like both formats, but there are very few team events so 99% of my tournaments are individual. There are certainly good and bad things about team events. But the same can be said for individual events too.

Anonymous said...


I just read a comment of yours from the USCF forums:

"I detest the beeps on the blue Saitek clock. They're loud and obnoxious, but so simple to turn off. Then again I don't like anything about that clock. Don't get me started."

Can I get you started on that? :)
I ask because I own and use one; I found it to be both inexpensive and quite capable of time control customization (including up to 3 different time control periods). But since you play a lot more chess than I do, and have experienced more issues, I'm interested in why you do not like it. I should note I always use the silent feature (no sounds, and no lights).

Polly said...

Scott: There are a couple of things I dislike about the clock. One is I don't like not being able to see minutes and seconds until you get below I think it's 20 minutes. I know some people don't feel like it's all that important to see that until one gets down in the crunch time. However I like to have a clearer picture of exactly how much time I'm taking on a move, no matter what part of the game it is. When I go from playing a fast time control such as g/30 to g/60 to a much slower tiem control such as 40/2 sd/1 It takes me awhile to pace myself. Having a more accurate sense of time helps me in that pacing. It may all be in my head, but that's my preference.

The second thing I don't like is that the time delay counts down in the same screen as the time. So it can be confusing at first glance as to whether one has 5 seconds of delay time, or 5 seconds of real time. It's funny because the first time I noticed this was when I was directing, and kept thinking one player had lost on time. What I was seeing was the delay time.

I love my Chronos where I can have my minutes and seconds and my time delay all showing. Dollar wise I felt the Chronos was worth it.

Anonymous said...

What was the totla count of players. I read in your blog that ist was 1600, which is 400 more than last year?

Polly said...

Anon: I can't do math. When I had seen the pairing sheets I saw boards down to 201, so I assumed there were 402 teams. What I didn't notice was the gap between the last numbered board in the 100s and the 201. It wasn't until the last round when my team was paired against the team assigned to board 200, that I noticed the gap. There were actually 283 teams and 1207 players.

Anonymous said...


I followed the link from the USCF site to your blog and I have been very much enjoying your articles!

I too was on a Blago team, "Blago-Indian defense: Pay to Play." I guess that makes us kindred spirits, right? Only thing there was more of than Blago teams was Madoff teams.

Last year I wrote an article about the USATE for the PennsWoodPusher. Here is a link to the .PDF file if you are interested: ftp://ftp.pitt.edu/group/student-activities/chess/PittClub/2008SummerPWP.pdf
We had two teams from Pittsburgh this year, and I saw a very strong team from central Pennsylvania too (MMMm).

Polly said...

Bruce: I'm glad you enjoyed the stories. Your piece for the PennsWoodpusher was very good. I was glad to see there wasn't a super stacked team in this year's event. I would have been really pissed if I played board 4 on a team that had to play the GGGg team.