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Blog 2005/2006

Follow the adventures of the Clatskanie Chess Club at the HB Foundation Tournament in Minneapolis MN, May 18- 22, 2005

MAY 17, 2005

The trip to Minneapolis was pretty uneventful.  The boys were excited and had a tough time eating when all they wanted to do was play chess, read about chess, talk about chess, think about chess and... well, you get the picture.  If only I'd had a way to make chessboard sandwiches with rook chips! 

The hotel is fabulous!  We're very close to breakfast, swimming and the gym.  There's a skyway that takes you to the convention center.  We arrived at 11 pm, the cab driver dropped us off outside what looked like a beat up, dilapidated warehouse with "caution" tape everywhere.  We had to push through a creaky circular door and step over a pile of wood and debris.  At first, I didn't want to go in there.  But the foreign speaking cab driver just kept pointing, nodding and saying "In.  Yes.  In."   We took the elevator to the registration area and walking into ... heaven.  With huge potted plants and trees, a 4-story waterfall, plush carpet... what a strange adventure! 

The May family had the same sort of experience. They took the light rail train to the hotel, walked four blocks and couldn't find the entrance!  Norm didn't say, but he was probably thinking... "Uh Oh another Kate adventure!"(My last few excursions on Expedia have led us to some strange places.) But they finally made it and are living upstairs in palatial accommodations! They have two bedrooms, three TVs, a living room, breakfast bar and a view of the city! What a relief! (see Jonna... I can find nice hotels with pools!)

That's it for now.

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Blake Salisbury practices an opening on the plane

MAY 18, 2005

All dressed up... and someplace to go!
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One of the biggest chess tournaments (in many different ways)... or as Amy calls it "The HB Championship and Price is Right!" was about to begin.  With a tempting $500,000 prize fund there was a flood of last minute registrations.  There were 2000 anticipated players from 38 different countries, (50 of them Grand Masters), and every single one of them had set their sights on the biggest prize fund in the history of chess!
 
As we entered the registration area you could hear the usual chatter about pairings, postings and pre-tournament jitters.  But intermixed within it all was a new, exciting undercurrent with the flavor of different languages and unusual dialects. 
 
There are booths with the usual chess wares, but a few exotic items as well.  Like giant wooden chess sets valued at $1200+.  There was every kind of reference book you can imagine.  Some new.  Some old.  Just before you entered the playing area there were free back massages available to help players relax just before the rounds began.   
 
We peeked inside the playing room and our breath was taken away!  Red carpeting lined the floors, a royal touch we all enjoyed.  The room is huge but also kind of cozy, with excellent lighting and that wonderful smell of new chess sets. 
 
The HB opening ceremonies began with an armored truck arriving through two huge doors at the back of the tournament room.  Armed guards walked to the side of the truck and opened the doors wide, revealing... no not stacks of cash... another treasure, Maurice Ashley and an entourage of celebrities.  They waved to the audience and marched ceremoniously to the front of the room amidst the lovely music of a brass band. 
 
Brian Molohon, Executive Director of the HB Foundation invited everyone there to "Tell your stories to the people you meet.  Tell them how chess has improved or changed your life, or the life of someone you know.  Let's bring chess the recognition it deserves.  We need to get people excited about chess so that more tournaments like this can happen!"  Then, he introduced the Minnesota Chess Federation President, who gave the usual "welcome to Minnesota" speech, and then ended with "Let good sportsmanship prevail!". 
 
In the midst of all the pomp and circumstance, Carol Jarecki was quietly and efficiently setting up the playing area for the Open division.  She kept surreptitiously checking her watch, obviously worried that all this "fancy" stuff would put her tournament behind schedule. 
 
Just to add to her frustration, and actually to the delight of everyone there, a note was handed to Brian Molohon and he called someone up to the podium.  The man then called a woman up to the stage and in front everyone present said "You're my queen and I'd like to capture you.", got down on one knee and proposed.  The room was quiet until she said "Yes" and then everyone cheered!  As they left the stage amidst applause and cheers, an audience member hollered out "Good Move"!
 
And then, Maurice Ashley took the stage.  He is a dramatic and exciting speaker.  Although, before he could utter a word, the audience jumped to their feet in a standing ovation! 
 
Maurice talked about the last minute registrations and even mentioned one of our contingent, "...we have everyone from a 72-year-old guy who called and said "I'm hopping in my car and I'm coming!"  and we even have a 9-year-old girl playing in our tournament.  I'd watch out for her, she could be the next Judith Polgar!"  (Sarah is the only 9-year-old girl there!)
 
