27 April 2009

Advice for Organizers

While I was the event coordinator for the 2009 Washington State Elementary Chess Championship, my beloved served as the event's treasurer and volunteer coordinator. When the time for the event arrived, she joined the hospitality coordinators at the check-in and information tables. These tables might be dubbed problem central. There were and will always be problems large and small in a large event. These problems must be solved, often by people who must think on their feet after inadequate sleep.

From most reports, the event ran smoothly. But, when over 1000 participants compete, problems must be expected. My wife compiled a list of tidbits of advice based on her observations and experiences. Event organizers should have or be prepared for:

puke at pairings postings (in a large public facility, you cannot just grab a paper towel)
lost children--hold them by the hand until you find mom or dad
lost parents
medical attention--a child playing outside became injured, his parent withdrew him from the tournament and took him to the hospital for stitches. He returned from the hospital and wanted back in the tournament to play round five.
indoor soccer
walkie-talkies--check-in table, tournament director, head judge, medical, clean-up, hospitality staff all need to be able to contact each other easily

scrapes, scratches, headaches
award snafus--300 trophies, someone might get the wrong one, or none when one was expected
angry parents
drunk parents--2000+ adults, there will be one
shelter--tournament director, head judge, event organizer

empower decision makers for specific aspects of the event to spend money--when late registrations for Friday Bughouse crowd the facility and a microphone is needed from the hotel, someone other than the event coordinator must decide that we can spend $85 more; when the judges hospitality room needs more potato chips, the hospitality coordinator must know that she has the authority to order them, that the added cost is okay

outsource registration, check-in, and web management--I spent too much time on these tasks. The positive benefit was that I had personal contact with many parents and coaches. There are alternatives to our system that have been tried and tested. Our webmaster created a nice site, and both he and I made many small modifications along the way. We might have hired someone else to maintain the site, and post periodic announcements.

lost and found
validate and understand hurt feelings and anger--I am convinced that a team that was hurt twice--once by an error in the program, and once by an error in pairings--did feel listened to and validated even though I could not fully repair the errors. That's just the biggest one, there were many other complaints.
complaint process--there should be a clear process for formal complaints; there should be a clear appeals process. The current WSECC Policy has much to say about team membership and team competition, but it does not address team pairing restrictions with clear rules.

K-1 escorts--having assured that parents are not in the playing room, where they would interfere with the competition, we cannot just set a five or six year old loose in the building to find her Dad. The parents need a waiting area; the event staff must assure that children get connected with their parents as they finish each round. We had a pediatrician step up as safety director and supervise this process on-site.

you will not collect all money due
double check everything
stolen items
receipt book for commemorative board purchases
gifts--lunches, boards, t-shirts
color code playing room by section
create "do not cross" line on the boundary between playing room and waiting area; post security--some of the high school students working as floor judges stepped up to this task and did a great job.

Have a physician on the volunteer staff willing to attend to injuries
Have enough space--we had 102,000 square feet, and the success of the event was largely due to an exceptional facility, and well planned traffic flow. Pairing were posted in three locations, and in a manner designed to channel players and parents efficiently. Standings were posted in the team room, NOT in the playing room.

Thank people often--competitors, parents, coaches, and volunteer staff all gave of themselves. They deserve praise and thanks. Make certain they get it.

26 April 2009

Talented Children

The Spokesman-Review, Spokane's daily newspaper, has a nice story on the front page of the Northwest section of today's edition. It features some of the more than one thousand competitors at the Washington State Elementary Chess Championship, an event that encroached a little bit into my blogging time.

Read the story at the newspaper's webpage.

20 April 2009


What is involved in organizing a large state youth tournament? In winter 2006-2007 I met with Chris Frye at the Spokane Regional Sports Commission to begin work submitting a bid to host the 2009 Washington State Elementary Chess Championship. The Sports Commission helped line up a venue, secured rate quotes from area hotels, and offered advice on getting started. With their help, I put together a bid proposal that was then approved at the annual coaches meeting during the 2007 WSECC in Vancouver, Washington.

After the bid was approved, the SRSC paid the Spokane Convention Center a security deposit. The local organizing committee started meeting regularly in May 2007. In early summer 2008 these meetings became monthly. This spring, we've met every three weeks, and the meetings have run two hours or longer.

The tournament will be held this weekend. The past five weeks, I have worked full time on the event.

These numbers tell part of the story.

