Thursday, April 30, 2009

ICA Spring Open: Rd. 4

After losing round three to one of my perpetual nemesis', I came back with a nice win in round 4. This is the crucial position. I had just played 15...c5

Initially I was concerned with 16. exd6 exd6 17. Rxe8+ Qxe8, removing my queen from the defense of the d pawn. However White can't play 18. Bxd6 because I have 18...cxd4 attacking his pinned knight on c3. My tactical threat was more powerful then his. He can win my pawn, but I'm going to win his knight and have a very annoying passed pawn deep in his territory.

After 16. exd6 exd6 17. Rxe8+ Qxe8, he opted to play 18. Qa3, breaking the pin and threatening my bishop on a6.

Here's the entire game.


Thursday, April 23, 2009

ICA Spring Open

As I mentioned in my last post I played at the ICA Spring Open on Sunday. This was my third time playing there. It was an extremely strong event with four Grandmasters and two International Masters. There were also 3 masters. It was funny the drop in rating from #6, IM Dean Ippolito (2515) to #7 Igor Yeliseyev (2204). Everyone was wondering where the 2300 and 2400 players were. They weren't at the Marshall since Steve was running the New York April Under 2300.

Despite the strength at the top I was fairly high up on the bottom half. The last two times I played there, I was paired against Boris Privman. He wasn't there, so I didn't get the opportunity to try to "improve" my record to 1-17 against him. Instead I got to play Ippolito in round 1.

As you can see from the above photo taken by Jim West, I managed to hang on for a decent amount of time against him. There were a lot of games done by the time I tipped over my king. Unfortunately my pieces got tied up in knots, so it was like I was giving him rook odds. Try playing against an IM with two pieces totally out of play. I was only down a pawn when I resigned. Unfortunately his extra pawn was sitting on f2 in this position.

It's my move, but I can't stop mate in four. 33. h3 f1/Q+ 34. Rxf1 Rxf1+ 35. Qxf1 Qxf1+ 36. Kh2 Qg2#

In the next round, I got paired against an adult rated 1471. It's so rare I actually play adults in this tournament after the first round. Usually there is some under rated kid waiting to pounce on me. This game was rather dull. It looked like I would only get a draw. My opponent kept things quiet, and traded down. We reached this position after 32 moves.

I was ready to offer a draw, but then my opponent continued with the trading down theme by playing 33. Qc5 I spent a good amount of time calculating what happens after the queen trade. He gets the passed pawn, but it's isolated. I worked out that he'd evntually run out of moves and I'd be able to pick it off. I played 33...Qxc5+ 34. bxc5 Kd7 35. Ke3 Kc6 36. Kd4 a5 37. g3 h5 38. g4 hxg4 39. hxg4 g6 White resigns. 0-1 He can try 40. g5, but after 40...a4, he has to give a pawn or step back with 41. Kd3.

There were 7 of us from Westchester County that came to play in this tournament. Some of us carpooled. I had brought Josh Colas and his dad down. Alexander and Ben from my team came down together. Another few kids also had come. In a field of 41 players, what were the chances that I'd end out playing any of them? I guess as good as getting paired against any Marshall usual suspect. Yep, I had to play my perpetual nemesis Ben. This is the first time I've played him since my unfortunate meltdown in February. Time was not an issue in this game. He just ground me down, and eventually I lost material. This is the final position.

Unlike my position against Ippolito in round one, I can defend against mates and the loss of my queen. However I think the similarity of the positions made me feel I couldn't, so I resigned. However when one is playing four rounds in one day, resigning in a position like this isn't such a terrible idea. Sigh. 0-11 since my last win against him.

I had a nice win in in the last round. I'm going to show that game in a separate post because there were some interesting and instructive ideas that came up in the position. It made a great lesson for my tournament player group on Tuesday.

In the meantime at the top, going into the last round there were four players with 3-0 scores. GM Alexander Stripunski beat GM Michael Rohde to take clear first, since GM Kudrin drew with IM Lenderman to finish a half point behind.

