Take it Outside: Fresh Air Chess in the Big City

In part two of her series on outdoor chess tables, WIM Alexey Root profiles organizers of rated outdoor tournaments in New York City, Chicago and Fremont, CA. Part one is available here.  

Fremont  

At the Old Mission Park in Fremont, CA, 13-year-old Pranav Sairam ran two US Chess-rated outdoor tournaments on Saturday, Oct. 17: A four-player round robin G/60 d5 and a side blitz match of G/3+2. Pranav, an accomplished chess player coached by Grandmaster Dejan Bojkov, recently turned to tournament organization in order to find US Chess-rated games for himself and other chess players.

 

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Pranav Sairam, left, organized two US Chess rated tournaments at the Old Mission Park in Fremont, CA in October.
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Pranav Sairam, left, organized two US Chess rated tournaments at the Old Mission Park in Fremont, CA in October.

“Pranav was getting a little disappointed by not having any over-the-board tournaments to play in during the pandemic,” said his father, Sairam Ramabadran. “So he decided to do something about it, and got himself certified as a TD over the summer. He started the San Jose Chess Club, organizing online rated tournaments through this affiliate before its first over-the-board tournament outdoors on October 17.”  

For that October 17 tournament, Pranav minimized COVID-19 risks. Ramabadran noted, “The picnic tables in the park were 10-15 feet apart. All participants were expected to wear gloves and face masks. The chess pieces were sanitized. Fresh disposable gloves, hand sanitizers, and wipes were provided at the venue.”  

 

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Chess in the fresh air at Old Mission Park in Fremont, CA.
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Chess in the fresh air at Old Mission Park in Fremont, CA.

For CLO, Pranav annotates his second-round win.  

[pgn][Event "Chess in Old Mission Park"] [Site "?"] [Date "2020.10.17"] [Round "2"] [White "Sairam, Pranav"] [Black "Penagalapati, Abhinav"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B32"] [WhiteElo "2087"] [BlackElo "2060"] [Annotator "Pranav Sairam"] [PlyCount "97"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 e5 5. Nb5 d6 (5... a6 6. Nd6+ Bxd6 7. Qxd6 Qe7 {This is the other main line. However, I was expecting 5....d6 and have played against it many times.}) 6. c4 a6 7. N5a3 f5 8. exf5 Bxf5 9. Nc2 Nf6 10. Nc3 Be7 11. Ne3 Be6 12. Bd3 O-O 13. O-O {Usually this setup with White is very dominant for the light-squared bishop, as Black has many light-squared holes.} Qe8 14. Ned5 Bd8 15. f3 Bxd5 {Frankly, I was quite surprised that Black gave up his strong light-squared bishop.} 16. Nxd5 Nxd5 17. cxd5 Bb6+ 18. Kh1 Nd4 19. Be3 Rc8 20. Rc1 Qd7 21. Rxc8 Rxc8 22. f4 {Rooks were traded, pulling the remaining black rook away from the kingside. I had an advantage with the two bishops, so I pushed on the kingside.} Rf8 23. fxe5 Rxf1+ 24. Qxf1 (24. Bxf1 dxe5 {This line was also possible, with the idea of Qh5 in the future.}) 24... dxe5 25. d6 $1 {I thought a lot before playing this move. If I had instead played Bc4, Black would have responded Qd6 and my d-pawn would have been blockaded. By playing 25. d6, the a2-g8 diagonal is open for my bishop, and there could be some deadly threats.} Qxd6 26. Bc4+ Kh8 27. Qf7 Qd8 28. Bg5 Qc8 29. Bf6 {Once again not wasting a tempo and constantly attacking Black's kingside. Black defended perfectly in this position.} Nf5 {The only defense.} 30. Bxe5 Bd4 31. Bc7 Nh6 32. Qe7 Bf6 33. Qd6 Qe8 34. Qe6 {In this endgame, while the pawns will be equal, I have the advantage of the two bishops in this open endgame.} Qxe6 35. Bxe6 Bxb2 {When Black plays Bxb2, then White has Bc8 winning back the pawn.} 36. Bc8 b5 37. Ba5 Ba3 38. Bxa6 b4 39. Kg1 Kg8 40. Kf2 Kf7 41. Ke3 Ng4+ 42. Kf4 {Setting a trap for the knight.} Nf6 43. Ke3 Ng4+ 44. Kd2 Nxh2 45. Be2 {And now Black's knight is trapped temporarily.} Ke6 (45... h5 46. Bc7 (46. Bxh5+ Kf6 47. Bc7 Kg5 {Black will save his knight but be slightly worse.}) 46... Ng4) 46. Bc7 Bb2 47. Bxh2 {This line is just winning, as Black is down a whole piece.} Bc3+ 48. Kd3 g6 49. a4 { And Black resigns, as White's a-pawn is now going to advance.} 1-0 [/pgn]

Chicago 

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The Lincoln Square Chess Club runs an US Chess-rated blitz tournament at Welles Park in Chicago.
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The Lincoln Square Chess Club runs an US Chess-rated blitz tournament at Welles Park in Chicago.

