Sunday, August 31, 2008

Visiting the St. Louis Chess Club

As every year at this time I am sentenced to hard labor day time in South Central IL (not LA), I decided I would make a break for it this year and drive the hour to St. Louis and check out the chess club that has gotten so much pub. That and I really did not want to see one more meal that was fried, pork, or fried pork. So I drove down.

First, the neighborhood is exceptionally cool. Right off of the Wash U campus, the homes are beautiful and brick, there are tons of outdoor cafes, and stores, and coffee shops, not to mention a Vodka bar just around the corner for the Russian GMs that want to stop by.

You walk in, and it has the feel of a nice apartment building or downtown office as you come to the granite countered kiosk and are greeted. The floors are a dark hardwood, everything else is themed black and white. The place is immaculate, and they must have made the plasma TV salesman happy as there are like 15-20 of them in the place.

There are three levels to the club, the basement has a library full of chess books and magazines, as well as about 20 boards, all with chairs with the STLCC logo etched into the back of them. The main floor has about 8 boards, and is for informal play. There are also the plasma sets showing Diana Thater's video artwork. The upper level has about another 20 boards, and is the tournament hall.

Right now they have about 250 members, and are looking for a resident GM to give lessons as well as play and work there. Tournaments are weekly, and we will see both the US Championship and Women's championship there next year.

It really is too bad that we don't see more places like this in other cities. The one question I did not get answered is what will happen to the vibrant club at the St. Louis Bread Company? Will this new club kill it?

My next blog will likely be on Wednesday during the Chicago Blaze-San Francisco Mechanics USCL match. Tune in at 7:30 to watch.


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Blaze drop close opener to Arizona

Last night I was hoping to make it to the Altounian home in Tucson to watch the Blaze take on the Scorpions first hand, unfortunately my three year old had other plans for us so I had to rely on the kindness of others to text me with updates. We lost the match 2.5-1.5, and take on San Francisco next week.

The highlight was the crushing victory of Ilan Meerovich over 2007 Denker winner Warren Harper. The next few weeks we will be trying some different lineups, and GM Nikola Mitkov will be back to anchor board one. The league is a bit new to us right now, but we have a fantastic roster top to bottom as well as great support from assistant manager Tom Panelas, resident tech geek Sevan Muradian, master blogger Brad Rosen, TD Betsy Dynako.

I have to admit, I was highly annoyed by Arun Sharma, who has never met many of our players, or even spoken to any of our management group, decided to publicly question our dedication. Arun, your prediction was spot on for the first match, I give you credit as a prognosticator, but apparently your journalism skills are quite lacking.


Sunday, August 24, 2008


Sorry for the lack of updates. I have been in Arizona for the last few days enjoying the 105+ degree heat. Actually I have gotten to visit several chess friends, hung out with my 3 year old, and even got to see a baseball game (more on that later).

Tomorrow I am hoping to get down to Tucson, for two reasons, to watch our Chicago Blaze battle the Arizona Scorpions at their den. The other reason is because the best Mexican food in the country is found in Tucson. I need to get to the little Cafe Poca Cosa, or I could even settle for El Charro, or any number of places down there.

Our first match should be enjoyable to track. I think the team will get stronger as we go along, and we will be trying some different lineups nearly every week to get a feel for how the team plays. Arun Sharma gives his predictions on the US Chess League season on their site, which predict us for 6th. We will give it our best attempt to make him look bad. We are a little outrated in this first match, but I still like our chances.

Today I was able to get the Chase Field (formerly the BOB), to watch the Dbacks and the Marlins face off. What a great park and experience! Visiting parks is a hobby of mine, so this was a treat. The seats were great along the 1st base line (angled to face home plate), food selection was top notch, the weather was 105 outside but probably a comfortable 80 or so inside the yard. Misty May Treanor just back from Beijing threw out the first pitch, John McCain was on hand to watch. Of the parks I have visited, here is how I would rank them:

1. Pac Bell, San Francisco: Stunning views, great food, older park feel with newer park convenience, nice features such as the statues and the free viewing area outside of the park through the fence, and a cool lively area.

