Tuesday, February 16, 2010

USAT North

I had the privilege of directing the US Amateur Team Championships North this weekend in Milwaukee, and had a fantastic time doing it.

If you have never had the opportunity to play in a team event, it is so different and so much fun, as you are really actively cheering for your teammates. Personally, I don't believe these tournaments should be rated though. This is because since the team result is key, a player may be forced to make different decisions then they would in an individual event. For example, a player in a position that is considerably better may offer a draw to if it helps the team clinch a match. Or just the opposite, a player who needs a win to prevent a team loss may play riskier than usual just to create opportunities for the team.

Teams from IL, IA, WI, and IN were all represented as well as individual players from as far away as CA and NJ (where the big USAT was played). The biggest stories were the players from IL though. Top board honors were taken on board 1 by Blaze member Trevor Magness, who you could have gotten some tall odds for considering the other teams had players like GMs Yermolinsky and Gurevich, IM Young, and NMs Tennant and Karagianis. Blaze manager Daniel Parmet took board 3 honors. The team competition came down to Angelo Youngs Pinoy team against the Chicago Industrial Chess League team. The two lone perfect teams played to a tough draw in round 4, and Pinoy caught a break in the pairings playing an 1856 rated team while CICL faced the Yermo, Betaneli, Santarius sleeping giant of a team that had been nicked for a couple of draws. CICL drew their game while Pinoy cruised to the title.

The Crowne Plaza site was really nice, and hopefully we will return there next year. Shouts out to Alex Betaneli and Ashish Vaja for doing a first class job organizing. Also big thanks to Ashish for recommending the outstanding Duck Curry at Bangkok House for dinner!


Saturday, February 6, 2010

Blaze and Warren Fundraiser

So today I was scheduled to TD at the Blaze and Warren Jr. Program fundraiser tournament and IL Blitz Championship. I have to admit that when I woke up this morning this wasn't what I wanted to do today. My voice still best resembled a duck call (that had been run over by a truck), and a day that I knew I wouldn't be home for about 15 or so hours just didn't sound good to me. However, these are really great programs in chess, and I volunteered my time because I feel they are important and worth helping.

This was the first event being hosted at NorthEastern IL University on the north side. The site was really amazing, very spacious, with plenty of skittles area, and a coffee shop that could give me my Chai fix. David Rubin, the faculty adviser for the chess club, as well as a master, really came through in getting us such a wonderful location. Our turnout was a bit lower than expected, about 30 for the rated event, and 20 for the blitz, but I really think that if we have the chance to run another event at that site we would double the numbers.

I have been directing so many game 30 events lately that in comparison the game 60 time control seemed leisurely and gave me more time that usual to socialize with players and parents which I really enjoyed. Now I know that every once in a while I will poke a little fun at chess parents, but wow while it is easy to marvel at some little wunderkind who comes up to your belly button but has a huge rating, talking to some of the parents today I could see where that talent comes from.

The blitz tournament was a little top heavy with the midpoint rating being right at 1900, and there was a lot of exciting games to watch. In the end it was a tie between Aleks Stamnov and Gopal Menon for the state blitz title. Gopal is perhaps the most talented blitz player in the state rated under 2400 or so with a fierce combination of cutting edge theory, raw speed, and tactical prowess.

Whenever I watch blitz played, it amazes me that the amount of gamesmanship and dirty pool are played. Players in a time scramble knock over pieces without picking them up, block each other from hitting the clock, and use all sorts of tactics aimed at distracting their opponents. Thankfully there were few situations that I had to be involved with.

After I finally finished I stopped off at Honey 1 BBQ on my way home to reward myself for not collapsing during the day. Honey 1 for those that don't know is probably the heaviest hitter in the world of BBQ on the north side. Normally, when I go out for Que, it is on the south side at Uncle John's, so tonight was the battle of the aquarium style smokers. H1 was on top of its game, and excellent, but I give the slight edge to Uncle Johns. I will give the post mortem on that battle tomorrow when I wake up.

Looking forward to next week when the new IL HS champions are crowned, and also I am up at the US Amateur Team North, in Milwaukee,


Monday, February 1, 2010

My Silence

I have been sick for the last week or so, and without a voice, which has been interesting (and rather entertaining for my 4 year old). In spite of that I have directed tournaments the last two weekends, and am in a stretch where I direct the next 3 weekends (Blaze fundraiser, US Amateur Team, and Kumbaya).