US Chess Tournament Director of the Year Glenn Panner is using his chess expertise outdoors by assisting the Lincoln Square Chess Club with US Chess-rated blitz tournaments at Welles Park.    

“All players needed to wear masks,” Panner said. “In fact, we had a couple of volunteers monitoring that the masks were not only worn at all times, but that they also weren’t slipping beneath the players’ noses. Those volunteers were also in charge of disinfecting the boards, sets, clocks, and tables in between rounds.”   

 

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US Chess TD of the Year Glenn Panner helps the Lincoln Square Chess Club run blitz tournaments in Welles Park in Chicago.
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US Chess TD of the Year Glenn Panner, in white, helps the Lincoln Square Chess Club run blitz tournaments in Welles Park in Chicago.

Even though some players were still hesitant to return to over-the-board chess, more decided to join once they saw the COVID-19 precautions in place. Panner said “GM Yaroslav Zherebukh, who lives only a couple of blocks away from Lincoln Square, joined one of the blitz tournaments. GM Zherebukh blew through the field with a perfect 12-0 score!”

Matthew Zatkoff, founder of the Lincoln Square club, added “I have been impressed by the cooperative spirit of the players. Without cooperation, our club’s COVID-19 safety rules would be of little use. I have had zero incidents regarding the following of the COVID-19 rules. Everyone wants to play over-the-board, and they are willing to do what it takes to make that happen. I had a few apprehensive players come on the first day. By the end of the first day, they said they felt safer than they would on a normal day going to the grocery store or walking around the streets. That's about as good as I think one could ask for!”  

 

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New COVID safety rules were employed as players compete at Welles Park in Chicago.
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New COVID safety rules were employed as players compete at Welles Park in Chicago.

New York City  

NM Tyrell Harriott’s website includes registration information for rated outdoor tournaments in Queens, at Cunningham Park. There are also rated outdoor tournaments at Washington Square Park, run on Wednesdays and Saturdays by Anthony “Cheese” Kozikowski and Eric Balck. Tournaments are four rounds of G/25 d5, and if there is rain on a scheduled day, the tournament is bumped to the following day.  

 

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Players enjoy chess outdoors at Cunningham Park in Queens.
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Players enjoy chess outdoors at Cunningham Park in Queens.

Since August, these outdoor tournaments have supported players’ over-the-board rating ambitions. Harriott earned his Original Life Master title, defined as a National Master who has played 300 games with a rating over 2200, at the end of an outdoor tournament on National Chess Day, Oct. 10. Kozikowski is also trying for the Life Master title. Jessica Hyatt and Adia Onyango are two more participants who are striving to become National Masters. 

Here is a game between the two NYC organizers that helped Harriott earn his Original Life Master title.

