Sunday, December 30, 2007

Catching up on some reading

With the holiday weekend I was finally able to finish some of the books I had started. The chess book that was finished this weekend was Garry Kasparov's How Life Imitates Chess. I am curious to hear how others view this book, as I enjoyed it. The book impressed with its eloquence (probably Mig speaking), and surprisingly the great amount of humility that Kasparov relates his stories with.

Since the last chess related book that I head read was Josh Waitzkin's Art of Learning, it was easy to see that both do a lot with the theme of personal growth coming from the way crisis situations are handled.

I was debating about picking up Paul Hoffman's book, or just going with some light entertainment style reading like Andy Roddick Beat Me with a Frying Pan. Anyone have book suggestions?


Friday, December 28, 2007

Match Play (or everybody likes a throwdown)

When I was an up and coming player at the Orland Park Chess club, matches were commonplace. It was how we resolved disputes, put an end to smacktalk, and occasionally entertained ourselves. I know we were not alone in enjoying this, just turn on the food channel and there is a good chance you could run into Iron Chef, or Bobby Flay's Throwdown which are all about decisive resolution by showing who was better that day.

In the internet age, great numbers of paper tigers have been created throwing words at their screen with nothing to back them up. For instance, earlier today on the IL Chess forum two very strong players, who are both pretty nice guys too were bickering back and forth as they often seem to, and I thought wow it would be so much better to watch them decide this over the board. Sometimes these matches don't end up as you were hoping for as in the case of the classic grudge match between Bill Brock and Sam Sloan (though that is a pretty strange story in its own right).

Maybe players don't realize that they can still play rated matches, or it could just be the demise of the chess clubs, but these are also tremendous training tools. It is after all a good enough method to determine a world champion.

Perhaps it would be interesting to put together a match play tournament which would be a knockout style event. That would actually be a really interesting way to determine the Denker rep.


Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Blaze has started!

A few posts ago, I mentioned that there were some exciting things yet to be announced in IL Chess for 2008. Well, today it was made official that Chicago will be getting a new franchise in the US Chess league, and our team name is the Blaze.

So far we have commitments to play from GM Dmitry Gurevich, IM Angelo Young, FM Mehmed Pasalic, Ilan Meerovich, and Adam Strunk. We will be filling out our roster in the coming weeks. For those that are unfamiliar with the league. The season consists of a weekly 4 board match with an average rating cap of 2400. There are 10 matches in the regular season with the top 4 teams from the division reaching the playoffs.

These games will be broadcast live, and if you want to watch in person, our home venue will be Angelo Young's Touch Move Chess Center. The team manager will be Glenn Panner, PR manager will be Tom Panelas, and the techno-geek will be Sevan Muradian helping make sure our moves transmit.

It is my sincere hope that this will be a common interest here in the state with local players and even school programs following the results and the team. As much as we sometimes don't get along so well with each other, if there is one thing most Chicago sports fans can agree on, we like New York teams even less. I will be blogging about the team with great frequency. Coverage will also be found on the US Chess league site, The Knights of Castle Kimbark blog, and likely at the 64 square journal, which all have links on this blog. Feel free to fire away with any questions or suggestions about the team, I will be glad to reply.



Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The Season for Giving

It was mentioned to me by a friend of mine that there is a posting on the USCF forums that GM Gata Kamsky has asked USCF for support in preparation for his match against Topalov. That really posed a great question, is that the type of activity that USCF should be committing resources to in order to promote chess in this country?

It is important to note that since we have not seen the letter and therefore don't really know what he was asking for. If he was asking for support to raise sponsorship and awareness, that really is something USCF should do. If he was asking for help getting seconds, again this is something USCF should help with. If he is looking for money, then I am not quite so sure. Any amount USCF gave him would need to be tied into him promoting chess in the US. I also would want an idea of how much he was looking for and how it would be used. After all, he just won 120K for winning the world cup, and how much more for even just playing the match.