Hopefully this weekend I will have a new laptop to direct on, replacing my vintage 2001 Toshiba! Anyways, I am hoping to see everyone soon, and if you are looking for a fun little event to play in please check out the fundraiser this weekend. Details are at www.il-chess.org

Let me tell you briefly why this event is important. First, two terrific and underfunded programs wind up with all the profits from this event. The Chicago Blaze is our local team in the US Chess league, and this is the way to support it. Plus you get a cool Blaze hat for playing! The Warren Junior program is dedicated to helping IL produce some of the most promising junior players in the country, Andi Rosen has done a great job lining up opportunities for kids, and this will help. And later that evening is the IL Blitz Championships. You could wind up going home with a state title. The site is at NE Illinois University on the NW side of the city, which is the first time that I have seen a tournament hosted there. Please come out and show your support.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

USCF Chess Coach Certification program

Today I received word that my application for level 4 chess coach certification has been approved. If you are not familiar with the program, USCF has started to put an official stamp on those who are qualified to teach chess.

At first, I was very skeptical of the program, our game has a few personalities that while rated highly are not the kind of people I would want teaching my kid. The certification has nothing to do with saying whether a person is a good teacher or has the classroom skills to be effective, it merely tests if someone has the base chess knowledge, and a track record to be successful.

When I stopped by the office in Crossville a couple weeks ago, I was told that about 50 or so applications had been submitted. When you consider that there are probably more than 50 people in Chicago teaching chess, it is safe to say that so far the program has been underutilized.

So the question is, does certifying coaches have merit? And how important will it be to schools in the coming years?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Sponsorship in chess

For years, we have heard from many different people in our sport, that the key to chess becoming more mainstream, or accessable, or popular is sponsorship. Sponsorship for the GMs and top players so that they can support themselves. Sponsorship to lower the cost for kids to participate. Sponsorship to headline tournaments, increasing prize funds and interest in the game. It has been a buzzword and holy grail for many a chess politician.

From a chess point of view, how is it that other things that don't qualify as sports like spelling bees and poker can find financial angels, but our game can't? Well, the single biggest thing is this, we don't market well, and have no idea how to showcase our strengths or even present an attractive product.

When I have met with corporations about sponsoring kids tournaments, the first question I get asked is about the demographics of chess players or their parents. I asked USCF if any studies or surveys had been done detailing this, and the answer was unfortunately no. So how can we expect a corporation that is donating money for advertising and goodwill, to throw money at us when we can't even tell them who US is? The problem is that developing a report on this to be handed out to prospective sponsors is quite expensive, and why it has not been done yet.

USCF would be well served to make this investment, as it will likely pay off in the long run. We do have plenty to offer sponsors. Our players are bright consumers that are attractive to many industries. We do have something to offer, we just need to find the right box and bows to wrap it up in nicely.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Blogging Again

I'm BAAACK! After a 14 month absence from the blogosphere, I have decided to return to blogging...if there is anyone left out there reading these things. What have I been up to? Well, chesswise I have been involved in working with the Chicago Blaze, have run a 500 player National Youth Action tournament, been teaching, and am in the process of putting together my first big money adult tournament to take place in this December.

I will be posting about all of these things, as well as some of the current issues in Illinois chess which there are several hot topics.

Back to the Atlantic City International, which is the 50K prize fund event taking place in Atlantic City, NJ from December 17-19. Our goal (Tim Just's and myself), is to provide a different type of tournament experience than the typical Goichberg swiss (not that there is anything wrong with those). We will be providing boards and sets (trying to do clocks as well, but that doesn't look like it will happen). If you enjoy playing in these types of events, what type of side events, or perks would you like to see? We want to know. I am also looking at having a poker side event during the tournament, which would be interesting given the mass amount of chess players who have gravitated to poker. Our website for this event is http://www.chessweekend.com/

There is a lot going on chesswise, and I am hoping to start updating this blog 2-3 times per week. Check back early and often.


Sunday, November 16, 2008

91 Players in Orland!?

91 players in Orland Park? The title even looks surreal. This month attendance exploded, and we almost ran out of space. Next month it would be amazing to try to top 100! We will be raffling off prizes for the Holidays as we did last year.

Our very first Orland scholastic two years ago had a whopping 6 players. Six, that is not a typo. To come this far and give players in this area a place to play without driving an hour has been one of my bigger achievements in chess.