The Parsippany, New Jersey, Hilton is again packed to the alcoves with chess squads as the biggest team tournament in the world is in full swing. Nearly 1,200 players make up 277 teams that include 13 GMs and a swarm of other international players.
Yes, this annual mega-tourney is normally bigger even than its biennial blueblood cousin, the chess Olympiad. But at this handicap event, the fate of the chess demigods is inextricably linked to the performance of their mortally-rated team members. The four-person teams must come in with a USCF average rating of under 2200. This year, three entries hit the magic maximum of 2199.
So, although GMs Alexander Stripunsky and Joel Benjamin give the impression of inevitability as they sit on Boards 1 and 2 for the “Knockouts Reloaded,” the ratings of their two teammates on Boards 3 and 4 give opponents with more balanced teams a chance to even the score.
The Team Name and Best Gimmick awards will be determined by group applause between the two rounds today, Sunday. Names in contention are nearly always chess puns playing on politics or films. Some in contention this year are “Trumper Tantrums in Time Trouble,” “Obi Pawn Kenobis,” and “Star Awards R to D2.” Two names pay homage to greats no longer with us: “In Memory of Emory” and “Feel the Byrne”—references to IM Emory Tate and GM Robert Byrne.
As usual, Chief Organizer E. Steven Doyle and his experienced staff are putting on a special event. Players were welcomed both Saturday night and Sunday morning by the Ben Kovacs Jazz Trio. Competitors are oblivious to the subzero New Jersey winter outside in the carefully climate-controlled playing hall.
It’s a great tournament to watch as well as play in. So if you’re in neighborhood of Parsippany, get out of the cold and into a fascinating milieu of fun and fighting chess. Or follow the results from you own easy chair at www.njscf.org.