2. Chase Field, Arizona: Just a really well thought out park. Engineeringwise, this place is amazing, the area is getting more stuff to do. It is kind of like if you were a kid and trying to design the perfect park (natural grass, dome, great food, cool area, very kid friendly, wonderful sight lines, it is all there). The one feature that I don't think most fans care for is the Upper deck looks even steeper to the old upper deck at the current Comiskey park.

3. PNC Park, Pittsburgh: Ok, so the Pirates aren't very good, but the park makes up for some of it. The Megatron with the sound system looks like it was taken from a Vegas casino with the sound and picture quality. Some of the best scenic views of any park.

4. Coors Field, Colorado: This is the most fun stadium to watch batting practice in. An absolutely huge and beautiful park, not very expensive either. The lo-do neighborhood is great to visit.

5. Turner Field, Atlanta: In some ways, very similar to Coors, a really nice looking park, though a bit harder to get to.

6. Commiskey, Chicago: Screw US Cellular, this will always be Commiskey to Sox fans. Yes, I am putting it ahead of Wrigley. This park is convenient, and while I disliked it when it opened, hard not to when we saw the parks right after it but it continuously improves every year.

7. Wrigley, Chicago: Great history, fun neighborhood and that is where the positives end. Parking is terrible, the sightlines are poor, food poor, I don't even know where to start about the bathrooms. Yes, it is a great place to spy beautiful women, but the tickets are costly and perhaps the dumbest fans in baseball that go do games. Disclaimer, I do actually like the Cubs too. I think they use the "Go Cubs Go" song to torture prisoners in Guantanimo.

8. Busch Stadium, St. Louis: Some of the best fans in baseball, a nice downtown location, but a completely non-descript new stadium.

9. Jacobs Field, Cleveland: I really thought I would love this park, fun area downtown, but as I entered the park I noticed a few things. For a newish park, it looks rather run down. The food selection there is poor. Sightlines are average. They do get some points for the yankee stadium style monuments by center field though.

What are some of your favorite parks?


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Central IL Road trip

Over the last two days I have had to do a little traveling for work, and drove to several places in central IL. No, for any north siders happening to read this, Frankfort is not in Central IL!

I had the good fortune to be able to drop by Colley Kitson's new chess club yesterday (, and came away very impressed. First, the building is beautiful, with high ornate ceilings, projection TV, and Colley's collection of wooden sets and boards on all of the tables. Next, it is located in the downtown area surrounded by shops, pubs, and restaurants which seemed to be a fun area. I came away wishing Chicago and its suburbs had something like this. In a couple of weeks I will likely be getting down to St. Louis and see the new club down there.

One last thing that cracked me up, on my way back up, I was passing through the booming town of Nokomis, and saw a sign on the door of the local watering hole that said, " Central IL trianthlon. This Olympic quality event included pool, darts, and bowling. There is no word if that was a qualifier for the redneck games.


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Snake Oil Salesmen

Just the term conjures up the image of the old time shifty salesman going from town to town pushing their dubious product on an unsuspecting public. Those days are still here, and I am not talking about the mass amount of emails that we get.

My Mother-in-law came this week to visit us, and brought in tow a lovely bottle of Acai berry juice. She talked about how many anti-oxidants there are, and how she bought it from a friend who was a distributor, and how that friend wanted to set her up as a distributor and see if my mother in law would be able to set others up. Of course, for each level that you or one of your underlings sets up, you get a piece of the pie. Yes, a classic pyramid scheme. I asked how much this bottle of juice cost her and she told me that she bought a case for $100. How many bottles in a case? 4. So why did she pay $25 for a bottle of fruit juice? Hope! Everybody hopes that they will feel better, and this scam takes advantage of it. A couple of years ago, mangosteen juice was the rage. A couple years earlier, it was grape seed extract.

How does this topic relate? Look at our very own USCF. A week ago was the USCF delegates meeting in Dallas. I hate chess politics, in fact anyone that sat through the meeting for four hours really needs their head examined. What is so bad about it is the agendas of self interest of the EB and delegates.