I realize that many people were critical of the USCF for not helping Fischer more in the 70's, though Fischer probably didn't make it easy for USCF to support him other than donating some duct tape to go over his mouth. Kamsky, I would guess to be much more reasonable. It will be interesting to see this story develop over the next few weeks.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Steven Tennant, I am calling you out

Last weekend, I was relaxing after my Orland Scholastic with my good friend Theo Poulos and NM Dr. Steven Tennant. To those of you that don't know Steve, let me give you a quick rundown.

Steve is an amazingly talented player who was a state champion in the 70's, who even has a few GM scalps to his credit. He hasn't played that often for many years due to a grudge that he holds with the ICA, which for everyone's sanity I won't recap here. Steve is brilliant to a fault, the fault being that he can be very rigid in his ideas and doesn't play well with others. Still I feel loyalty to Steve as every week in the mid to late 80's he would show up every week at the Orland Chess club mercilessly whupping us, and was very responsible for turning many of us teenage punks into experts or masters.

Well, Theo was predicting my return to tournament play in 2008 and that I would gain the roughly 95 rating points to get my long awaited master title. Steve matter of factly stated, "I doubt it". When I inquired as to why that was he explained that "if you don't make master by age 22, you won't ever do it". While he is correct that the difficulty level goes way up, due more to real life stresses and less time for study, it is not such an oddity for a player to make master after the age of 22.

So the thing to do in order to prove Steve wrong would be to play a match against him. So even though Steve has a lifetime record of greater than 90% against me, I say, "Bring it!" I am challenging him to a match for sometime in 2008. I plan on hopefully updating this story when Steve accepts my challenge, and announcing the date when it becomes available.

Time to start training.


Sunday, December 16, 2007

I can rest now

This weekend I directed my final two tournaments for the year. Yesterday we drew nearly 50 players for the 2nd month in a row at the Orland scholastic including a couple of new teams. We also held a Christmas raffle for the players with chess items donated by Mikhail Korenman, Frank Swindell, and myself. Hopefully we will see our numbers increase up to 70-80 players in 2008.

Today I directed at the Kumbaya festival of chess events which actually had 3 different events. First up was the puzzle solving contest, which I highly recommend running. Scott Drier had the only perfect score of 18/18 puzzles of mate in 1s, 2s and 3s. What was so interesting about the event is that I have never heard any scholastic chess event this quiet at the players were concentrating very hard on the puzzles. I wasn't sure how well these events would work until being shown the contest by Susan Polgar and Paul Truong, I believe it in now. The other two events were a blitz tournament, and a bughouse tournament. For bughouse I always let the kids come up with their own team names to see what they can come up with, todays were pretty straight forward, nothing that interesting. The fun part of that event was watching the how well the few teams that were made up of siblings do so well.

My next event will be when Karpov comes here to Chicago, January 11-13.


Thursday, December 13, 2007

Illinois Chess 2008

I have to say that as I prepare to direct my last couple of events for the year that I am really looking forward to what is happening in Illinois chess for 2008.

Before I get into that, a couple quick notes, I have added a couple more links including one for the blog of my good friend Betsy Dynako. Saturday we run our final Orland Scholastic of the year, and we are anticipating 50+ players again, which is outstanding for the Southern Suburbs.

Now what is so exciting about 2008 in IL Chess? Where do I start? I suppose the beginning of the year is a good enough place. In the first couple of weeks, Chicago will be hosing Anatoly Karpov as part of Mikhail Korenman's International Chess Convention. Rumor has it Nigel Short may also be in town at that time. Kind of a shame that we couldn't plan a rapid event or some matches with Shulman and Onischuk (who is apparently close to moving here) in town at the same time.

Also nice to see is the invitations for the Denker qualifier, this year all 12 invitees are over 2000, which I can't remember happening before. Shows that we are progressing quite nicely at the top scholastic levels. On that note, Andi Rosen who heads up the Warren Program which is a wonderful program designed to help talented juniors get to the elite status, is going to start organizing monthly adult vs. junior training tournaments to further that improvement.