45,000 approximate budget in dollars
300+ hours I've spent putting this together
2000+ emails I've answered
200+ phone calls I've made
4 flights I've made into Sea-Tac Airport for event promotion
5 rental cars I've driven for same purpose
1098 shipping weight in pounds of chess equipment purchased for the event
120 C batteries purchased for chess clocks
10728.28 cost in dollars of trophies
200 volunteer t-shirts printed
250+ approximate number of chess sets to be donated to area schools
0 minutes spent on this enterprise that I regret!

03 April 2009

Measuring Improvement

How difficult do you think will be to get over 1800? I know that it's not easy.
Rolling Pawns, "Comment on 'Milestones'"

My present goal is to achieve a standard rating over 1800 by the end of the 2010 Collyer Memorial Tournament.
James Stripes, "USCF Rating History"
I can gain rating points with stellar results against local players, or with reasonably good results in the premier events that draw large numbers from out of town. In Spokane, two premier events remain within the time frame I've outlined: the 2009 Washington Open and the 2010 Collyer Memorial. Other events that will attract a few out of town players include the Eastern Washington Open in September.

As for local events, I'm skipping this year's Taxing Quads because I will not be able to focus effectively for reasons I've outlined.

How difficult? I could go over 1800 with a strong result in the Washington Open. On the other hand, a poor result could increase the difficulty of meeting my goal next February. There is also a chance that I will miss next year's Collyer because the high school team that I coach may finally make the trip to the Washington State High School Team Championship, which happens to be the same weekend.

I put forth a clear plan for improvement in "Resolutions," but have not followed it. Instead of my Tactics Training Plus, I've been working the Tactics Trainer at Chess.com. I have been limiting my online blitz, hardly playing it at all. I've played more than five games in a day half a dozen times, including seven games in a row against one of the computers on World Chess Live until I scored a coveted victory. Most days I do not play online blitz.

Three in a Row

Ratings are a measure, not the objective. I've set my goal of becoming a class A player not because I like numbers above 1800, but because the level of chess skill needed to reach that point is within my capabilities if I improve.

Although I have had setbacks, my play over the past eighteen months or so has seemed a step higher than 2006-2007. I have very few wins against Class A players. After an OTB win against a player floored at 1800 in 1996, my next win against an 1800+ was just over one year ago during the Collyer. In that event, I suffered only one loss: a quick thrashing by expert Steve Merwin. In the 2009 Collyer, I drew Merwin and finished the event without a loss.

In 2003, I earned a draw against IM John Donaldson after missing a clear win.

Black to move -+

That was part of a simul in which Donaldson went 26-2-2. I was thrilled to score the draw. When Elston Cloy ran out of time a few moves before he checkmated me in the 2005 Collyer Memorial, I had my first draw with a player over 1800 in rated play. That fall, I earned my second such draw in a game against Pat Herbers. Herbers peaked at 2106 in the early 1990s, but has been below 2000 since 2001. In 2006 I earned my third rated draw against a player over 1800 OTB.

In 2008, I had four. The best came during my match with David Sprenkle for the Spokane City Championship. Sprenkle was 2257 when we played three games, and I played him close in two. I missed that we had repeated the position in my loss in the morning, then earned a draw in the afternoon. Sprenkle's peak rating was over 2400 and he has wins over Jeremy Silman and other players of his ilk.

So far in 2009, I have two draws against players over 1800.

I've also won the last three blitz and rapid events at the Spokane Chess Club. I won March Madness, a dual-rated game/45 played over two Thursdays. The next week, I ran the table on nine others in a club blitz tournament. Then, last night I went five of six to win Lucky 7, a game/10 event that dropped my quick rating three points.

My recent performance demonstrates clear improvement, but getting over 1800 may be difficult.

02 April 2009

Setback: Delusions of Grandeur

In 2008, it seemed that my chess had reached new levels, that I was playing the best chess of my life. The last tournament of the year, Christmas Chaos, however, started poorly. I won my first game, but then missed a clear win in the second (see "Utter Chaos"). Then record breaking snow buried my city, and the tournament was temporarily suspended to resume in January. When it resumed, my victories in rounds three and four gave me first place in the tournament. I presented my round three game against Ron Weyland in "Anti-French Lunacy."

Riding the crest of a wave of success, I was confident going into the Spokane Chess Club's Winter Championship. At the start, I was the top seed.

My first round game was another White against Ron Weyland, a fellow French enthusiast. Rather than playing my normal Queen's pawn openings, I sought to demonstrate my clear superiority by inviting his French. Playing 1.e4 in rapid or blitz chess is one thing; playing such garbage with standard time controls in quite another. A friend called this choice greedy. I was completely outplayed. Through the course of the game, three times I made the decision to maintain tensions and material because I was the stronger player. Each time, his position improved and mine grew worse.

