On Friday evening, January 14th, I received a call from Mr. Stephen Plotnick. He asked me about my upcoming 3rd annual Port of Burlington FIDE Open next weekend on the 28th of January. He said his son was really improving in chess with his new coach. He also asked if he could play and help direct the Rated Beginner Open (RBO) and get 5 rated games to help him up to the 25 required to be a local TD. I said sure, I am glad to help any aspiring TD, as there are too few of us as it is. Then he dropped the L bomb on me. “Yes, and I am bringing GM William Lombardy with me.”
“Sure, that would be OK….” I answered. Then, I offered a small speakers fee if GM Lombardy would give a lecture on the Friday before the tournament. Mr Plotnick yelled across the room to GM Lombardy and checked to see if he had the time to drive from the Chicago area to Burlington before 7 p.m. Everything checked out, and we were set.
GM William Lombardy arrived and talked to a small but enthusiastic crowd (yes, I will admit much smaller than at President Trump’s inauguration) at the Mississippi Manor Bed and Breakfast in Burlington, Iowa. GM Lombardy was dropping pearls of wisdom on the crowd. We were enthralled with stories of Najdorf’s 86th birthday party in Buenos Aries. Matt Power’s children, Clive and Josiah, even impressed GM Lombardy with their eloquent vocabulary and knowledge of Shakespeare!
GM Lombardy’s main point on chess was: Learn to play chess blindfolded! It will save you time because you won’t spend your time setting up and putting away the pieces. That is a concept I hadn’t thought of. I am going to ask GM Timur Gareyev on that one.
The people who came would probably still be chatting if I hadn’t had to call time. GM Lombardy probably needed some sleep after driving 4 hours, and I had to meet the custodian of The Loft in Burlington to set up the chess tables and get the espresso machine ready for the morning. At Last year’s Burlington Open, I neglected to bring my espresso machine as I had the first year of the Open. I never heard the end of it! In downtown Burlington, all the coffee houses close at 2 p.m., and there is no good coffee to be had. I like to take care of my chess players.
The next day, GM Lombardy came with his new adopted family, the Plotnick’s. I made GM Lombardy a coffee, and he sat down at the fair trade marketplace of The Loft where he proceeded to hold court. Players would go down and chat. GM Lombardy signed whatever was placed in front of him, told stories and answered questions about Bobby Fischer, and went over the games of any player who had guts enough to approach him. Well, once the first player did, then everyone started doing it.
Dr. Connie Pieper came up to me while her 11 year old sons, Justin and Eric, were having one of their games analyzed by GM Lombardy. She was amazed and asked, “Is that really GM Lombardy? Is it the same one that coached the 11-year-old Bobby Fischer and is now explaining my son’s chess game move by move?”
I could only look back at her and smile, “Yes it sure is.” Then, as she walked off, I called out to her, “You know, you should probably take a picture.” I could see her do an internal Homer Simpson “Doh!” inside her head as her pace quickened to get downstairs to capture the picture while it was still happening.
NTD William Broich, an avid chess historian, was beside himself with delight. After the RBO and reserve sections were complete, I watched the Open section for Bill as he and GM Lombardy talked away for a couple hours.
The tournament’s champion, Rithwik Mathur, drew his fourth game with Arshaq Saleem in a quick fashion. I joked with him as he passed by about taking a grandmaster draw, to which GM Lombardy scowled, “If you want to get better you never go for a draw, I am a grandmaster I should know!” I had to chuckle.
I love Rithwik as I have watched him mature. I remember at the first Burlington Open when I was explaining the difference between FIDE and USCF rules he was insistent on getting an extra queen at his side to make sure he had one. And when I played him, he called NTD Broich over to complain about me as I would write “c4 BOOM!” on my scoresheet whenever either player landed a piece on the c4 square (GM Wesley So had just lost a game for writing on his scoresheet. I also draw a boat when I land a queen to e2). I stopped my extra writings for the rest of the game. Rithwik then sat and spent time with GM Lombardy getting Fischer stories.
GM Lombardy found a local cigar store, bought some fancy cigars, and would walk outside. When he came in, he smelled like my great grandfather and his King Edward cigars. We always got the boxes for our school supplies as a kid.
Suresh Kumar won the 3rd annual Port of Burlington reserve section. Mr. Kumar’s good deeds were well rewarded as he drove Darina Kulaha, a Ukrainian high school foreign exchange student, to the tournament and Siva Mennengi and his mother home. His Car had 90% of the prize money on the ride home as Darina won 2nd, and Siva tied for 3rd.
The 3rd annual Port of Burlington rated beginners open ended in a three way tie between Lisa Acherkan, John Nealy Thomas, and Krishna Bharadwaj—with John Nealy Thomas winning on tiebreaks. My heart went pitty pat as Lisa is my chess student, and she has been losing close games at tournaments recently. I have been telling her she was playing well, and she just needed to watch for hanging pieces. She looked out! And she was rewarded.
Overall, I had a great time running the Port of Burlington FIDE Open. We had players from three and half federations represented (Eva Harrison is a dual citizen from Germany and the United States). Many players will earn their FIDE rating from this tournament. The late Sevan Muradian would be proud. I feel blessed for having GM Lombardy come to my tournament and loved the joy it created amongst my chess players.