Sevan Muradian is planning on his IM/GM norm events getting to nearly monthly status, which when considering Ray Robson just received his 1st IM norm here, (and his last one this past week in Texas), these events are important. I will be announcing the dates and format of the Colias just after the new year too.

All in all, it is really nice to be ending the year on such a high note. In the coming weeks there will be even more exciting announcements, which I am not yet able to discuss to set interest in the chess community ablaze.


Monday, December 10, 2007

Back from Houston

It is pretty late, so here is just a brief rundown. Plenty of weirdness, that I will enjoy recapping the K12 maybe tomorrow. In the meanwhile:

Event staff for a wonderfully run event.
1332 scholastic chessplayers that generally gave it all they had.
Texas volunteers, and locals who were amazingly friendly.

Hotel Foodservice. No excuse for knowing when there will be a lunch rush and still being unprepared.
Scholastic Council (hopefully I don't get blacklisted for that). Repeat after me, Parent's do not belong on the playing floor! It affects the quality of the tournament when TDs are unable to be on the floor for rulings because a parent or coach has to know that instant why their son's opponent left to go to the bathroom, and why I am not following them to verify they aren't cheating.

More tomorrow.


Monday, December 3, 2007

'Tis the season for Sportsmanship

Ask any TD who has worked large events, and they will be quick to tell you a story. Many of us sit around and swap stories at Nationals. Since I am leaving in a couple of days to head down to Houston, I thought I might share a few.

At my very first National K-12 event, within a couple of rounds I was party to some strange things. A player smacking another player upside the head. When I got to the board, and asked for an explanation, the player explained that her neighbor had given her opponent a good move. Naturally I had to issue warnings to both the smacker and smackee.

Later in that event, an interesting thing happened, after a round a player came in with a complaint. He had been offered a pack of Pokemon cards in exchange for resigning in a position he was winning, but the opponent never delivered. Interestingly, when we asked what remedy he was seeking, the boy just wanted us to force the opponent to give up the cards. When we called the other boy in with his father, the boy confessed to what happened. The father seemed stunned, and said "I have no idea where he gets that from". Ken Sloan, who was the chief TD of the section, asked if the father issues rewards for his son winning. The father said that he gives his son 2 packs of Pokemon cards for every win. We no longer wondered where it came from. Did I mention that both of these events happened in the Kindergarten section?

I realize that these are important events, but urge parents and coaches not to put too much of an emphasis on the child's results, it does take its toll on them. If I have time this week, I will share a few more stories along those lines.

Bad sportsmanship is completely unnecessary, and oftentimes is learned from adults (which we don't like to admit). There is a group that is the self proclaimed "premier chess organization" in Illinois, they teach chess at quite a few schools, yet on their website have a link to an essay entitled "How to Annoy Your Opponent". This treasure chest of wisdom advises players to talk or cough loudly during your opponents moves, start rumors about your opponent, and other drivel that I do not wish to pollute my site with. To be completely fair, it appears to be a really lame attempt at a satire, but still has no place to be linked to by scholastic players.

So I head to Texas, where my hopes are high because I also have seen remarkable acts of kindness and compassion between players previously there at Nationals. I would rather discuss those.


Monday, November 26, 2007

Is Goichberg good for Chicago?

I have found that in my time in chess, Bill Goichberg is a very controversial figure. People either seem to really like or dislike him, there is very little middle ground. This post is not to pass judgement either way, rather to bring up some questions.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have worked for Bill as a TD before.

To some people the title of this post will appear silly. The CCA runs the Chicago Open, and the Midwest Class, the two largest and most successful tournaments in the area. It brings prestige, strong players, opportunities for area players, into the Chicago area. These are all positive things. After all, without these events, where else would tournament players go?

The CCA does take in roughly 50% of the adult entry fees for tournaments in the Chicago area in a given year. Does it give anything back to the chess community though? Is there any responsibility to give back to the Chicago chess community? Obviously a more vibrant area for players would benefit the CCA in turn bringing more players into their tournaments.

