Photo Anne Buskirk
Takeaway 1: Material Matters
Sometimes, in chess, greed is punished mightily. Other times, however, avarice can be richly rewarded. Take for example the following round 8 game, which turned out to be extremely critical in the standings. GM Alexander Shabalov spent a few tempi with the queen in the middlegame in order to grab a solitary pawn, after which he never let go of the reins. Without this victory, Shaba wouldn’t have been in contention for first in the final round.
Takeaway 2: The Traditional Schedule Should Never Die
If you caught my article in the most recent (August, 2016) Chess Life, you’ll know that I have no issue lumping the word “dystopian” and “American Open Swiss” in the same sentence. I find the typical weekend Swiss to be painful, exhausting, brutal, and so on and so forth and insert your preferred adjective of pain here. But the US Open was the exact opposite – relaced, friendly, welcoming. I loved the lazy schedule. Even the six-day, which I partook in, felt easier, less tiring. I think chess, as a whole, benefits from this sort of atmosphere, where people leave the tournament with a smile and a memory instead of drooping eyes and two days of malnourishment. #justsaying.
Takeaway 3: Bid Adieu to Her Majesty
Queens are soooooo overrated. Amirite? It’s OK. I’m right. Take, for example, the round 8 encounter between NM Nicky Korba and GM Kayden Troff:
Not convinced? Alright, alright. I suppose I can’t resist including one of my own games, where I also part with La Dame. Au revoir, ma cherie!
Takeaway 4: Protect Your Calculator!
You know, that gray matter that tries to see ahead and plan and make good moves? THAT calculator. Fashionable headwear was “in” at this year’s open, as you can see by these combatants’ clever style choices. Whether for warmth, comfort, or brain security – headgear was out in full force.
Takeaway 5: Material Doesn’t Really Matter
See what I did there? Right, OK, my snarkiness has achieved an all-time high. But for real, IM Ruifeng Li was, in the words of GM Maurice Ashley, “absolutely on fire” for the first half of the event, tearing through opponents left and right. One such man who tried to stand in his way, IM John Bryant, fell victim to an early and powerful exchange sacrifice.
Takeaway 6: It’s The Little Things That Count
Really, it is. If successful chess play is the accumulation of tiny advantages, then successful tournament organization is the accumulation of all the little things, the nice touches that turn an event from “just a tournament” to a mark-your-calendar-see-you-next-year type thing. A short and incomplete list of several of the “little things” that made a big difference:
- State flags for each of the Denker, Barber, and NGTOC representatives to display during their match
- Frank Niro’s daily tournament Bulletin, printed, and complete with top games
- Constant side events. A weekend swiss, five days of quads, a blitz and a game-15 championship. The tournament truly had a “festival” atmosphere.
- Delegations and committees. Yeah, it’s cool to see how things work, how things are run, and to watch the cogs turn the great wheel that is USChess.
- Awards for attendance. Yes, a “thirty-year award” for US Open attendance was handed out this year.
- The hotel lounge. Seems cliche and obvious, but it was full of chess enthusiasts after every round, sharing a meal, analysis, and the occasional adult beverage.
…If only every US Open was within driving distance.
Takeaway 7: Tennis Time
Vegas has poker, Indy has tennis! Dan Lucas, US Chess Director of Publications and tennis enthusiast describes the event:
A group of players took a break from the chess boards to hit the courts at the nearby Indianapolis Tennis Center East. Led by Oberlin Women’s’ Tennis Team Coach Constantine Ananiadis, the August 5 th event included drills, doubles, and singles at the center’s indoor courts.
Ananiadis is a 1947-rated US Chess life member (and no slouch in the national tennis rankings: he is the number-two ranked male in the nation in the 40-45 age group). As sponsor of the Oberlin College Chess Team, he was featured in the February 2014 Chess Life’s “Faces Across the Board” column. Al Lawrence wrote then, “Neither of Constantine’s parents played chess, nor was tennis a popular sport in his native Athens. Nevertheless, he became a US Chess life member and A-player, as well as a star USA college tennis player and then a conference-coach- of-the- year. He’s also the volunteer faculty advisor to the chess club. Oberlin won first place in Division IV and took home the Best Small College trophy. Constantine, who teaches a full-credit course called “Chess in Society,” says the game ‘instills school pride and camaraderie, and develops decision-making.’”Ananiadis is not in Indianapolis just for tennis and over-the- board play. He is also receiving the award on behalf of Oberlin College for College of the Year at the US Chess Awards Luncheon, which will be held from Noon-2 P.M. Saturday, August 6 (advance tickets required).
The tennis players all had fun participating in drills by Ananiadis followed by doubles and singles play. Six people participated and a couple of parents watched (with their home state and US Chess rating): Walker Griggs (Ohio, 2340); Dan Lucas (Georgia, 1561); Tom Manion (Michigan, 1810); Charles Miller (New Jersey, 1737); Peter Schillinger (Arizona, 1786); Audrey Whitmer (Washington, 1196).
Next year’s U.S. Open will be in Norfolk, Virginia, and Ananiadis is making plans to organize additional tennis days around the Open schedule. For more chess by Ananiadis, see the September Chess Life’s “My Best Move” column, available on September 1.