I have eagerly awaited the tournament announcement for this year's US Senior. I found it located on the USCF website at: http://www.uschess.org/tlas/6027.ctla To find it I had to first click on Upcoming Tourneys, then click on Texas (if you had no idea where the tournament would be held, you would be, as they say, SOOL!), then skroll all the way down to Future TLA Search results: 5 matches. Seems like an awful lot of trouble to finally arrive at a National Tournament! I had been anticipating playing, since it is to be only one round a day. This would be just the incentive I would need to begin studying for a tournament again! Reviewing games just for enjoyment is not the same thing as sitting down to prepare, something I've not done in a long time. It would also give me the incentive to rejoin USCF...
I cannot tell you the extreme disappointment I felt after looking at the particulars, knowing I would not be taking part in a US Senior once again.
I wondered how other Seniors would feel about the tournament and the formate, so I sent emails to many Senior contacts. I will share the feedback, but not the names of those responding, as I promised confidentially. First I would like to share my thoughts on the format with you.
The rounds begin at seven at night, which will be eight o'clock to my eastern time zone body. If my game goes the limit, it will end at 1 am central time, which is 2 am EASTERN! Begininning a serious tournament chess game that could last six hours at seven pm, much less eight pm, is simply out of the question at my age. I mean, I will not even consider such a thing. In order to play in the event I would have to change my schedule around to the point that I would be sleeping from four am until noon for at least a week, probably more, before the event. The reason is that one needs time to wind down after a game. I would be lucky to be asleep two hours after the conclusion of the game, which would be four am to my eastern body. I am now sixty years of age and no longer capable of staying up half the night, much less all night! To try and force my body to do such a thing could potentially be life threatening. It continues to amaze me that the people who organize these things ignore the wishes of the people who would potentially play in the tournament. I have written, and spoken out about this very subject for years, yet the organizers continue to do the same thing expecting a different result. Is that not one definition of insanity?
I recall GM Larry Christiansen saying he liked to play "a little hungry." One would, therefore, look forward to something to eat after a game. Eating that late would cause me to stay awake until the sun came up. I would, therefore, have to not only play a little hungry, but also go to bed hungry, and I like to eat. The games should be played during the day. If that were the case, then a player could take time to go over the game and have time enough to go out for dinner, and possibly an adult beverage with his fellow Seniors, and get to bed at a normal hour and get a good nights sleep. After all, the best chess player, ever, Bobby Fischer said that a good nights sleep was better than knowing all the theory!
I know very little about the organizer, Francisco Guadalupe, so I looked him up on the USCF website and found that he has only played in thirteen events since 1991, most of the 'quick' variety. I doubt seriously if the man has ever had to play from seven until one am, much less eight til two am, and be back at the board ten short hours later! Yet that is exactly what is expected of SENIORS as the last round is at eleven in the morning! Which begs the question, if the last round is at eleven o'clock am, then why are not ALL the rounds at that time? As I have written previously, such a short turn around could potentially life-threatening. Almost a decade ago, when I was a much younger Senior, I played in the US Open, playing each game at night. I then drove to Sturbridge, Mass, for the Continental Open. The first few games were also at night. Then the scheduled changed and the two games a day started. During the first game I played in the morning after having playing at night for two weeks, I collapsed, with the paramedics having to be called. One of the reasons turned out to be dehydration. I drank only coffee that morning, with little or no water, because I did not want to go to the men's room constantly. Something similar happened to General David Petraeus. From the article
King David's War: How Gen. Petraeus Is Doubling Down on a Failed Strategy by Michael Hastings in the magazine www.rollingstone.com/:
On the morning of June 15th, 2010, Gen. David Petraeus skipped breakfast. He was jetlagged from a trip earlier in the week to the Middle East, and he was due at the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill at 9:30 a.m. to testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee. A veteran at these things — he had testified at least half a dozen times over the past three years, most famously as commander of U.S. troops at the height of the Iraq War — he decided not to drink much water that morning. He knew, as others sitting in front of the senators had learned the hard way, that once the marathon session began, he wouldn't have a chance for a bathroom break. "No one wants to be sitting there with a full bladder," a senior military official close to Petraeus tells me. "Those who ask the questions get to go in and out — but if you're the one sitting there in front of the cameras, you have to stay there the entire time."
"I understand you're supporting the policy," McCain pressed. He again pushed Petraeus for an answer, and even resorted to quoting his old foe, Vice President Joe Biden: "In July of 2011, you're going to see a whole lot of people moving out — bet on it." But a minute later, McCain's expression suddenly changed from one of exasperation to befuddlement. Petraeus had fainted, slumping forward in his chair. "Oh my God," McCain gasped.
The general regained consciousness a few seconds later, and was escorted out of the hearing room with the help of his aides. After recovering from a combination of dehydration and jet lag, he returned under his own power a half-hour later. But the committee, shaken by the unexpected turn of events, decided to adjourn for the day. http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/king-davids-war-20110202?print=true
Not drinking enough water can be life-threatening, especially to Seniors. See the website www.watercure.com. As a general rule I try to do my drinking during the day and limit my intake in the evening so as to avoid having to get up during the night to urinate. For that very reason I also try to limit my coffee intake to the daytime hours. I'm sure you have seen those advertisements for benign prostatic hyperplasia, otherwise known as an enlarged prostate. Like most baby-boomers afflicted by soft cell cancer of things like the prostate gland, I have, unfortunately, most of the symptoms associated with an enlarged gland. I enjoy a good, strong cuppa Joe during the day because it gives me a lift. I like to drink a cuppa coffee during the middle part of a game of chess, but, during a game that begins at seven, or eight pm, that would put my cuppa Joe around ten or eleven o'clock, which is out of the question. I will occasionally drink an energy drink during the day, but would not consider it at night. These are a few of the concerns Seniors have about playing at night. The fact that the last round is scheduled for eleven in the morning after a night round is enough for me to not even consider playing in this Senior. I will also not consider beginning a serious game of chess at seven, or eight, in the evening.
I turned 60 last August. I have been eligible to play in the US Senior for over a decade now, and have only played in one event, which I wrote about in the award winning Georgia Chess magazine. The conditions in Ventura, California were not good, to say the least. One player, who played with Bobby Fischer 'back in the day' came to play but, after checking the condition of the lights, which were dim, decided to not play, which turned out to be a wise decision. It was so hot that I offered my third round opponent a draw and, when he refused, resigned! I then withdrew. Some years ago I sent a plantive plea to the Executive Director of the USCF, my friend Bill Hall, concerning the US Senior held in his home state, the great state of Tennessee (Nashville, if memory serves). I mentioned many of the same things I have written about here. Unfortunately it fell on deaf ears...It was 'based on' 85 and I told Bill that if he did not make changes to the format, he would be lucky to get half that. Bill said he would do it his way. Changes were not made and a total of only 43 players entered...Bill was new to the job and I figured he deserved his chance to do it his way. Unfortunately, his way did not work, and the USCF simply refuses to learn from their repeated mistakes. Can I be blamed for wondering why?
Every US Senior I miss could be the last chance I will ever have to play in a US Senior. The sad fact is that, since I have only played in one of the eleven held since I became eligible, it is most probable that I will never play in another US Senior. I fight this battle now not for myself, or those eligible now, but for those future Seniors who will come after us, and, hopefully, not make the same mistakes.
If you have read this, I urge you to pass it on to any Senior, or potential Senior, and to please leave your thoughts. My next entry into the BaconLOG will have the comments sent to me by other Seniors concerning the format of this year's US Senior. I will tell you this-no potential player who responded to my query has any plans on playing in the event, which ought to tell you something!