To best understand why this is even an issue, one must know a little bit about the Chicago tournament scene pre-Goichberg. In the 80's and early 90's Chicago in addition to having perhaps the highest concentration of NTDs, also had perhaps the best base of tournament organizers in Helen Warren, Fred Gruenberg, Al Losoff, Richard Verber, and the Oak Park Forest Park Chess Club. Helen ran the Midwest Masters every memorial day weekend, Fred, Al, and Verber focused on the larger swisses. The OPFP club had the Master Challenge as their signature event. The local organizers didn't always get along, but the profits from those events were put back into the community in the form of GM appearances, free scholastic clinics, and even free and low cost local swiss events.

In a very short time, Losoff moved away, the OPFP club folded, Gruenberg and Warren stopped running events. With no local organizing talent to take over, Goichberg came in and filled the vacuum. It is unclear whether or not there would be any local organizers that could or would step in today if the CCA pulled out.

It would be nice to see the CCA give a little back to this area, though should they be obliged to?


Friday, November 23, 2007

Back from Hiatus

My apologies to any faithful readers that may have missed me. This last few weeks have been a whirlwind of chess tournaments, business travel, illness, and obligations. Not nearly as glamorous as it sounds.

In chess though there were several notable happenings this last month. Our last Orland Park tournament drew 52 playerssetting a record and showing some life in the south suburbs.

The October Kumbaya tournament drew 130+ players and is well on its way to starting to draw 150-200 players without a hitch.

I directed at the National Youth Action in Saint Louis, which was a wonderful experience. Nearly 500 players were handled by a mere 5 floor TDs, as the event was very efficiently run. There is no doubt that NTD Wayne Clark who was the Chief, is one of the rising stars of the TD world along with Franc Guadalupe who will be in charge of the National K-12.

One of the more interesting moments at the event was a parent of one of the leading scorers in the K-3 section venturing into the team room of the team he was in competition against, and asking for scoresheets of games against his son's next round opponent. He did make it out of the room alive if you were wondering.

I should have more frequent updates the next few months. There should be much to report, such as, the final Orland Scholastic of the year, the K-12, the next NACA Fide tournament where Ray Robson will attempt his 2nd IM norm, both Karpov and Nigel Short visiting Chicago in early January. Talk to everyone soon.


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

How Important are Tournaments to Scholastic Programs

One of the best ways for young players to improve is to play in tournaments. Tournament play provides an environment to foster team comaraderie, as well as a more focused effort in games. Unfortunately, for many programs here in the South Suburbs, it is extremely difficult to get kids out for tournaments. Some of this is due to conflicting events like soccer and football. There is also the perception of scholastic chess being just an individual sport. I would argue that it is even a better team sport. In chess, everyone has a chance to score for their team, there are no arguments about who gets more playing time or who gets to play what position.

One teaching group in Arizona believes in the benefits of tournament play so much, that they give the teacher a significant bonus if 90% of a teachers students play in a tournament during the semester.

Lately, I have been trying to put together incentives to turn the chess clubs at the schools I teach at into teams. What do your programs do to get good tournament turnouts?

Friday, October 19, 2007

The TDs perspective

One of the things I was hoping to do with this blog that would make it different from many of the other chess blogs, is to give the perspective of events from the Tournament Director. I have seen blogs from players, parents and coaches of players, and they have been great. As a TD though, I am in the room, and get to see many of the games and hear the stories from the event. Every TD has a selection of great stories. One of the highlights of national events is to sit down over a meal and swapt them with each other. Many of them have recurring themes, the overzealous parent, the clever child trying to pull a fast one, the random act of kindness, and many others.

This past week I have been working on an essay of how to run a successful tournament. I hope to be able to post this in the next week or two. If anyone has a question or topic that they would like to be addressed, drop me a comment.


Friday, October 12, 2007

A proud moment

When I was growing up in Orland Park, there were no scholastic tournaments close by to play in. I was lucky there was a club at all when I hit Junior High. I have been determined to see that other kids growing up in the area would get the chances to play in events that I never had.