I finished 2-2 which is more points then I got in my previous two appearances there. I may have won a little money for a tie for under 1800. I picked the big walloping 8 rating points which I promptly tossed back the next day during my birthday bomb out. (Maybe details to follow. Wacky Wednesday material?)

Monday, April 20, 2009

Board 2 - Knuckles 0

In November of 2007 I took on a new challenge in the form of Tae Kwon Do. Things have changed a lot since I took that trial class way back then. Last year I wrote about my struggles in mastering new things in Tae Kwon Do. One year, five months and one day later I'm now a red belt. 8 colored belts down, bodan belt to go. Then comes the hard part; the journey to Black Belt. Today was test day. It was a good test. I remembered all the steps of my form, and my focus was good.

Off with the old, on with the new.

I learned a very important lesson on Friday which helped me yesterday at the ICA Spring Open (details at....) and today during the test. Twice a month at the do jang we have board breaking classes. Board breaking is an important part of our training. It helps with focus, concentration and technique. It's also a confidence builder. Without good focus and concentration it's hard to use good technique. Without good technique it's almost impossible to break the board. The part of the equation is believing that one can break the board. At the lower belt levels the breaks are fairly simple, and one can get by with less then stellar technique. At the higher belt levels, the breaks are more difficult. Sloppy technique doesn't cut it.

The board break for today's test was a spinning hook kick. For Friday's board breaking session I did that break with both left and right feet. I did both on the first attempt. Next was a back kick which was a break I had done for my blue and purple belt tests. I had no problem with the right foot, but for some reason I could not break it with my left foot.

The last break I was to do was a straight fist break. I don't like breaking boards with my hands very much. I'm always afraid of how much it's going to hurt. I rushed into my attempt to break the board. All I managed to do was break the skin on two knuckles. I then broke the board with a hammer fist. On that break one uses the meaty part of the hand to make contact with the board.


Unknown to me, Grandmaster Kim was watching from outside the do jang. He observed how I gone about doing the last few unsuccessful breaks. When you're a junior belt he may not be overly critical of your performance. Once you become more senior amongst the color belts, more is expected and he will point out the mistakes and make an example of you in front of the group. I guess now I've made the grade, because I got it big time. His observations were that I did not set myself in proper stance, my technique was sloppy, and that I was totally unfocused in my attempt to break the board.

In thinking about what happened on the last few attempts, it reminded me of what happens to me in chess. After doing the two most difficult kicks on the first try, I think I had gotten a little overconfident. It's easy to get pumped up when the black belts are watching and applauding your efforts. I got a little too pumped up and rushed the back kicks. Then I got flustered when I couldn't do the back kick break with the left foot. By the time I got to the fist break, I'm thinking "There is no freaking way I'm breaking this board with my knuckles." I I just hauled off and punched the board straight on. My thoughts did me in.

Does this sound familiar? Yep. Recently way too many chess games have come to unfortunate conclusions due to poor execution, lack of focus and concentration, loss of confidence and poor time management. I thought a lot about what Grandmaster Kim said to me on Friday, and tried to apply to my games this past weekend. My results were mixed, but I seemed to be more aware of what was going on. There is still much I need to do to avoid digging the holes that I till find myself in. It's hard to do much against an International Master when you let him totally tie your pieces up, and all you can do is sit back and wait for the inevitable. I guess that's why he out rates me by 800 points.

Our regularly scheduled chess programming will resume in my next post.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Wacky Wednesday!

After spending the weekend in Nashville watching kids do crazy things, I got back to my normal routine of playing "Cracktion" chess and dealing with insane positions with no time left on my clock. I probably should have reread my post Kidz Night to remind myself to stay away. Once again with the NYC schools on vacation there were lots of kids playing. After losing to a master in round one I got paired down against a kid in round two. We reached this position with two seconds left on my clock.