The local people I've seen are:
 
WASHINGTON
Todd May  U1800
Andy May U1800
Sarah May U1400
Keegan Knutson U2000
Jerry Larkin
 
OREGON
Drew Serres U2000
Blake Salisbury U2200
Michael Taylor U1600
Carl Haessler Open
Dale ?
Richard Banner
Colin Field-Eaton
 
Results of round one:
 
Andy May in a spectacular early finish annihilated his opponent in 24 moves just one hour after the start of the game! 
 
Drew, Todd & Sarah lost their games.
 
Blake and Keegan won on time. 
 
Keegan was losing and down to 30 seconds on his clock.  The other guy had 14 minutes.  Keegan's plan was to keep making complicated moves that made his opponent think so that he would have time to look at the game.  His opponent wasn't keeping track of time and started moving too fast, blundered and then lost on time during the first time control. 
 
Mike won!  
 
Here's the game (I'll post more games as we get them in Fritz):
1. d4 g6
2. Bf4 Bg7
3. c3 d6
4. Nf3 Nd7
5. Nbd2 b6
6. a4 a5
7. e3 Bb7
8. Be2 Ngf6
9. h3 O-O
10. O-O Rb8
11. Re1 Rc8
12. Qb3 Ba8
13. Bf1 Ne4
14. Nxe4  Bxe4 
15. Ng5 Ba8
16. Bc4 e6
17. Bxe6 d5
18. Bxd5 Bxd5 
19. Qxd5 Qe7
20. Nf3 Nf6
21. Qc4 Ne4
22. Rad1 Kh8
23. Nd2Nxd2
24. Rxd2 Qe4
25. Qd3 Qe8
26. b3 Qe7
27. Ra2 Rfd8
28. Qb1 Qd7
29. Rc1 Re8
30. b4 Ra8
31. b5 Bf8
32. c4 Rac8
33. c5 f5
34. cxb6 cxb6
35. Rxc8 Rxc8
36. Rc2 Be7
37. Qc1 Rxc2
38. Qxc2 Bd8
39. Qc4 Kg7
40. Qc6 Qe7
41. Qd6 Qxd6
42. Bxd6 Kf7
43. d5 Ke8
44. Kf1 Kd7
45. Be5 Bc7
46. Bxc7 Kxc7
47. f3 Kd6
48. e4 h5
49. Ke2 f4
50. h4 1-0
 

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Mike (L) makes his move!

MAY 19, 2005

Todd, Keegan & Drew review their games
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The last player, Mike, finished round one at about 10:30 pm. Everyone was famished, but the only restaurant open was a sports bar in the Hyatt hotel. I was a little hesitant, but the boys insisted that it would be an "adventure". When we walked in the door, it felt like home! There were wall-to-wall chess players, chess sets and the familiar chess speak everywhere you went.
 
We found seats close to the door, but within easy TV viewing. The boys caught up on the latest sports news, while I people watched. Just as we placed our order, two classy looking gentlemen walked in with their spouses/girlfriends. I asked Blake if he knew who they were. He looked up, took a double take and then whispered... "It's Larry Christiansen and Joel Benjamin!" Two of the superstars of chess.

Round 2 results:
Won - Blake, Sarah, Drew
Draw - Keegan
Lost - Mike, Todd, Andy

In round two, Sarah won her game with a great tactic, by pinning her opponents queen to his king!

The entire trip has been a great learning experience for all of the kids!

They've done a lot of research and practice between every round. Blake brings out his "Modern Chess Openings" book at every opportunity and they all discuss the best openings to use during the tournament. What works. What doesn't, etc.

Just before round two, they handed out a newsletter of the daily activities and we discovered Keegan had won a private lesson with a grandmaster that he could claim after his round. The pairings of teacher/student would be made at random in the Grandmaster Suite, depending on which GM was available when you showed up.

While Keegan went to his lesson, we decided to head for lunch. I sent Blake in to find out what Keegan wanted to eat. He came running back... "I don't know what he wants to eat, but I get to sit in on the lesson too!" When they both came back, I asked them how it went. They were grinning from ear-to-ear and Blake said, "We got a lesson with Nick de Firmian!!!" Who just happens to be the author of Blake's "Modern Chess Openings" book! What a thrill to actually meet one of his heroes and have a lesson in one of his favorite openings (that he'd been showing Keegan)... The Shveznikov Sicilian.

Just as round 3 was about to begin, they announced that Blake had won a position in a simul with a grandmaster. Talk about a lucky guy!