Tonight, I ran a 48 player event at St.Als/St.Pats in Lemont. Now granted, I have literally put together events 10x that size. What made this one special? 7 different schools, all with programs showed up. Team awards for first place were handed out to St. Als/St. Pats, St. Mary's, Noonan, and Cardinal Bernadin. That my friends is Parity, not the more commonly used Parody that we used to here. The seeds for a league have even been planted to grow this niche ever further

There was much joy in my heart seeing the students play out the event. And big props to Melissa McGuire for putting the event on.


Thursday, October 11, 2007

It takes a village...

One of my concerns in chess these days is the potential decline of the governing bodies. The USCF forums have become a cesspool of politics, personal attacks, and personal interests above all else. Nearly as disturbing to me is the complete apathy of the Illinois Chess Association.

Now don't get me wrong, I am very reluctant to criticize a volunteer organization like the ICA. However, I hear comments from players complaining that the ICA does not provide them value for membership, I have heard the same from the scholastic crowd, and also from the organizers. Can this be fixed? I think so, here is what I would do if I was the ICA president.

  1. Bring back the printed ICB, sure it costs more, but it is the only thing that members have for their money.
  2. Institute programs to promote chess, events like scholastic clinics, free ICA tournaments, publicize teachers, and events.
  3. Provide services and try to repair some of the scholastic rifts that have formed.
  4. Try to form a US Chess league team.
  5. Try to bring more national events to IL.

Tomorrow I will go more in depth as to how this could be done.


Monday, October 8, 2007

Parent's dinner and a movie chess nights

Well, I am back from my trip to Denver. I did try stopping by the chess tables at the outdoor 16th Ave mall in downtown Denver. For those of you that have never been there, about 4 stone chess tables are located in the middle of the street (no cars on the street if you were wondering) and are almost constantly inhabited by local enthusiasts. I was looking for some games, but it was during the Rockies game 3 win, so the area was deserted. Maybe next time.

This Friday evening I am directing a moderately sized scholastic tournament in Lemont from 6pm-9pm. I have also done similar "mini-camps at other schools for that time frame. I find that many parents enjoy its as it leaves them just enough time for date night, while the kids enjoy and event of their own. It always surprises me that other schools don't try the same thing. As an aside I am always willing to help put this type of event on.

Does your school have any interesting traditions or events that aren't very common or are unique?

Sunday, September 30, 2007

End of Regular Season Baseball 2007

I have to take a break from blogging about chess to blog about one of my other passions... baseball. The regular season finished up today, and I am ready for the playoffs. Were this season's results a surprise? Not if you follow BP is a hardcore fan and stat geek's best friend. The site has all sorts of stat lines completely foreign to the average fan to evaluate players and teams, and for me it is pretty cool stuff.

I never paid much attention to the BP team predictions until they predicted the White Sox to go 72-90, prompting Kenny Williams to rip them in an interview with the Chicago Tribune, basically saying that they don't know anything about baseball. I must admit, I thought they were a little nuts too for that, but as the season came to a close, 72-90 was dead on. If you were wondering what they predicted the Cubs to do, 85-77 winning the division by 1 game over the Brewers, that is pretty amazing, nailing both Chicago teams records exactly.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

September Orland Park Scholastic

Today was our first event of the school year. And while drawing 18 players may not seem like an achievement, it is compared to last year's September event that drew 6 players. We are hopeful that the October event will draw 40-50 players. The South Suburbs are quite a bit different than other areas as most of the school programs are in the embryonic stage.

The tournament itself was won by Chicago wonderkind Phillip Parker-Turner with a 5-0 perfect score. Also notable was the performance of 6-year old William Radak who had a perfect score before playing Parker-Turner in round 4 in the longest game of the day. Radak had Parker-Turner on the ropes as he was up a piecefor much of the game before Phillip's perserverence paid off. It is safe to say though, that with a 900+ rating, and an advanced feel for the game, William has to be considered a contender for winning his grade this year at state in a very tough division.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Where have all the Chess Clubs gone?

When I started playing USCF chess, I grew up at the Homewood-Flossmoor chess club, and later the Orland Park chess club. It was my weekly highlight, and like being a regular at Cheers. These days, many of the clubs that were most active have disappeared. There still are some places like St. Charles and Renaissance that seem to be doing well, but those seem to be the exception here.