He just pushed e7. I'm looking at this move, and thinking to myself "Oh crap my knight is out of place. I can't stop e8. If I take on e7, I'm down a full rook. My passed pawns aren't going anywhere. If I check, I still can't get the knight back in time....I'm busted."

5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 00:02, 00:01, ...Nxe7, 00:00

"Always check, it might be mate."

Damn, I hate this game sometimes. The night was not a total washout. In the next round I managed to draw with a higher rated player. It was surprising going into round three 0-2 and getting paired up. However that sort of stuff happens when the other 1/2 pointers are unrated. Unrateds don't get dropped down a score group unless they're the only ones left. The unrateds played each other and I got the 1890 who also had a 1/2 point.

The two unrateds were playing next me. At the time I had no idea both of them were playing in their first tournament. It was a very strange game. At first I thought one player was deliberately dumping the game, because he had mate on the move by capturing with his rook. Instead he captured with his knight, and then a few moves later sac'ed his queen. He ended out losing.

In the last round I got to play this guy. I would get to see for myself if he was dumping games to get a low rating. It was a crazy game where he attacked like a maniac. Towards the end he got up went to the bathroom on his own time. I thought that was a little weird. Was he going into the bathroom to check with Pocket Fritz to see what to play next? If he did, then his Pocket Fritz has a virus. When he came back he played probably the worst move on the board. I call these moves "Bathroom Blunders". I made one of those moves in Saratoga Springs this year. They happen when you don't take enough time to recheck what is happening in the game upon returning to the board.

Here's the game.


It actually had taken me awhile to find Qg8+. I had considered taking the pawn on b7, but saw that I'd lose a piece. I guess I had not been think about getting a check on the 8th rank because his rook had covered until that last move. My opponent told me afterwards that he saw the check almost immediately after he made the move. He was just waiting to see if I spotted it.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Super Simuls and Other Stuff

There were lots of different activities and displays through out the weekend. It was hard to take in everything. I completely missed the Opening Ceremonies at the Grand Ole Opry House where Garry Kasparov and NASA astronaut Greg Chamitoff both spoke. I did manage to see Kasparov make the first move in the High School Championship.

In between rounds of the Parents & Friends tournament I managed to drop in on Woman's World Champion, Alexandra Kosteniuk's lecture on how to improve your chess. It was a major hike to get from the basement up where she was speaking on the third floor. I never did figure out if there was an elevator that went up from the basement to that part of the convention center. I was very impressed with her interaction with both the children and parents who attended her lecture. She was very animated, so it was hard for me to capture a picture where she was not blurred. I finally was able to get this shot where she is listening to the answer of one of the questions she asked of her audience.

Alexandra Kosteniuk on "How to improve your chess"

There were numerous simuls through out the weekend. I missed seeing a few of them. It's hard to be in two places at once. I did catch the last half of the simuls that the current US Champions gave on Saturday afternoon. They were playing in the room next to where the Parents & Friends tournament was so it was easy for me to catch the action. Hurray! No climbing thousands of steps to get to these events! Both Shulman and Zatonskih were wonderful with the participants in the simuls. They took the time to sign boards and score sheets, pose for pictures and give a little feedback about the game to their opponents. At the time they had not given up any points to their opponents.

There were two sets of twins playing in the simuls on Saturday. Playing against GM Shulman were the Kalghatgi brothers from Illinois. They are second graders that played in the K-3 Championship. They both achieved plus scores in that section. I'm not sure if I captioned the picture correctly. I should have made a note as to which one was wearing the red shirt or the gray shirt.

The other set of twins were the Mitra sisters from Texas. They are first graders and I was very surprised when their mother told me they were playing in the High School Championship! That was a rough section to be playing in. I'm not sure I would have gotten a plus score if I had played in that section. I guess if one is not afraid of playing much older kids then go for it.

One of the NYC coaches and I got into a discussion about could we win one of these sections. He used to think that he could win the K-12 section. Now he's not sure he could even win the K-9 section. I don't think I could even win the K-3 section. There were a number of kids higher rated then me in that section. Maybe I could win the K-1.