[pgn][Event "falzehope's tournament games 2020: Harr"] [Site "https://lichess.org/study/2oC"] [Date "2020.10.10"] [Round "2"] [White "Harriott, Tyrell"] [Black "Kozikowski, Anthony"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D00"] [WhiteElo "2200"] [BlackElo "2107"] [Annotator "Tyrell Harriott"] [PlyCount "69"] [EventDate "2020.??.??"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceDate "2014.07.01"] {Anthony showed up to this tournament because he knew this was the tournament where I would make my Original Life Master title. That morning he called and said you know how you are constantly saying "If you really want to do something you will find a way if not you will find an excuse." So he rented a car to come play in my tournament. The times next to some notations are from my digital score keeper.} 1. d4 {[%emt 0:00:00]} d5 {[%emt 0:00:03]} 2. e3 { [%emt 0:00:26]} Bf5 {[%emt 0:00:01]} 3. Bd3 {[%emt 0:00:05]} Bxd3 {[%emt 0:00: 05]} 4. Qxd3 {[%emt 0:00:01]} c6 {[%emt 0:00:14]} 5. f4 {[%emt 0:00:01]} Nf6 { [%emt 0:04:31]} 6. Nf3 {[%emt 0:00:01]} e6 {[%emt 0:01:27]} 7. Nbd2 {[%emt 0: 00:01]} Nbd7 {[%emt 0:00:19]} 8. O-O {[%emt 0:00:01]} g6 {[%emt 0:01:21]} 9. Ne5 {[%emt 0:00:01]} Bd6 {[%emt 0:00:28] With no light-square bishop. I began my attack by trying to control more of the center.} 10. c4 {[%emt 0:00:01]} Qe7 {[%emt 0:01:42]} 11. e4 {[%emt 0:00:01]} dxe4 {[%emt 0:00:15]} 12. Nxe4 {[%emt 0:00:01]} Nxe4 {[%emt 0:00:13]} 13. Qxe4 {[%emt 0:00:00]} O-O-O {[%emt 0:02:12] I believe Black made a mistake by castling queenside. Now, I loosen the pawns around his king and gain activity. I also saw the idea that would eventually win the piece back or he would get checkmated} 14. Nxc6 {[%emt 0:00:01]} bxc6 { [%emt 0:00:07]} 15. Qxc6+ {[%emt 0:00:01]} Bc7 {[%emt 0:01:30]} 16. Qa6+ { [%emt 0:00:01]} Kb8 {[%emt 0:01:33]} 17. c5 {[%emt 0:00:51] Here Black must give back the piece for two pawns, though the black king is less safe} Nxc5 { [%emt 0:02:13]} 18. dxc5 {[%emt 0:00:00]} Qxc5+ {[%emt 0:00:01]} 19. Kh1 { [%emt 0:00:01]} Rd6 {[%emt 0:00:50]} 20. Qe2 {[%emt 0:00:01]} Bb6 {[%emt 0:00: 54][%cal Gd6b8]} 21. f5 {[%emt 0:00:00]} gxf5 {[%emt 0:01:28][%cal Gf4b8,Gb3b8, Gc3c8] The lack of pawns around the king allowed my long-range pieces to have free reign terrorizing his king with tactics} 22. Bf4 {[%emt 0:00:01]} Bc7 { [%emt 0:02:51]} 23. Rac1 {[%emt 0:00:02]} Qb6 {[%emt 0:00:00]} 24. Rc3 {[%emt 0:00:48]} Qd4 {[%emt 0:04:35]} 25. Be5 {[%emt 0:00:01]} Qd2 {[%emt 0:00:40]} 26. Qxd2 {[%emt 0:00:00]} Rxd2 {[%emt 0:00:01]} 27. Rxc7 {[%emt 0:00:15]} Rd5 { [%emt 0:01:33]} 28. Rc5+ {[%emt 0:00:00]} Rxe5 {[%emt 0:00:04]} 29. Rxe5 { [%emt 0:00:00]} Rd8 {[%emt 0:00:09]} 30. Re2 {[%emt 0:00:01]} Rd4 {[%emt 0:00: 17]} 31. Rc1 {[%emt 0:00:01]} Rd7 {[%emt 0:00:41]} 32. Rec2 {[%emt 0:00:01]} Kb7 {[%emt 0:00:22]} 33. Rc3 {[%emt 0:00:01]} f4 {[%emt 0:00:22]} 34. Rb3+ { [%emt 0:00:01]} Ka8 {[%emt 0:00:00]} 35. Rc8# {[%emt 0:00:01]} 1-0 [/pgn]

“Tournaments start at 10 a.m., to avoid non-chess players taking up the park benches,” Harriott said. “Additionally, the early start means more daylight for visibility and warmth. Pairings and standings are posted online using my laptop and cellphone.”   

Safety precautions include masks and having hand sanitizers available and, for any player who feels things are too risky to attend, Harriott streams the tournaments on Facebook Live and Twitch channel. A video for a special tournament held on National Chess Day is available here.  

 

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An outdoor chess tournament at Cunningham Park in New York City streamed live on Facebook.
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An outdoor chess tournament at Cunningham Park in New York City streamed live on Facebook.

Connecting Outdoors and Online   

When winter comes, most outdoor chess tables go dormant until spring. The organizers mentioned in this two-part series are already planning rated tournaments outdoors for the spring of 2021. To learn how to facilitate rated and unrated games outdoors, and connect with other outdoor chess enthusiasts, consider joining the Outdoor Chess Tables Facebook group.

Comments

Chess like so many venues of competition has been diminished and compromised by the arrival of COVID19. It is highly appreciated that Tyrel Harriott and others have provided the chess starved community with over the board play in a safe and responsible fashion. Chess a respected game recognized the world over fulfills the human need for creativity and competitiveness. So thanks to Tyrel Harriott, Anthony Kozikowski, Eric Balk and others. They are the Heros who have fed our chess starved souls while we suffered from chess famine due to Covid19

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