Round 3:
Won: Drew, Andy
Drew: Mike, Todd
Lost: Sarah, Blake, Keegan

In Round 3, Andy won after being behind for most of the game. According to Todd, "He was in a completely bad position!" Although... Andy says he had a "plan". He had no pawns and no counterplay and only two good pieces. He knew he needed to open the A file, so he sacked a rook for a knight and within a very short time was smashing his opponent and won!

Blake lost to someone who was definitely not a poster child for "good sportsmanship".

Drew won his third round game by forcing a lot of pawns at his opponent and in just 24 moves in the span of 32 minutes was back in the skittles room with Norm, Donna and me!

Periodically throughout the day, they were holding GM blitz exhibition games in the skittles room. The first one took place just as Drew walked in the room. They were looking for a chess set to borrow and Drew handed his over. They invited Drew to sit next to GM Izaria while he duked it out with GM Kachich Ville. GM Izaria won. As they handed Drew his set... I leaned over and whispered "Just think of all the great chess vibes your set just got from those two GMs!" He just grinned and nodded.
 
Because Drew had been so kind, they invited him to play in the GM simul in the Grandmaster Suite and said he could bring a friend. Just as he was leaving, Todd walked in and they both happily went off to play their game. They were the only two to draw their game against GM John Fedorowicz!

Everyone finished by 9:30 pm and we headed back to the hotel for a bit of swimming and a latenight supper. 10 hours of sleep and a light breakfast and we were back in the thick of things for rounds 4 & 5 on Friday! 

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Drew & Todd play their simul game!

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Drew watches the GM Blitz Demonstration (Izaria is on the left... the ultimate winner of $50,000)

MAY 20, 2005
After swimming on Thursday evening, Mike plugged his game into Fritz and found out that his draw could have easily been a win, but he just didn't see it. I gave him my standard, "If you believe it, you can win" speech. He fell asleep as I softly whispered to him about having confidence in his abilities and believing in himself.

Round 4:
Won - Blake, Andy, Mike, Drew
Draw - Todd
Lost - Keegan, Sarah

Mike finished early so we went back to the room for some lunch and a rest while Blake and Keegan watched some games in the simul room. We munched on a weird combination of mexican and chinese food for lunch and shared fortune cookies for dessert. Mike opened his and burst out laughing. It said, "Have confidence. Let it be your guide." I laughed and then opened mine, it said, "You won't be bored for long. An adventure awaits!" We laughed at that, but I thought... boring is okay. I'm really fine with boring. While Mike took a power nap, Blake and Keegan came back to the hotel for a quick dip at the pool. And then we were back for round 5.

Todd was losing... badly... he decided to try for a draw and started trading off pieces like crazy! His opponent was so taken aback by his strange behavior that he completely forgot to keep track of his time and was down to just seconds on his clock.  Then he blundered and realized he had only a king and a knight left and a draw was his only hope!

Round 5:
Won - Todd, Mike, Andy, Drew
Draw - Keegan
Lost Blake, Sarah

Andy, once again, finished quickly in 18 moves. His opponent said, "I've never lost so fast to someone so close to my rating!" His opponent resigned because Andy was going to win his queen. Somebody needs to talk to him about "Never give up, never surrender!" But... maybe after the tournament.


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Can you spot Hikaru Nakamura?

MAY 21, 2005
The scholastic tournament started today, with 200 entries from the local area and a few brothers and sisters from HB participants.  A new crop of faces in the skittles room with a few more moms and dads. Josh Waitzkin (from Searching for Bobby Fisher) gave a speech about his activities and encouraged kids to play chess. 
 
In the big event, the 3-day players merged with the 5-day, creating much larger sections and a different kind of chess player... a little faster and a little more aggressive.
 
Blake is fighting off a cold today.  I've given him some Claritin and aspirin and he seems to be feeling better. 
 
The skittles room is filled with desperate chess players looking for a spare set to review a game.  It's very different from the tournaments in our area where everyone brings a board.  You can't leave a set unattended before a couple of wild-eyed chess players abscond with it for a not-so-instant replay of their game. 
 
Yesterday we met someone from Wisconsin who wanted to join the boys in a King vs 8 pawns game that they were playing.  He teaches chess in his town and was a really interesting guy.  He taught us some new chess variations to play at chess club and I'll show them to you guys when we get back. 
 
There's also a different kind of set that I'm very tempted to buy for the club.  It comes with little collars that you place on the pieces when you capture an opponents piece.  Your piece can now move like itself and the captured piece for one move.  Everyone is really enjoying it and the thought of getting it at a discount without having to pay shipping is quite appealing! 
 
There are squishy stress-relieving balls shaped like brains and tons of books and chess "stuff" for sale. 
 