US Champion, GM Yury Shulman

US Woman's Champion IM Anna Zatonskih

Apsura and Aishwara Mitra of Texas taking on IM Zatonskih

Akhil and Nikhil Kalghatgi of Chicago, IL taking on GM Shulman

In addition to all the simuls and lectures there were lots of booths displaying different chess products, schools, camps and events. The different chess variants on display did not interest me much. I'm an old school chess player who thinks chess is just fine the way it is, so don't mess with it. However numerous people have come up with variations that they hope will appeal to kids.

One booth that I did spend a good amount of time at was one run by the Renaissance Knights Chess Foundation of Chicago. They are looking to bring the 2016 Chess Olympiad to Chicago. I've always wanted to see the Olympiad be contested in the United States. However it's a very expensive undertaking since the host nation has to provide housing, and meals for all the players and their delegations. Don Schultz who is part of US representation in FIDE estimated that it would cost between 4 to 6 million dollars to host. When asked why it would cost this much he provided the following explanation; "I didn't do a full calculation and there have been some slight changes BUT my figure is accurate due to the 4 to 6 range. Just to give you an idea of the enormity of the costs, there are about 1800 or a bit more players and delegates who come for which bidding regulations require that hotel and meals must be covered by the organizers at about 14 days each that is about 2 and a half million just for that one ingredient. Consider TD fees, space, translators , advance management etc. and etc., I think you will agree that the figure is accurate. It is the number bidders consider in their gross estimate."

That's a lot of money. The Chicago group hopes to piggy back on a successful bid by the city to host the 2016 Summer Olympics. It would a very exciting chess event and the opportunity to see players from all over the world competing. Don Schultz brought up in response to people discussing watching a chess event as opposed to playing in it. "I'd like to make one point here about those who are commenting on going to an olympaid to JUST watch it compared to playing. Its definitely an apples to oranges comparison. If you go to an Olympiad you are not just watching - you become part of it. There are 150 or so countries participating. You, in fact, are representing the USA to those people of those countries. You meet chess players from places you never heard of, and talk to them about differences their clubs, tournaments etc and ours. They are interested in what chess is like in the USA. There is a common thread. Everyone shares in the enormity of a great event. I'm not good with words but just watching doesn't apply, it just doesn't. You unavoidably, get caught up in the spirit of what is happening. If you love chess - you will always remember the experience of being at an Olympiad."

My thoughts exactly! Well put Don. I would get involved somehow if it ever comes to the United States. I don't think I'll make the trip to Siberia to see it there in 2010.

David and Sheila Heiser and Beatriz Marinello

Chess quilt by Heidi Oquendo

The US Chess Hall of Fame had a booth set up. Woman's World Champion Alexandra Kosteniuk was there to sign copies of her book, "How I Became a Grandmaster at Age 14". Yes I bought the book. Like I need another chess book in my library, but I can't help myself. I did get her to sign the book, and pose for this picture with her. It was easier to go to her book signing then the Kasparov book signing that was more crowded.

Yours truly with Woman's World Champion, Alexandra Kosteniuk

Friday, April 10, 2009

Super Nationals - Parents & Friends Tournament

As I mentioned in a previous post, I scored 3 draws and 1 win in the Parents & Friends tournament. I didn't lose any games, but I did lose 17 rating points. I learned after my first couple of times in this event that one needs to totally ignore the rating because in most cases the number is totally meaningless. Often the low rated parent's tournament history is based solely on playing in this event at a few nationals. In the meantime he has been playing with his higher rated child at home. I met up with fellow blogger Ivan of Getting to 2000. I was hoping we get to play, but our scores were never the same after round one.

Blog Carnival Live!
Castling Queen Side and Getting to 2000

My first round opponent was the classic chess dad that I find myself running across in these events. He has a provisional rating, and the majority of his games are from playing in the Parents & Friends at various scholastic nationals. I got a good position out of the opening and won a pawn. Things got out of control after I won a piece, and started having severe clock issues.