We have lawsuits flowing back and forth as people jockey for position, not to mention the threats of lawsuits which seem to be daily. It just means that our bottle of fruit juice is costing us $41 (and rising), and the health benefits have not yet been proven. Can this be solved? Not without a complete restructuring of USCF. First, put in an ED who doesn't have ED. By this I mean, the position is micromanaged so much by the EB and the delegates, that regardless of what one thinks of Bill Hall ( who is a very nice guy), he has no chance for success. Let the man do his job, or hire someone with a history of fundraising success with an open ended commission plan based on the dollars he or she brings in. Is an ED worth over a million who brings in 10 million in sponsorship? In my eyes he more than pays for himself. Hire good people and let them do their jobs, it is that simple. Who on the EB or the delegates has actual experience raising funds and doing what is needed?

I think perhaps one of the best shows ever on TV was Sports Night. This show was an Aaron Sorkin creation (and so much better than anything else he has done), and was about a struggling TV show. This link goes to a rather long clip that has a lot of parallels to this point. We do need more Cliff Gardners of the world. I hope you watch and enjoy.


Monday, August 11, 2008

Profit vs. Non-Profit Organizations

The topic comes up every once in a while for chess, is an organization that runs events for profit, or non for profit (NFP). Personally, I find the whole debate fruitless.

Generally, it is my experience that when someone is concerned with that question, they are asking because they believe that an NFP 1. Has lower profit margins and gives more back to the players, and 2. If they somehow do make a profit that it magically goes back and helps the community. As Todd Barre once said as ICA treasurer, "Just because it says Non-profit doesn't mean that we are trying to lose money".

NFPs that run tournaments have the same expenses as a FP group, they still have to pay rating fees, prize funds, TDs, site costs, advertising, etc. There is no guarantee that the money does anything more than go to the organizer. Conversely, I run my events for profit, and don't feel any need to apologize for it. I try to make sure that my tournaments run quickly, professionally, and that players have a pleasant experience. I put plenty of time into each event, not just at the site, but also before hand and afterwards (I am still doing the post work for the Colias). Some of the profits that I earn go towards donations to worthy chess causes, like schools and organizations. I am also putting together things like a free scholastic clinic, and of course the Colias Memorial tournament. I don't expect people to cry for me when I lose money, but I have to allow a profit to prepare for a losing event.

I was speaking with a professional player who was describing how most organizers have become mercenaries (which is pretty funny as most organizers feel that way about players). Ask a player how much money should go to the prize fund, and if they don't say all of it, 80% is expected. Sometimes this is realistic, other times it is not. For example, lets look at the upcoming Renaissance Knights Third Coast event. They have a $30 EF, and are basing a $700 prize fund on 40 players. If they reach their guarantee, players will get 58% of the entries back. If they only draw 20 players that number still remains about the same. Is that a reasonable profit? Players get to vote on that with their own $$.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Additional Blogs

I just wanted to bring into focus a couple of additional blogs that I have enjoyed lately. First, my good friend Theo Poulos has joined the blogosphere, and makes me wish that I could write as eloquently has he does. His blog is at

Also, with the political season near at hand has fantastic analysis. This site is the brainchild of Nate Silver of Baseball Prospectus fame. Nate had the most accurate projections of any group during the primaries. His Baseball Prospectus site has notoriously strong projections as well, and gained a lot of press for Kenny Williams calling them out on their prediction of the WhiteSox going 72-90 last year, saying that the BP guys knew nothing of baseball. When they hit the projection dead on, Williams did not want to discuss it.

Just wanted to share the interesting reading.


Friday, August 8, 2008

Baseball Craziness

Yesterday evening I went to the Sox game with some out of town friends. Had a really great time, they just keep on improving that park which, I know this is sacriligious for many is so much nicer than going to Wrigley. Better food, better sight lines, better parking, more comfortable. Speaking of which, I go to the Cubs game today. I am one of those rare Chicagoans that actually likes both teams. Hey with one WS title in the last 200 seasons combined, we can't afford to be choosy.

I hate leaving Andrea at home without the car, so I went to Enterprise, where I rent from regularly. They really need a new training program. I know that they are trying to engage the customer, but I really can't stand the whole "where are you going? Do you have and fun big plans?" shtick. Is it really any of their business? I am always tempted to try to come up with some creative way to mortify them. "Am I going somewhere fun? That depends, is burying your grandmother fun?"

Let me put this offer out there. Whoever comes up with the most creative way to freak out one of the Enterprise rental people, and posts in on the blog, I will use it during my next rental and report back. In fact, if I can, I will even video tape the event. So loyal readers that is your challenge!

