Friday, July 29, 2011

The Chess Tournament From HELL!

After mentioning Walter High's new blog on the NCCA website, I received an email telling me to go to the site and read the post on the LPO on the forum, which I did. The first post, by 'blitzchampion' set the tone. "In my 10+ yrs in playing tournament chess, i've had my fair share of bad tournaments, horrible playing conditions, etc. This was by far, one of the worse tournament experiences i've ever had!"
The next post, by 'upandcoming' begins, "Right on target, Josh. As a parent who forked over $100.00 for his son to play in this tournament I expected much better. Instead what I got were reports of kids screaming running up and down the hall, loudness from the pool last night that were terrible distractions during the games, and then today a final round loss when, at the point of being a pawn ahead, loud jukebox music and the sounds of partying from the lounge RIGHT BESIDE the tournament room blew away the focus and concentration necessary for the win."
It gets worse, much worse. The next one, by 'ThrillerFan' begins, "Speaking as one from the Open section, I saw many problems with the LPO this year as well:

1) The swealtering heat in the Open/U2200/U2000 sections. The best room in the hotel was guess where? The book room, where the organizer sat. Figures!
2) The noise in Round 2 - and I hear it was worse practically every round in U1800 and below
3) The horrible lighting in the back of the room where the Open section was. Lighting for boards 1, 2, 5, and 6 was horrible (I was at one of those two tables for rounds 1, 3, and 4).

Responding to previous posts, the organizer of the LPO has a reputation of always advertising a based-on that will result in a 50% payout. If it says "b/215", don't ever expect more than 107 players. It's been that way for years on end. Any time you see "Thad Rogers" as the organizer, when you decide whether or not you want to go, figures half the prize fund, unless he changes his advertisement." He continues with: "I even spoke to Thad and he asked me, since I've been to numerous tournaments, having played almost 1900 tournament games in my lifetime, what needs to be done. I told him the following: 2) The LPO is an adult tournament."
There is a #1, and a #3, and I urge you to read the forum posts, all of them. They had me LOLROTF! (http://www.ncchess.org/Discussion/viewtopic.php?f=13&t=403&sid=2ba6ea010d4154be325b059a7060aa98)

I would like to concentrate on #2 because there is no longer any such thing as an 'adult' tournament! There are so many children playing and competing for money that, without them, there could be no 'adult' tournaments. For example, I have been giving lessons to a student for the past two years. He takes them because his parents are from Azerbaijan and know the importance of chess to his developing brain. He is homeschooled, and chess lessons are a part of his schooling. He has only a moderate interest in chess, yet he has recently crossed into 900 range, which puts him in the top half of all tournament players in the US. That's right, the majority of current tournament players have ratings of only three digits!!!
And that is a large part of the problem with tournament chess. Consider this from an article in the LA Times:
The average age of chess masters has been steadily falling for years, but recently, that pace has quickened. To win a tournament in Reno last year, Jesse Kraai, a 28-year-old grandmaster from the Bay Area, played four of his six matches against children; the average age was 13.

"Today, you have 7- and 8-year-olds who are training better than Bobby Fischer did a generation before," said David Pruess, content manager for chess.com, a global chess website with 3 million members. He holds the international master ranking, one step higher than master and one below grandmaster.

This bounty of prodigal talent has had an unintended side effect: The half-life of a newly minted chess star has shrunk "to a year or two, tops," said Pruess, 29. "It's easy for a kid on his way up, full of confidence bordering on arrogance, to forget that he's become a target for even younger players."

Pruess, in a column last year, detailed his own loss to David Adelberg and good-naturedly warned the youngster that he'd better start preparing "for the 10-year-olds who will soon be coming to get him!"-From http://articles.latimes.com/2011/may/05/local/la-me-chess-kid-20110505

I received an email fom a friend, an adult who happens to also be a Senior, which included the following: "I owe my success to the fact that I didn't get paired against a bunch of kids."
He was truly a lucky fellow. Consider this, from another friend, also an adult Senior: "I lost like a beginner to a little kid this morning. It is hard to take and I think it is the reason most old fellas quit."
It made me wanna cry...
From another email: "The last time I played in a tournament all of my opponents were children. Only one was a teen, and he had just reached the teens at thirteen. I do not feel comfortable playing only children and will wait until I become a senior. That is why I applaud your efforts on behalf of all seniors and future seniors."

I realize there were problems with the LPO this year, and I feel for my friend, and former boss, Thad Rogers. The last post, at this time, is from Thad: Dear Chess Participants,

It was one of my most embarrassing tournaments that I have ever organizer. I am sorry about what happened. I just got back in at 3 a.m. I have a camp in Atlanta this week and getting ready for the
U.S. Open. I will give a full reply this coming Saturday.

Thad Rogers

While on duty at the Atlanta Chess & Game Center, aka, the House of Pain, I had an unfortunate situation when a youngster, in his exuberence, created too much noise, thereby upsetting an adult who was playing in a lower section because he is a career lower section type. It has been expecially difficult for those type of players who remain because they now have to play mostly children. Most stop coming to play. The adult was mad as hell. The child stood up like a man and showed something by making an apology. The adult would not take it and continued to complain until I stepped in saying, "The young man has already apologized, TWICE! He has learned a lesson. How about YOU!" The adult piped down, fortunately. So let's not all continue to beat poor Thad while he is down. I'm sure no one feels worse than does he. Give him a break, and let us all learn a lesson from this. Please. Because as bad as the LPO must have been, it is far from the worst chess tournament of all time. For example, I wrote about the problem of loud music entering the playing hall each time the large, thick doors were opened at the 2002 US Senior on the left coast. Then there is the tournament known as the 'sweat box open' which will long live in infamy. Just ask the Legendary Georgia Ironman, Tim Brookshear, and stand back! Fortunately, I missed that one. I missed the 'crack hotel' tournament, too. It was held in a hotel that had seen better days. Parents who had gone 'round back with their children were aghast. Other parents were told to not go near the back under any circumstances. Naturally, they had to go see for themselves...
The Ironman and I played in the Florida state championship one year that was also held in a hotel that had seen far too many spring breaks. I was talkwith a woman who's son was entered into the tournament after having stayed there the night before. When I mentioned that Tim and I had spent the night in the hotel, her eyes enlarged as she began to move away from me...
Ah, the chess road. How I miss it!

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