I was fortunate that his inexperience caught up with him, and I was able to eke a draw with one second remaining on my clock. I had two more hard fought draws before finally winning my last round. I won a pawn, and then my opponent allowed me to trade off the remaining bishops in this position.

30... Be6? This move makes my life a lot simpler. I don't care about undoubling his pawns. I want the bishops off the board. Better for him would have been Bb1. 31. Bxe6 fxe6 32. Kg2 h5 33. Kf3 Ke5 34. e3 fxe3 35. Kxe3 Kf5 36. b3 e5 37. a3 Kg5 38. Kf3 Kh4 39. Kg2 e4 40. b4 axb4 41. axb4 He counted the squares with his hand and realized he was not getting back in time to stop the b pawn from queening. I had a huge edge on the clock for he change. He resigned.

A Pause in My Nationals Coverage to ask a Stupid Question

Did Chess Publisher go to some sort of pay for use arrangement? I was looking at some really old posts, and where there used to be game generated by chess publisher they been replaced with this big box that says.

This Account Has Been Suspended
Please contact the billing/support department as soon as possible.

WTF is this? I've been using Chess Flash for over a year, but my original posts were done using Chess Publisher. In the unlikely event that someone goes back into the archives there will be no games. Grrrrr am I going to have to redo all my pgns in Chess Flash?


It looks like I'm going to have to redo all those posts. I've updated two so far. It's a pain in the butt because I've moved to different computer and I can't seem to find the original games with the annotations. Though in some cases I may not have used annotations. I added some to the game that went missing in The Gorilla on My Back and TGIS. These are two oldies but goodies. Both games could be classified as Wacky Wednesday material. For my new readers who have looking at older stuff and wondering where the games are, here is a start.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Home At Last!

Actually I've been home since very late Monday evening, but it always takes a few days to decompress. Tuesday morning I had a chess nationals hangover. Too much running around combined with too much food, and not enough sleep leads to this state of mind. Fortunately the schools are on vacation this week, so I had nothing on the schedule that was pressing. The picture below taken on Monday afternoon shows a person who is very happy to be heading home. I think there may be a few more gray hairs showing in this picture compared to the picture taken on Saturday.

Though maybe King Kong was the cause of some of those gray hairs. We played a bunch of blitz games on Monday afternoon before I left for the airport. He won most of them. I tried openings that I haven't played in years such as 1...e5 as Black. He smashed me with his Vienna Gambit. I didn't have a clue what I was doing. Another game he didn't develop any of his king side pieces and he still beat me. One of the last games we played opened with 1. a4 b5. By this time we both were getting rather silly. It was actually a pretty interesting game, though it came to a rather abrupt end.

An important piece of a trip like this one is the travel part. Arrive or depart at the wrong time of day, and you'll be screwed. Cunard Cruise Lines used to have an ad campaign that said "Half the fun is getting there." That's fine when you're on a cruise ship and taking the slow way to your destination. When you're flying you don't want "fun" trying to get to or from your destination.

Timing is everything. I timed my flights well. My rule of thumb is to get out of New York air space as early as possible on the way out. Coming home, I take the time that gives me the cheapest fare, unless it’s 6:00 AM. At the end of a trip the last thing I want to do is get up at the crack of dawn to catch an early flight. I want to have a leisurely breakfast and not have to race out to the airport.

On the way down I took an early flight, and beat the tornado to Tennessee and got out of New York before the weather started to go all to hell. Some people weren’t so lucky. Their flights were canceled and they ended out staying home. What a bummer when you've spent the entire year getting prepped and pumped for Super Nationals and Mother Nature raises hell with the airlines. Some others were lucky enough to make it to Atlanta where they rented a van and drove the rest of the way. My get out of town early strategy has worked well for me when traveling to these events.