A group of players from New York are very loud and funny and offering to play blitz for cash.  Just like in Washington Square in searching for Bobby Fisher.  Some adults take them on, but not many.  It's interesting to watch.  They do a lot of tough chess talk just like in the movie too.
 
Round 6
 
Win      Drew, Sarah, Mike
Draw    Keegan
Loss     Todd
 
Don't know yet about Andy and Blake.  When I left to get lunch Andy was winning and Blake was in a drawish position (which he really doesn't like!).
 
Keegan drew his game after thinking about the end game for 50 minutes and trying to find a win.  He's a little disappointed because he wanted to win... but he just couldn't find it.  I'm sure Fritz will help him with that later tonight.
 
We ran into Carl earlier.  He's got 4/6 wins so far.  He was one of the wild-eyed players in search of a board... so I took pity on him and invited him to use Todd's. 
 
Just in case you're not keeping track... Drew now has 5/6 wins and is doing a fabulous job!
 
The HB Foundation asked Donna and me if they could interview us for their website and news releases.  We included Drew, Todd, Sarah, Mike and Keegan as well.  I guess it will be on their website in the next day or two.
 
Round 7 will begin shortly. 
 
More later...
 
Round 7 was a killer!
 
The boys (and girl) are all exhausted, but holding up well.  It's been kind of like running a marathon of the mind.  Only an hour between rounds and not a lot of time to rest.  Everything is within walking distance, but it takes time. 
 
But first, the final results from round 6 were  Andy & Blake drew.
 
Round 7:
Win     Nobody!
Draw   Todd, Sarah, Keegan, Drew & Andy
Loss    Blake & Mike
 
Everyone has had their moments of ecstatic victory and just agonizing defeats.
 
Blake lost the last round to a 10-year-old boy from New York.  That was a very hard round.  He was a strong opponent with lots of twists and turns in his play.
 
Andy drew his game with a 3 position repetition.  It was a disappointment.  He wanted to go for the win. 
 
At the end of the last round everyone was just glad to have it over.
 
During the entire tournament we've been playing "Where's Keegan?"  He sort of blends in with the crowd and does a lot of walking around during his game.  Every few minutes someone will come back to report on the games and, at the end, inevitably say "Where's Keegan?  I couldn't find him to check on his game!"  We've decided he needs one of those cardboard cutouts to stick in his chair when he's roaming around so we can at least check to see how he's doing!
 
The dress code... what dress code?... is nonexistent.  After day three, everyone in the tournament just started wearing their usual outfits.  Except for Andy and Mike.  Andy has a new pair of nice khaki shorts to replace his tournament reds.  Mike is still wearing his nice clothes.  He looks very professional and... adorable!  We didn't get a photo of the group on the first day... now it's too late.  But I'll try to get one of Mike before the round tomorrow morning. 
 
The boys are enjoying a lot of bughouse with new and interesting partners/players.  Some speak English... some don't.  And we've made a lot of new friends from all over the world.
 
Tomorrow is the BIG DAY!  Everything will be decided by 9 pm and we'll probably head directly to bed (I can hope) because we have a 5 am checkout time to make it to the airport in time for our flight. 
 
I think everyone is missing home and their own beds.  But it's been an amazing adventure. 

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Sarah ponders her position

MAY 22, 2005

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Round 8 results:
Win      Drew, Andy, Mike, Blake, Keegan
Draw    Sarah, Todd
Loss     Nobody!
 
Blake had to play two of the top 10-year-olds in the nation in rounds 7 & 8.  In round 7 he lost, round 8 he won. 
 
Drew was in a good position for most of his game.  He sacked a piece, thinking it would give him an attack, but instead it gave his opponent the advantage.  He realized his mistake and decided to go for his only hope... he pushed his pawn to open up the position.  If his opponent took the pawn, it would be mate in 1.  If not, his opponent could win.  He took the pawn!  Drew said it was a cheap threat, but I think it turned out to be quite expensive.  At least for his opponent.
 
Andy was in a drawn position for most of his game.  His opponent pushed a pawn to create some counterplay, which allowed Andy to put his knight in a strong position and ultimately get a passed pawn and win material. 
 
Mike's opponent had 3 pawns (one of them was a passed pawn) and Mike had a bishop and a pawn.  Mike's pieces were stretched pretty thin trying to push his pawn and stop his opponent from queening.  Eventually, he got his opponents pawns on squares that the bishop could cover and the king gobbled them up.  His opponent resigned when Mike was one square away from queening. 
 
