Sunday, March 30, 2008

Weekend update and more applause

My last post went to press before Marc Arnold also clinched an IM norm at the last NACA FIDE event.

Despite spring break holding down attendance, it was a busy chess weekend. The Orland Scholastic on Saturday drew only 23 players which should be doubled or even tripled by the April event. The Kumbaya event today drew exactly 100 players which was also a little low but resulted in a speedy event with few hiccups. One of the highlights to me was watching the mass numbers of supremely talented 2nd and 3rd graders. Illinois has to be close to the tops in those age groups in the country. In fact after being told by two separate prominent IL chess coaches that they want to take out the NY powerhouse teams at Nationals, I would love to see an internet match between IL and NYC scholastics at the K-3 grades.

Also of significant importance this weekend were the Denker and Polgar qualifiers. For the Denker, there was a tie between experts Ilan Meerovich and Kayin Barclay (2 time IL rep to the Denker). With tiebreaks Ilan will rep our state. In the Polgar division, there were 48 players which was a very impressive showing and tied on top were Sonya Vohra and Victoria Bian, who with the generosity of the Susan Polgar will both be representing our state.

Late this week I hope to be blogging from Dallas at the National JH Championships.


Friday, March 28, 2008

Congratulations to Mehmed Pasalic

As the title says, congratulations FM Pasalic. For those of you that have not yet had the pleasure of meeting Pasalic, let me take a few moments to tell you a little about him.

Born in Bosnia, Mehmed later moved and grew up in Germany. He has lived in Chicago the last several years. This is his second IM norm. We are pleased to have Pasalic as a member of the Blaze where he will likely be a 2nd/3rd board (and kick some serious butt).

One of the things that really impressed me about him is Pasalic's humility. I recall watching a game between Dr. Mark Sefcheck (a 1700 player) and Pasalic last year at the US Open. Sefcheck played a fine game, and even had Pasalic on the ropes for a time before losing. After the game, Pasalic was gracious enough to show Sefcheck a positional rook sacrifice that was winning while complimenting his play. Sefcheck left feeling very good despite the loss. It was obvious that this game was not Mehmed's finest performance, but his kindness and sportsmanship were noteworthy. More players of all ratings should behave this way.

Also noteworthy is the fact that this marked the 8th FIDE IM or GM norm generated by the hard work of Sevan Muradian's norm bearing round robins. Previously Ben Finegold (2nd) Pascal Charbonneau (3rd) Giorgi Margvelashvili (1st) have scored GM norms, and Ray Robson, Jan Van DeMortel, Tansel Turgut, and Memed Pasalic (1,2) have scored IM norms. Sevan's monthly events are something to look forward to in Illinois chess, and can be followed on the Monroi website.


Monday, March 24, 2008


One of the things that many TDs do during downtime at tournaments is to discuss rulings that occur. Partially, this is because we are nosy by nature, but I prefer to thing that we are trying to hone our craft. I was listening to some of the calls that came up to TDs at our recent IL K-8 Championships. Here are a few that came up.

1. Parent complains that the rating used was from the March supplement instead of the more up to date MSA rating. The parent is wrong for making this complaint! First, the ratings do not become "official" until they are part of a supplement. This gives time for the events to be submitted in a timely fashion, and allows for errors in the system such as wrong IDs being submitted to be corrected. Presumably the parent thought that they would gain some advantage in pairings or tiebreaks for their child. Truth is, a higher rating is irrelevent for getting better pairings or tiebreaks. They may end up with worse pairings or tiebreaks or it could even be neutral.

2.A coach alerted the TDs that teammates were paired in round 6, and that could potentially hurt the team score thus being unfair. It turned out that this was because 4 of the 5 perfect scores in that section were from the same school (a nice problem to have). Newsflash to the coach, if you have 4 players who are perfect going into round 6, you are probably going to win the team prize. This is still an individual game, and breaking scoregroup to pair all these players against kids from other teams is not fair to the kids in the other scoregroup.

3. Complaint that error in who won a game would not be corrected for the scores but only for rating purposes. Sometimes coaches or parents do not want to take responsibility for checking the standings after every round. This is very important because entry errors do happen (either by us TDs, or players). If a player who won a game, but was marked as a loss in round 2 comes up after round 7 finishes complaining that he was shorted a point, they are stuck. It would be unfair to others to allow this player to benefit by easier pairings for 5 rounds because they did not check out the standings.