Two years ago I went to the Junior High Nationals in Sacramento via Dallas. If you’ve ever flown on American Airlines you know that if you don’t get a non-stop you’re changing planes in either Dallas or Chicago. If I travel in winter I try to go through Dallas to avoid Chicago snow. If I travel in spring or summer I fly through Chicago to avoid Dallas thunderstorms. On this Sacramento trip Dallas seemed to be the only reasonable choice schedule wise.

Going to Nationals that year, I think I was the only person who came to Sacramento through Dallas on Thursday that actually arrived on Thursday. I took a 7:00 AM flight out of New York to Dallas. We managed to get into Dallas right after a big thunderstorm, and we departed for Sacramento right before the next big line of storms were coming through. I arrived to a beautiful sunny California day around noontime, and spent a lovely afternoon walking around Sacramento.

I had no idea the hell that people on later flights went through. I spoke to one father who got stranded in Dallas and ended out buying his son and him one-way tickets on another airline flying out Love Field at 6:00 AM Friday morning so that his son could make it for the first round. That ended out costing him close to $1,000 for the two tickets. What's $1,000 when you're determined to get your kid to the chess nationals?

Another person going to that event had the airline horror story from hell. He was on an afternoon flight. Got to Dallas. I can’t remember the entire sequence of takeoffs and landings. I think they sent him to Houston but couldn’t land there and came back to Dallas. He gets back to Dallas and gets on another plane. They push off from the gate, and then sit on the tarmac going nowhere. Using a valid medical condition as an excuse he tells them he can’t stay on the plane. The airline sent a bus out to the plane to pick him up and take him back to the terminal. He was able to rebook on another airline out of Love. He flew from Dallas to Phoenix, then Phoenix to Sacramento. He actually made it to Sacramento before the first round.

For my return trip I had a 5:15 pm flight out of Nashville to Chicago. Then my flight from Chicago was scheduled to leave at 7:55. Sometimes I think my husband spends too much time watching the Weather Channel. He can be the weather drama queen. Sunday night he tells me they’re going to have 5 to 10 inches of snow in Chicago on Monday. New York is going to have lots of rain. He's telling me I may not get home on Monday.

This was one of those times that I'm glad I was on a later flight. Many people I know were scheduled for an 11:00 am flight back to New York. They spent more time at the airport then they did on the plane going back to New York. There were lots of kids playing blitz and bughouse in the departure lounge. The kids had a lot of fun, and three hours passed fairly quickly for them. I guess for the parents it was just another lengthy period of time hanging out while their kids played chess.

By the time I got to the airport things seemed to be running fairly normally. The gate agent said the flight was scheduled to take off on time. I guess I'd find out in Chicago whether I was going to get home that night or not. There were a number of kids on my flight to Chicago. There were a few games of blitz going on, but probably nothing like the scene earlier in the day. This group pictured below were wrapping things up just as they were getting ready to start the boarding process.

No time for a rematch now!
We got a plane to catch!

I don't where my husband or his Chicago friends got their weather forecast, but when I arrived I had a beautiful view of the Chicago skyline. Snow? What snow? Maybe their forecast was from February 6th, not April 6th. As for the rain in New York, it had eased off so my flight was scheduled to leave on time. This was one of those cases that flying late was better then flying early. I was about 15 minutes late arriving into New York. We had circle a bit while they brought in the delayed flights from before.

Check out the Super Nationals coverage on the US Chess Federation website. Four of my photographs are in the article, including my favorite shot that I took all weekend. The K-1 section made for some very entertaining moments that I captured. The funniest was during the Saturday evening round when the youngest competitor fell dead asleep at his board.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Super Nationals - The Morning After

Calm after the storm

It's Monday morning, and I feel like I've been hit by a truck. To top it all off, who knows if I'm getting out of here today. There crappy weather all over the country, and it's snowing in Chicago. Why does it matter that it's snowing Chicago? I'm flying through Chicago to New York. I suppose you're wondering what happened on days two and three. A lot!! I think I must have walked 5 miles each day going from my hotel room, down to the basement, back up to our team room, down to playing room for the junior high, and then going to all the other playing rooms to take pictures. Saturday was really insane because I also played in the Parents & Friends tournament. The playing room for that was a million miles from everywhere else.