After this disaster, a late registrant joined the event. He was rated higher, so I became number two. As the highest rated zero, I was paired against the newcomer in round two (he was awarded a 1/2 point first round bye). I lost this game too. Later, he had his own setback and we finished in places 5-6 with even scores, while lower rated players won the event.

The event began in mid-January.

Stripes,J (1728) - Weyland,R (1444) [C12]
Winter Club Championship Spokane (1), 22.01.2009

1.e4 e6 2.d4

for 2.c4, see Lunacy.

2...d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Bb4

The McCutcheon French. I had a few interesting and instructive games on the Black side of this system in 2005, and so decided that I would try something that worked well against me in the 2005 Inland Empire Open.

5.e5 h6 6.Bd2

My other 2005 games continued with 6.exf6 hxg5. I did well as Black until I ran up against 6.Bd2.

6...Nfd7 7.Bd3 c5 8.Nb5

According to the computer, the second best move. More telling than post-game computer analysis: before the game, Ron and I had been talking about this very move in several variations of the French, and agreeing that we were unafraid. What is White planning? Does White intend to relieve Black of the bad French bishop?

8.Qg4 is the choice of silicon

8...Bxd2+ 9.Qxd2 0–0 10.c3 cxd4N

10...Nc6 11.Nf3 f6 12.exf6 Rxf6 13.0–0 a6 14.Na3 e5 15.Nxe5 Ndxe5 16.dxe5 Nxe5 17.Rad1 Nxd3 18.Qxd3 Be6 19.Nc4 Qc7 20.Ne3 Rd8 21.b4 cxb4 22.cxb4 d4 23.Qd2 Rd7 24.Nc2 d3 25.Ne3 Kostro,J-Bednarski,J, Wroclaw 1972 ½–½

11.cxd4 Nc6 12.Ne2

White's advantage, if any, is marginal. 8.Nb5 now seems to have been silly and senseless

12...f6 13.exf6

I didn't consider 13.Nf4

13...Qxf6 14.0–0

Obvious, but 14.f4 is more dynamic and consistent with the aggressive approach Michael Cambareri employed to beat me in 2005.

14...Qd8 15.Rac1 a6 16.Na3

A knight on the rim ...



17.Bc2 seems to have merit

17...Ndxe5 18.Bb1 Bf5

Trading bishops seems warranted, but thinking that I am the stronger player, I want to keep as much material on the board as possible. The mismatch between my self-assessment and my performance in this game produced a painful loss.

19.Nc2?! Nd3 20.Ng3??

20.Rcd1 Nxb2 21.Ne3 Nc4 22.Nxc4 Bxb1 23.Nb6 Qxb6 24.Qxd5+ Rf7 25.Rxb1 Qd8 26.Rfd1=


20...Nxc1 21.Nxf5 Rxf5 22.Rxc1–+


I did find a few strong moves in the course of this loss.

21... Nxc1 22.Bxh7+ Kxh7 23.Ne6 Qd6 24.Nxf8+ Rxf8 25.Rxc1=

I lost this game once, but my opponent let me back in the game.

25... Qf4

If I trade queens, it will be very difficult to lose, but winning would also seem elusive. I'm the stronger player (I believe), so the material must remain (and consequently my position soon begins to deteriorate).

26.Rd1 Qe5 27.Qc2+ g6 28.Qc5 Rd8 29.b3 Kg7 30.Nf1 d4


31.Qc2 is clearly stronger

31...Rd7 32.Ne3 Re7 33.Nf1 Qb5

Once again my opponent lets me back into the game. This time I have no choice.

34.Qxb5 axb5 35.Ng3 Kf6 36.Kf1 Ke5 37.Ne2 g5 38.f3 Rd7 39.Ke1 d3 40.Nc3!? b4



41... Kd4 42.Kd2 Ne5 43.Rc1 g4??

Black gives the game away


... and the "better player" fails to capitalize.


44... Rd6 45.Nxg4 b5?? 46.Ne3

46.Nxe5 gives White a theoretically won rook endgame.

46... Ra6 47.Ra1 Ra8!


The decisive error.

48.Nf5 and White has winning chances.

48... h5?

48...Nc4+! wins

49.Nf2 Rc8 50.Ke1

50.Rc1 seems more stubborn

50... Rc2 51.Kf1 d2 52.h3 Rc1+ 0–1