Why have great clubs like Oak Park-Forest Park, Hillside, HF, Orland, Elmhurst, CLC, as well as many others disappeared? And is it like that in other areas?

In the Chicago area, I think they have gone away for a couple of reasons. First, free sites, which used to be available at most park districts are now a distant memory. The Park Districts have gone from being service providers to the community to profit centers. I also believe that one of the unfortunate side effects of internet chess is the fall of the chess club. Players were presented with the choice of driving 20 minutes (sometimes in bad weather) once a week and playing the same players again and again, or sitting in their skivvies with no commute, and playing different players whenever they want. In many ways it is an understandable choice.

When traveling on business especially, but sometimes for vacation, I enjoy looking up the local area chess clubs. I find it better than sitting in my hotel room, a great way to meet nice locals who can tell me about restaurants or other places of interest, and a fun way to spend an evening. So far this year, I visited clubs in Charlotte NC, and St. Louis. The differences between those clubs and the ones in Chicago were startling.

Charlotte's club is hosted by a Wendy's of all places!? It was strange seeing 30 players on a Wednesday evening, playing a game 60 rated event in a fast food establishment, but it worked. The St. Louis club meets at the St. Louis Bread Company (Panera Bread), 6 nights a week. My visit there was on a Thursday night where there were about 20 players attending. I was told that this evening had modest attendance, and the larger numbers showed on the weekends! In both sites, ratings ranged from the beginners level to about 2400. So why can clubs in those cities do well while ours here run their course?

The two things in common that I could see where both having a free site, and having very friendly people in charge greeting you and making sure that you get a game and felt welcome. Not that I don't miss Ken Marshall greeting me with "TWO Dollars" as I walked in the door, but that could be a part of it? Anyone have ideas why Chicago has so few clubs that have made it?

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Electric Fence

As we are preparing to start up the 2007-08 Scholastic chess season, I was noticing the stacking up of events on top of another. In fact next weekend, there are 3 tournaments on Sunday within a 2 mile radius.

Why do the organizers do this? And is it a problem that organizers, parents, coaches, and players should be concerned with? Let me answer the last question first. Yes, it should be a concern for everyone in the chess community. Players, coaches, and parents should be concerned for a few reasons. 1. Each tournament will naturally be smaller and attended by students of the organization running the event. That means the player will wind up playing the same players or even teammates from event to event, nobody enjoys this. 2. With a shortage of quality TDs, the event quality could be lower. 3. It is just not good business for the organizers.

So if it is bad business, and not in the best interest of anyone involved, why do organizers do it? There are a few different reasons for this and none of them are very good. Some people do it because they just don't pay attention to the tournament clearinghouses run by independent parties like Jeff Wiewel and Maret Thorpe to try to avoid conflicts. The reason for many organizers comes down to control. They don't want players putting money into the pockets of their competition, so it has become a common (and shameful) practice to run opposing events.

Can anything be done about it? Well, nobody can force a solution. What needs to happen is that the chess teaching organizations understand the idea of friendly competitors. A friendly competitor is one that allows you to post flyers for each others events, doesn't attempt to steal schools from you, isn't afraid to send a referral your way if they are overbooked or out of their primary area, and you have to be willing to reciprocate. Everyone's business grows, and the bonus is that it benfits the entire chess community.


Sunday, September 16, 2007

Open Season

Welcome to my very first blog entry. I hope that my entry into the blogosphere adds nearly as much to our chess community as the blogs that I enjoy so much. Chessdad64 brings the experience and perspective of a chessparent along with the eloquence to express new ideas, many of which should be attempted to be implemented. Pete Karagianis' Chess Underground brings an eclectic style and wonderful sense of humor to this medium. Peter Bereolos' Shakmaty site has a humble style and great analysis. Definitely high targets to shoot for!

Feel free to stop by, pose a question, express yourself, or even lurk. I will try to update this site a few times per week.