I will be writing various posts about the weekend in the next few days. I don't know how people do live blogging. I start out with a couple of posts with pictures and then by Saturday I'm totally toast. I was going to put up pictures that I took on Saturday, but when you're dead tired and took 400 pictures it's hard to decide what to put up. It also didn't help that every picture upload I did for the first two posts took about two to three minutes each. Hotel wireless is always so slow!!!!

As I mentioned before I did play in the Parents & Friends tournament. This was my chess playing debut in Tennessee. I've been a tournament director (Knoxville - National Elementary 1992) and coach (Knoxville Super Nationals I, Nashville Super Nationals III and IV) in Tennessee. First the good news about the tournament. I was undefeated. The bad news; I had 3 draws and a win against players rated 1206 to 1350. The most annoying game was round one when I had to settle for a draw in game where I had been up a bishop and pawn. Unfortunately I had to sac the bishop to stop him from queening. I will post the game at another point.

The Wandering Queen in her Wandering King Endgame Shirt

The most exciting part of the tournament was after several years of getting beaten by a nose our team finally won the national championship! K-9 team champions. It certainly was nerve wracking as we waited anxiously for the last game in the section to be done, since we needed the player from the team we were tied with going into the last round to lose or draw.

We're #1!!!

This is all I have the energy for at the moment. Look for upcoming posts on my foray into chess photo journalism, life in the K-1 section, and other stories. Lots of pictures to follow.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Super Nationals - Day 1

It's only the end of the first day, and I already feel like I've been hit by a truck. The Gaylord is massive. Getting from my room on the 6th floor, to the basement where the pairings are, back to the team room on the 3rd floor in another part of the hotel is a hike. I'll probably end out walking 20 miles by the time the weekend is done. I may possibly get more of my photos used on Chess Life Online so I was able to get a press pass. That gives me more access to the playing rooms and other events. I totally missed the opening ceremonies because I had sort out pairing issues for our club championship back at home.

The great thing about my room is that it overlooks the atrium where a lot of the restaurants are. This is the view of one of the places where people were trying to grab breakfast. Telephoto lenses are a wonderful thing for these types of shots. The line goes out the door, and all the tables are jammed. I'm glad our team coordinator takes care of getting us fed. The only bad thing is by the end weekend I will be so tired of pizza!

"A cup of coffee and a bagel costs how much?"

Breakfast and Bishops. Kids play anywhere at any time.

On the move! Time to go play chess.

In certain sections after the children are seated, they parents have to completely clear the room. Then after 20 minutes they can come in and sit in a seating area in the back of the room. Some parents will sit calmly in the back and read. Others are on edge of the ropes with their binoculars trying to see anything their kid is doing.
Crowd outside Elementary Sections
Waiting for the playing room to be reopened to spectators.

I want to see my kid!

Some poor volunteer was getting an earful from some neurotic mom who wanted to go in ahead of the scheduled time. He finally got exasperated and passed her off to one of the tournament directors. After she went to give the TD an earful, I showed my credential so that I could go in and shoot these pictures below. I wish I had a video camera, because it was quite interesting watch all these people stream in.

Calm before the storm.
View of doors and seating area before parents and coaches are admitted.

The masses arrive!

There are lots of chess celebrities here. Gerry Kasparov is here. He spoke at the Opening Ceremonies, and then he made the opening move on one of top boards of the high school section.
1. h? Nope.
He did ask the player what he wanted to play.

Garry Kasparov and Bill Hall USCF Executive Director

Many schools rent meeting rooms for their teams. The room serves as dining room for team meals. War room for prep sessions with the coach. A refuge for parents who don't want to sit outside the tournament room. Therapist office for dealing with post loss melt downs. The rooms are another expense that schools have to add into their budget for Nationals. The rent is not cheap.

