A Chess Tournament

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Beep, beep, beep, beep….it’s 5:00 A.M.--the usual start to every day (except for weekends).  The only thing unusual is it is a weekend--Saturday.  Nonetheless, I am soon up and at the computer for a practice chess game with my friend and Rejoicing (www.therejoicingteam.weebly.com) teammate from Denmark.  After a game and a quick course on current conditions in Denmark (many thanks, Krimi), I gulped down a very light breakfast with lightning speed.  Then I grabbed the book I’m studying, Memoirs of a Secret Agent of Free France, a notebook, and a pen, and jumped into my dad’s Ford Ranger.  We left at about 7:00 A.M.  Soon after, we joined the races on U.S. Highway 20; I pulled out my Bible and read Isaiah 49-53.  It was excellent reading--some of my favorite chapters.  One particularly good verse was: 

Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.  Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me. (Isaiah 49:15-16)

This is a particularly comforting verse to me because it reminds me that God will never forget me, or any of His children, in spite of  our struggles.  He will be with us always--even to the end of the world.

  We stopped at McDonald’s and a convenience store and bought donuts, sausage McMuffins, and plenty of mints.  Shortly before the 9:30, we arrived at Clarion Inn Highlander Conference Center in Iowa City for the Iowa Class Championships.  I have been playing actively in Iowa chess since 2006, and old friends abound at these chess tournaments.  After many friendly greetings, the pairings for the first round were posted.  I faced my 1st opponent, Matt Kriegel, whom I have played often at tournaments directed by Hank Anzis (www.brokenpawn1.blogspot.com) in Marshalltown.  Matt is friendly enough, but for some reason I absolutely dislike losing to him--not that I enjoy losing to anyone.  And lose I did.  My first round was a disaster--with very good play by Matt.  I declined his offer to review the game, since I really did not want to see my mistakes again.  Papa’s game was still going on, so I immersed myself in the struggles, disasters, and triumphs of Gilbert Renault, the protagonist of my book. 

Chess players, intent on their games.

After Papa’s long and very interesting game was finished, we ate lunch.  Then it was time for the IASCA annual board meeting.  The meeting started with a moment of silence for 3 chess friends we lost during the year, including IASCA President Steve Young, who passed away shortly after he returned home from the Cedar Rapids Leatherjackets tournament in February.  Then other business was discussed, and I soon learned why a conference is called a “meeting of the bored.”  Every once in a while there was a vote, then more talking.  It was a very long meeting, so when a motion was made to close the meeting, it was quickly seconded, and the vote was unanimous. 

The second round, I played Richard Rector who has a rating very similar to my own.  I got off to a good start and finally came to a move where the game could be simplified and I could clearly win if I jumped a pawn with my queen and traded queens.  I also noticed that I could take the pawn with my knight, but if I did so, I would lose both of my knights for the pawn.  I decided to jump with my queen.  Then my hand decided it had a mind of its own: it reached out, grabbed the knight, and jumped the pawn.  Ouch!!  Now my material lead was gone, and I was a pawn behind.  The game really became fascinating (and nerve-wrecking).  I regained the lead one pawn at a time, and finally won.  I gulped down a couple more mints (the perfect brain-food ;) )and a few glasses of water (courtesy of the hotel), read a little bit more of my captivating book, and enjoyed a few interesting conversations (many chess players are quite eccentric, but one would, perhaps, be surprised how many are superbly intelligent, nice people).  

My next opponent was David Naylor.  We played a good old Open Sicilian Dragon--my favorite opening!.  I was pleased to be able to implement much of the same style that I had used playing against Krimi in the morning with 2 knights and a bishop.  I looked for advanced positions and “holes” for my knights.  During most of the game I sat on my hands, not to keep them from using that terrible “mind of their own,” but because my hands were freezing!  A group had moved into the ball room, and a dance was in progress.  The chess players were all forgotten--left out in the cold--and forced to “enjoy” the *boom-da-da-da-da-da-boom-chuck-a-chuck-a-boom* so-called-music coming from the ball room.  In spite of these great hardships, I managed to win the game.

Papa and I each ate a sandwich for supper, and then started our games for the next round.  This time I did not take off my coat.  In fact, the room was filled with 2 types of chess players: the tough ones (who, I suspect, must have been freezing), and the smart ones (who were snugly tucked into their coats.)   My last game eventually hinged on a one pawn advantage, and I was just barely able to pull out a win.  The last game was still being played between Matt Kriegel and Bill Broich.  If Bill Broich won, he, Matt, and I would be tied for first; if Matt won or drew, I would come in second.  By this time it was quite late; we figured that if we left immediately we still wouldn’t make it home before midnight.  So, we decided not to wait to find the results.  Mark Capron, our tournament director, would let us know later.  At about 10:30 P.M. we jumped into our Ford, and left the bustling streets of Iowa City.  We went through Waterloo, and by 11:30 I was dead tired and could barely keep my eyes open (Chess playing is a lot of work, you know ;) ) In fact, I couldn’t keep my eyes open (good thing I wasn’t driving!).  We arrived home at about 12:15 A.M.  And by the next day I was ready for another drive, this time with my whole family, to hear some excellent music in Waterloo by the Johnson Strings (www.Johnsonstrings.net).  Later, I learned that I had finished in 2nd in Class C.  Congratulations to Matt Kriegel who won Class C, to Robert Vance who won class D, to Joseph Meyer who won class B, to Dan Brashaw and Jiahua Zhang  who won M/X/A, and to Amir Farnoud, Jose Gatica, and Dan Vasto, the new Iowa Chess co-Champions. Thanks also to Mark Capron for directing.

I really enjoyed my games--well, most of them, anyway--and I'm glad I attended the Iowa Class Championships this year.  Chess is a very good game for sharpening mental skills--play early and play often!