For our next state, we travel to an unusual one in Oklahoma. This state is where the story becomes kind of wild. For starters, had to do a business trip in Dallas. Looked at geography and knew Texas was in the bag. However, debated between traveling to Arkansas, Louisiana or Oklahoma. Selected Oklahoma as closest one and biggest chess activity among the three.
I spoke to Oklahoma City Chess Club and an older man named Tommy Hay put me in contact with their club. A 2100 stated he would play and he was really nice guy. We chatted and he was very passionate on chess. Agreed to play me there. Problem was his brother’s company had an injury to employee so he had to back out and work double shifts. Understood as things happen. Sadly, the “backup” chickened out 3 days before event. He was very rating protective and got cold feet. So it was back to meeting Tommy but the issue was I had to drive to Oklahoma City from Dallas.
Got into Dallas on a Tuesday and high tailed it to hotel. Checked in and took a shower with my rental car reservation ready to go. Thing was I picked up car at 4:00 and thought “I will never make it by 7:00”. Called Tommy and he said “Don’t worry Andy. You can go like 90 out here.” I kept thinking he’s crazy but sure enough I was going at least 80 the entire way. Oklahoma is a very flat state with lots of Indian Reservations so it is much different than states like New Jersey or Massachusetts. Good friend NM Andy Rea told me before trip to take a SUV as Oklahoma has really bad weather at times. Took his advice and this deemed critical.
I got to Oklahoma City on time and played Tommy twice with easy wins. He was a good sport to play and then I looked at the sky leaving with trouble on the horizon. The color of the sky was death black and it scared me to be honest. It was a torrential storm unlike I had ever seen in Virginia or Maryland as there are no bays or mountains to stop nasty storms. It was not a tornado but oh it felt like it.
I was very careful driving back but the first 30 minutes were let’s say dangerous. But with my trusted SUV, it was all clear as a smaller car may have flooded. Once I got to Norman, Oklahoma the sky cleared up and it was a smooth drive back to Dallas. Our next state was same week in Texas.
For our next tourney, we go out west to California. In July 2018, had to do a business trip to San Francisco for 2 days so left early on a Sunday morning from Virginia so I could play in final round of event. The coordination was tricky but it worked.
- Emailed TD requesting that I play in final round. TD was very popular there so he approved request.
- Take early flight out so if any delays occurred I would still get to play.
- Ensure I was registered on website.
Luckily my flight did not experience delays as a crystal clear morning and a very smooth ride. Thankfully they had a TV system on flight so the 5 hour flight flew by. Got to San Francisco airport around 12:30 and the round was at 2:30 so still okay. Took the BART metro system to Berkeley for the People’s tournament. Among notables playing was GM Enrico Sevillano and IM Vincent McCambridge. Observed some other FM’s and IM’s and I got to Berkeley at 1:30. Problem was they provided wrong metro stop so I had to walk 3 miles in 90 degree heat to get to site at UC-Berkeley. At that point, I knew whomever I played was in for a tough game as was very determined to win.
Got to tourney hall and someone pulled fire alarm at event so they had to delay last round. Got paired versus some random 1800 kid and won very easily as black. He obtained a very cramped white side of Grunfeld and by the end, he refused to resign despite being down heavy material. He got mated in end and the result recorded. The players from California were generally friendly and the TD’s did a solid job. The event was recorded and then it was off to work.
If anyone is traveling though by flight to play chess, plan ahead. The next state is the home of Tiger King in Oklahoma!
In 2018, I attended 4 different business trips within 2 months! Lots of travel that summer and the first of the states is Georgia. Flew down to Atlanta and coordinated the chess activity about 3 weeks before. I spoke to GM Ben Finegold’s wife and she assured me I could get a game. After day 1 of business trip, headed over by taxi to the Roswell Chess Club. It only cost $15 for trip each way and got there with plenty of time to spare. Had quick dinner and then observed the club.
It was casual club night so she ended up playing me in house game. Their club was very clean and spacious with good chairs/tables. I observed some bug house games and after my game concluded, GM Ben Finegold asked me if I wanted to play. He asked me unrated or rated and went with unrated as didn’t want any pressure for either of us. In game 1, I lost fairly easily in a bad Qxd4 Sicilian for black. Position got all crunched and no activity.