Many schools can't afford that luxury of a team room. Some will set up camp at a table in the skittles rooms. Others will find a quiet spot in a corner away from the crowds if possible. This team from Detroit found a nice quiet corner not far from where they were playing. Here they're playing a few warm up games before the first round. The bookstore sells sets in all different colors. People can mix and match colors. This school bought sets in blue and yellow. Even though the spelling isn't exactly the same, how appropriate to have a school named Fisher playing chess.
Who's playing white?

Other teams set up and meet right out in the main lobby outside the Delta Ballroom where the Elementary sections are playing. This team from Indiana is not hard to miss in their brightly colored tie-dyed shirt. Here they're receiving instruction from their coach Bernard Parnham. I've know Bernard for many years. Unfortunately the first picture I took of him was blurred. I'm still having problems with the lighting. I'll update this with another picture where he's not moving on me.

Saturday is the marathon day with three rounds starting at 9:00 am. I also will be making my Tennessee chess playing debate in the Parents and Friends tournament. We'll see how that goes. Stay tuned......

Friday, April 3, 2009

Blitz! Photo Essay.

This is the scene before every round. A mob of kids go to find their pairings all at the same time. This is the high school section. I try to stay clear of them since they are bigger and taller then me. I don't want to be standing between a 6 foot tall kid and his pairing. I suppose I could do a few round house kicks, some elbow blocks, and let out a nice loud yell to clear a path.

How many tournament directors does it take to figure out why the computer paired the way it did?

Volunteer with a sense of humor.

For an event like this volunteers play a crucial role in helping to keep things going smoothly. They do lots of different jobs. It isn't easy being a volunteer at an event like this. The hours can be long, and some people are just a big pain in the butt. I watched some poor volunteer who was monitoring the entrance to one of the playing rooms have to deal with a crazed parent who demanded to be allowed in. Having to say no to people can be painful when the only answer they want is "Yes, you may do something that the other 2,000 people standing here can't do."

Most of the times people are nice, but they ask a lot of questions that the volunteer may not be able to answer. The gentleman pictured above had a very resourceful way of dealing with the questions. He was taking results for the K-3 section. He made up the sign that he held up for me. I'm not sure how clear it came out.

Pairings are outside to the left.
There are 6 rounds of 2 games each.
K-6 is behind you - not here.
There is no K-1 section. K-3 is for 3rd grade and below

What do you do in between rounds of a blitz tournament?
Play more blitz!
Did you have to ask?

Diamond Abdus-Shakoor of Ohio

I met Diamond and her father in Orlando in December. She's a second grader and recently went 6-0 in the Columbus District Elementary Chess Championship that was open to kids up to fifth grade. That's an impressive result!

Andrew Tang K-3 Blitz Champion
Sean Vibbert K-6 Blitz Champion
Josh Colas 2nd Place K-6 Blitz
Aaron Landseman K-9 Blitz Champion

Matt Perry K-12 Blitz Champion

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Welcome To Nashville, Look Out For Tornadoes

I was wrong about hordes of kids playing chess by the gate in Chicago. There were about 6 kids total on that flight going to the tournament. I guess there will be more later. So after a minor glitch and gate change we left Chicago about 15 minutes late. Not bad at all especially considering what followed.

When I travel to an event like this, I try to get out of New York early in the morning. Weather went to pieces up there, and by the afternoon there were two hour delays due to fog and mist. That was mild compared to the excitement here.

Some kids couldn't wait to start playing.
Killing time waiting for the shuttle.

A Royal Welcome to The Gaylord Opryland Resort

Mother nature wasn't so welcoming. We were hanging out in our rooms when they start announcing "Tornado warning. Leave the atrium, do not stay next to windows. Stay on an interior area and go to lower level." We stood outside our rooms in the hall ways, but then they made go down to the basement. This was a first for me. I've had fire alarms real and false go off during tournamnets. This was my first tornado experience.

Enjoying the ambiance of the hotel shelter.
What me worry??

After about a half hour they let go back upstairs. The blitz tournament got off to a late start. I'll report later on that.
Who am I playing?? What board am I on??