Sarah's opponent had one extra pawn, but somehow they both ended up with queens.  When that happened, her opponent offered a draw and after quite a bit of thought, she accepted.
 
Earlier today we ran into Peter Pritchet from PCC.  He's having a great time.  I'm not sure of his score. 
 
With all the resigning going on, I asked the boys what they usually do in sticky situations.  Drew said he's likely to resign if he thinks he will ultimately lose a game and it may take a long time, so that he can rest between rounds.  (That's probably good advice for the very long games at this tournament.)
 
Andy said that if there's any chance of drawing the game, he sticks it out.  He will resign though if he's sure he can't win and can't force a draw.
 
Mike doesn't resign.  Just as an example, during the previous round, when he lost, his opponent had a King, Queen and Bishop and couldn't figure out how to checkmate... if you can believe that of a 1500 rated player!  I guess Mike kept trying to stalemate and was complicating the game as much as possible. 
 
Blake is feeling worse.  This morning he woke up all achy and congested.  One more round to go...
 
Round 9
Win     Nobody
Draw   
    Andy ended with 6.5 points
    Mike ended with 6 points
    Todd ended with 3.5 points
 
Loss   
    Drew ended with 6.5 points losing his first and last rounds
    Blake ended with 4.5 points
    Sarah ended with 3 points
    Keegan ended with 4 points
 
Todd was playing a lovely senior citizen that Donna had befriended early in the tournament.  They ended his game in a draw.  Just for the fun of it, they played the game out quickly and Todd ended with a K vs. 3 pawns and a K.  So... the draw was a good choice for him.
 
Andy ended with a knight on the only open file. There wasn't much they could do and it was drawish most of the game.  Since there wasn't much difference between 6.5 and 7 points, they decided to call it a draw.  Andy joked, "I thought everyone else would finish early so we could go swimming!" 
 
Drew got into a bad position and couldn't see any way to recover.  So, in 25 moves, he resigned.
 
Blake's final round was against a possible future opponent at the Denker.  He was from Colorado. 
 
Both Drew and Blake came up against the closed Sicilian in 8 games this tournament.  It's a weird opening that you usually don't see very often.
 
Mike's game ended with bishops of opposite colors.  He tried to get rid of a pesky knight and got a pawn for his efforts.  His opponent castled and then retreated all of his pieces.  He must have seen something that Mike didn't... because they both decided to go for a draw.  His opponent commented, "There's no way you're a 1440!"
 
Keegan was crushing his opponent out of the opening and then messed up.  It was the London vs Kings Indian.  He captured a pawn, missed a tactic and lost a piece.
 
Just before the final round, Drew and Mike received a free pass into the elusive "Grandmaster Suite".  They were both very excited and rushed into the room to have a look.  All they saw was one GM sitting in the corner reading the paper and when they walked in... he left!  All they had to report was that they served coffee to the GMs... which wasn't all that exciting to either of them.
 
The awards ceremony was delayed until 11 pm tonight.  The kids all decided to go for a swim and relax at the hotel.  Mike, Drew and Andy all signed papers for their checks to be mailed to them.  So... at this point we don't know how much they've won.  We're not even sure whether Mike will receive anything... but odds are he will. 
 
It's almost midnight and we're scheduled to leave for the airport tomorrow morning at 4 am.  The boys are still talking chess and I've been trying to get them to bed for two hours. 
 
I suppose there'll be time for sleeping on the plane.
 
See you soon!

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A bit of bughouse with players from NY

MAY 23, 2005

Three Thinkers
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Last night, Norm (who shall henceforth be called Nutty Norm) walked back to the Convention Center at midnight to check on the results.  Chess diehards were still there playing chess in the skittles room!  So I guess Norm wasn't as Nutty as we first thought!  We were delighted to discover that Mike, Drew and Andy had all won $300+.
 
HB representatives reported that, this first year, they lost money on the tournament.  But they're hoping to come back next year with a few more sponsors and many more players from around the world! 
 
The trip home was fairly uneventful.  The boys slept... and I did too... since we didn't get to bed until very late and got up at 3:30 am to get ready to catch our flight home.  The May family decided to take light rail to the airport and were delayed for quite a while, but they made their flight home safe and sound.
 
Many thanks to Janine Salisbury who met us at the airport with a smorgasbord of goodies and a welcoming smile.
 
Thanks too, to the May's for keeping us company on our chess journey.  It made the trip a LOT less stressful and a LOT more FUN!
 
 

FOLLOW UP

 
There were many other stories and events that happened during our trip.  Too many to write about here.  To learn more... talk to some of the participants for a recap of events from their unique perspective.

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