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.