But in game 2, I landed him in a Two Knights Defense line where I knew 20+ moves of theory and knew most of the main ideas. I was up a clear pawn and the technique was solid so I won. He was very surprised I won but a great sport. Only second time I beat a GM in person in any format (won versus GM Kaufman in a Fischer Random event in 2010) so it was fun. He was very funny and had some good chess stories. Asked me if I wanted a ride back to hotel which I took up on offer. One of the best overall masters I have met and I highly recommend attending this club. The players in Georgia were very friendly and my only regret is I did not hit up Alabama! The next state on list is California for the Berkeley Open.
Back in 2018 went up to New York with wife on a weekend business trip. Knew she was busy with work so hit up the Marshall Chess Club. Took the metro over there which wasn’t bad but then I ran into some issues. For one, their club does not allow any house games. Only club I have ever seen that disapproved of this practice. The tournament directors I found to be unfriendly to be honest so getting a game was tough. Arrived at the end of round 1 and for round 2 they refused to pair me as an even number. They didn’t even try to pair me versus a tournament director or anything.
Luckily in round 3, they had an odd number and begrudgingly paired me versus a 1400 and the opponent was 20 minutes late. After he showed up I won in 15 minutes and then left. Got this one off my checklist and will not be heading there any time soon. This state wasn’t a pleasant experience but thankfully the next state on list of Georgia was a truly memorable experience in a positive way.
For our fourteenth state, we turn to West Virginia. Most of the states were fun visits but this one was lukewarm but mostly due to my own errors. I decided to play in a blitz the night before at ACC and did okay, but not super. Thus I was tired when making the long drive to Morgantown from Washington DC area and was not focused at all. In my first game, my opponent knew the theory of Two Knights Defense well (despite being only 1550) and achieved an easy draw versus me. This result definitely shook me up and I was clearly not in good form. Round 2 was an easy win but in Round 3 I played sloppy all around but still won easily versus a 1900 due to number of mistakes by opponent. Round 4 I was very fortunate as was clearly worse entire game versus 2100 opponent however I snatched a draw with a few endgame tricks. My opponent pressed too hard when a draw was all he needed to clinch first overall.
An older master from Maryland once told me “Offer an early draw to clinch clear first if needed in final round” I agree with his advice as you don’t have to deal with the what-ifs and it is only rating points. My opponent thought otherwise but here is the funny part. 4 other people tie with me to get 3/4. Normally you divide the prizes up to give the class players the optimal amount of money. TD ignored this key principle and simply handed me $75 for second and divided the other players crumbs and gave them each $10.
Knowing good fortune has bestowed upon me, I took the money and drove off. A good example of why being a TD and an active player can benefit one in key situations! The drive home was tricky as bad weather until I hit Maryland and the whole experience was an odd one. Our fifteenth state in New York.
For our next state, we warp to September 2016 to the warm confines of Phoenix, Arizona. At my old company, Liquidity Services, we had to do tax software training for a few days (took over functions from another office) so they flew us to Arizona. When we arrived it was very hot but not in a humid way so it was fine. We took a rental car to Scottsdale and then began work on a late Monday. There were good restaurants nearby like Macaroni Grill and CPK but I wondered: were there any chess facilities?
I searched around and found one literally 1 mile away from hotel. I walked there after work and approached a club officer about playing but he gave me the cold shoulder. His explanation was they had a Swiss and the players were much weaker. Thought this was a lame excuse as lower rated players should strive to play higher rated people as they can learn more. Kept looking for tourneys and low and behold, I found one!
Problem was my flight was a red-eye leaving on a Thursday night back to Virginia. I spoke to the tournament director a day before event who informed me he was having an event on a Thursday night. A co-worker drive me from Scottsdale to Phoenix and then I would take a cab from Phoenix to airport. Thank goodness for UBER! The co-worker was a really good sport about it and dropped me off around 5:30 pm. The tourney started at 6:00 pm. First guy I met was a disgruntled 1900 who was upset he was paying entry fee with no real chance to win money. But enough about him as I ran into a senior master in Joel Johnson. He was really funny and a nice guy who knew lots of the same people I did from Massachusetts. Joel published some very good books and was a dangerous attacker I heard of.