I was sad to see this week that Skip Caray passed away. He was really one of my favorite announcers with his dry wit and nasal tones. You could always count on Skip to liven up a blowout broadcast by casually dropping in an absurd question or story in his matter of fact way. I mean this in a nice way, but I spent many a Sunday afternoon watching TBS and relaxing and eventually napping during a Braves game.


Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Increment Time controls and clock settings

Increment time controls are already the FIDE standard in Europe, and are likely to take off here in the states. The Miami International which takes place next month with a 100K prize fund appears to be the first major event stateside to use this. From running a few invitational events, it is apparent that there is some confusion as to rules with increments, so I thought I would address it.

First, what is increment, and why is it different from time delay? With time delay, simply the clock does not start ticking until the delay time (usually 5 seconds) has run out. With increments, you get a "bonus" amount of time added to your clock after you complete a move. Adding to the confusion, increment time controls are also called bonus, accumulating, Fischer, and there may be a couple others.

Are there different rules for this? Yes, the most notable rule is that regardless of the time left on a players clock, they must keep notating. As a TD and organizer, I love this, because complete gamescores are more common. As a player, the main difference is the feeling in time trouble. With regular delay controls, the pressure is constant. Such as, I have 30 seconds left on my clock, I must move quickly. During time pressure with an increment control, it comes and goes, and is easy to let your guard down. You may have 30 seconds, make 3-4 quick moves and be back over 2 minutes and start to relax. It is difficult to get used to.

Which clocks are capable of increment settings? Most recently manufactured European made clocks have it, and it is easy to find. But here, the two most common types of clocks, the Chronos and the Excalibur Game Time 2 both have it, though it is difficult to find and most players don't know it is there.

For the Chronos Blitz, it is right in the standard options. For the regular larger Chronos, you must go into the programming menu to the ChP5 setting and set the time control, and then scroll to where the delay would normally be set and set the increment. For the Excalibur, when you are in the programming menu, turn off the time delay, and turn on the Accum, set the Accum to the desired increment, and you are ready to go.


Monday, August 4, 2008

Colias Results

I am completely exhausted from the weekend's event, and now just want to sleep. But before I do, here are the results from the weekend, and also some commentary.

Before I get to the results, it is very important to thank the generous sponsorships of Tim McEntee and Robert Loncarevic, without whom this would not have been possible.

Section 1:
FM Peter Bereolos 5-0
NM Tim McEntee 3-2
CM Eric Rosen 3-2
FM Aleksander Stamnov 2.5-2.5
CM Larry Cohen 1-4
NM Len Weber 0.5-4.5

Bereolos dominated the section with precise technique. This ran Peter's unbeaten streak to 15 games at the even, and the performance rating for the tournament was over 2540!! Also impressive were the performances by 14 yo Eric Rosen (2277 performance) who demonstrated impressive poise and patience in his games, and by Tim McEntee.

Section 2:
IM Emory Tate 4.5-0.5
NM Tony Cao 3-2
NM Glen Gratz 3-2
NM Steven Tennant 2-3
CM Adam Strunk 1.5-3.5
CM Robert Loncarevic 1-4

I really can't wait to go over some of the games from this section as many of these were action packed. Tate's play was fantastic, I could study his game against Cao for hours and not find have the stuff these guys found over the board. Tony Cao and Glen Gratz shared 2nd-3rd, and were tremendous. Strunk found this year tougher goind after being a co-champion with Bereolos last year.

Section 3:

Vladimir Djordjevic 4-1
Sevan Muradian 4-1
Ryan Richardson 3-2
Theo Poulos 2-3
Leo Kirsch 2-3
Fred Gruenberg 0-5

This section was the product of a request by Ryan Richardson. The more I thought about it the more excited I got about having this section. It isn't often that class players get a chance to prep for each other and trade punches like the masters do in a Round Robin event. Trading punches is a good way to put it as the section was all about fighting chess. Not a single draw in the section for the whole event. I can't remember ever seeing that before. Vladimir got off to a torrid 3-0 start before being derailed by Richardson, who had a chance to tie for first going into his final round with Sevan. Sevan provide that organizing is not the only thing he can do well in chess. With how balanced the field was, I do wonder if the same players play again next year, if the result would be the same or completely different. I was extremely impressed with the sportsmanship exhibited in this section.