4. This one was the most disturbing dispute from that weekend. On a top board in the 2nd-3rd grade section, a player shows up 5 minutes late with his father demanding the time being restored to the clock. The opponent calls for a TD as he should. After a heated argument with TDs, and both sets of parents, 2 of the 5 minutes are restored to the clock. This was an atrocious call on several levels. Why? First, there are plenty of reasons to keep the time off the clock since the player started the clock following the TDs instruction. There are even a few possible reasons to put all the time back on the clock, such as the player's game ended late and asked permission for a late start (I do not believe this was the case). There are no acceptable reasons to put some of the time back on the clock. This was a weak ruling by a TD aiming to please everyone. Now for the reason that the ruling was truly horrific:

The TD allowed a severe argument by adults to take place in front of a couple of 7 year olds. This is more likely to have an impact of the game than 2 or 5 minutes would have. The correct ruling, is to kick the parents or coaches butts off the floor explaining that spectators have no rights and that the TD will resolve it with the players. That way, no child gets intimidated by an angry screaming adult.

EDIT: For those of you reading that may check the MSA to see who the TD was in this case, let me say that it was not Colley Kitson who was listed as the section chief. Colley is too good a TD for that to happen under his watch.


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Back from Arizona

While there was a lot of action this past weekend, I was no where near any of it. Andrea allowed me the wonderful anniversary present of going to Arizona for spring training to hang out with the boys and watch plenty of baseball. I would have loved to find some Arizona Scorpions (USCL team) members to talk a little Blaze trash to in advance of our own season opener, but they must have been hiding under a rock or something.

It sounds as though the IL K-8 ran as well as can be expected, though I have heard many a complaint about the tiny nature of the trophies. I know when I ran the All Grade, I received one complaint about the quality of the trophies, a parent told me that their son's trophies were broken in the first 10 minutes, and I needed to buy better quality awards. I asked him how they were broken, and without even a blush, the father told me that the kids had been sword fighting with them. Idiot! Though in this case I have to say, that if you are charging $35 a head for a trophy event, you better have some decent sized awards. Does anyone happen to know the height of any of these awards? For the All Grade I remember that the 1st place trophies were 36" tall.

I am still looking forward to hearing about the Karpov outing, if anyone has any stories about it please post.

We are two weeks away from the National JH tournament in Dallas. This kicks off the spring national season. Today I found out that I will be the section chief of the K-8 championship section which is a nice honor. I hope that we get a great turnout there, and that people realize that despite the name of the event, it is open to elementary school kids and a great experience.


Wednesday, March 12, 2008


Last weekend was an exciting one for chess in the midwest.

First, let me congratulate Peter Spizzirri and the rest of Cary contingent for a spectacular result at the US Junior Chess Congress in Anderson, IN. Cary won the championship in two separate divisions. The turnout was also a record number, nice to see.

Congratulations also go out to Chris Baumgartner for his successful FIDE event in Wisconsin last weekend. Chris, the great thing about having a well run event, is that we next event will be easier to build upon that success.

This weekend brings us the IL State K-8 championships in Glenview, as of yesterday, there are 657 players registered. The Wisconsin K-8 is this same weekend in Oshkosh, and has roughly half that amount of players so far.

Mikhail Korenman also has brought former World Champion Anatoly Karpov to town this weekend just down the street from the state K-8. This is a great opportunity for adults or kids to meet a chess legend.


Saturday, March 1, 2008

A Chance to build something

As I scan the internet for chess content, it occurs to me how much negativity surrounds our game. On blogs, websites, newspapers, the USCF forums (don't even get me started there), even in clubs. I know I am as guilty of this as anyone.

Well today, I would like to build something, and if you would like to grow something positive, I would like your help with it. Here is the idea, when I was a scholastic player, once a year there was a clinic put on by Larry Stilwell and Proviso West HS. This clinic welcomed scholastic players to sit in on free lectures and lessons by instructors, and was followed by a free tournament. I would like to bring this back.

Let me explain how this can help the chess community. First, a free rated tournament and free lectures are easy to understand the benefit for our young players. Next, if you are in individual that is looking for students, or a teaching vendor looking to grow, you could certainly benefit by being in front of 100-150 potential students. If the ICA helps with volunteers for the event, we could make ICA membership be a condition of the free entry. I think that a full day of tournament games and lessons more than makes up for the $10 ICA junior membership. So this benefits the entire community.
How can we do this? Here is what is needed, and if you see something that you can do, or would like to help please post on this.

1. We need to get a site that is low cost (or better yet, free).
2. We need instructors to teach. (NM Jon Burgess has already generously volunteered to donate his time).
3. I will volunteer my time to TD the tournament and donate the rating fee.
4. We could also use some prize donations.
5. Finally, we could use help promoting the event.

I would hope to hold this event in October as the scholastic season gets into swing.