In round 1, I won easily versus a random 1750 but in round 2, I faced a WFM from Cuba named Liulia Cardona. She played a quiet line of the Bird and I got a better version of Closed Sicilian. We swapped off some pieces and then it was an even rook endgame so thus a drawn game. She had an interesting story as got hurt by FIDE and should have landed FM title, but something went wrong in rating of events. To their credit, she and Joel still are north of 2200 and teach regularly. Of course Cuba was the home of GM Jose Raoul Capablanca. Both my opponents, Joel and the TD were very friendly and welcoming to me. TD was nice guy as didn’t charge any entry fee either. I left at 8:30 pm for my 10:30 flight and thought “What a fun experience playing in Phoenix”. Our next state in West Virginia for number 14.
For our twelfth state, we turn to Vermont. Of the states on the east coast, this one has the least amount of overall chess action as it is very nature based with low population density. Not particularly close to Boston either. Thus finding tourneys is very hard. However, the CCA held a tourney there in 2008 so figured it would be worth a try. Drove up early on a Saturday morning to avoid paying extra lodging and the hotel was quite nice. Very rustic feel but nice. In round 1 I noticed there were only about 8 players but the prize fund was still fairly solid. The event had 2 strong young players and some other adults. Round 1 didn’t go according to plan as lost badly to a young expert in Sicilian Najdorf. Knew I had to win in round 2 to have any chance of contention and thankfully I did. Round 3 went into a forced draw in Two Knights Defense which was a big mistake on my part. Against weaker players you should play for the win.
Due to low turnout though, I landed a full point bye in round 4 sitting at 1.5/3. That was great though as had extra time to prepare and rest for key round 5 game. The opponent was future FM Deepak Aaron. When I played him he was about 2100 but is much stronger now. Game was dead even for first 30 moves but then by some miracle, I played the endgame with very few mistakes and ground down white to secure the win. It was one of those endgames you just remember through your chess career where you played 2400+ level. A rare moment and a deserved 2nd place finish. The high finish paid for the hotel and entry fee so the tourney wasn’t a flop. CCA stopped running events there to avoid losing money so outside of your traditional state championship, you see very few events there.
At this point we are done with the New England area states. Moved back to Maryland in 2009 so didn’t play there again. A very long hiatus until I play in next state which is Arizona in 2016.
For our next state, we turn to Connecticut. Back in 2008 I visited UCONN several times to play in tournaments. They have a college chess club and welcomed it to the public. UCONN is about 90 minutes from Boston so it is accessible. However, in one event I played in for 2008 I faced GM Alexander Ivanov. Thought I was all ready to go with Sicilian Dragon but of course he knew the opening far better than me and I was busted by move 25. Risky openings are not suited against GM’s. However, a future DCCL master DID win against him that day in Daniel Lowinger. Daniel Lowinger got over 2400 for a while and showed tremendous improvement while I peeked around 2240. Connecticut does not have much of a chess culture as it is a transient state between New York and Massachusetts. They do have some strong players there though such as GM Sergey Kudrin but outside of Hartford and Fairfield, very few events pre-2020. Our next state trip is to Vermont (which has very few tourneys).
For our tenth state we turn to Rhode Island. Surprisingly for its size, their chess scene is okay as you have overlapping players from Hartford to Boston who play. My first tourney there was a tornado event. It had a fairly even distribution with a few masters and few people in class section. What was interesting was a NM there in Miro reverby played. He gained fame in 1980s with a movie called men who would be kings. It chronicled the park scene for chess of New York in 1980s. It is definitely worth a view as one of the main characters is the prototype for Lawrence fishburn character in searching for Bobby Fischer. In the event I finished near top but not at the top as drew FM curdo in final round. Our next state is Connecticut.
With a clutch victory over the Arlington storm, black knights won the amateur title in July. 3 teams still in contention in reserve section heading into August. However, mojo reserve have draw odds in final match.