Sunday, August 20, 2006

A Chess Confession...

Several years went by before I played chess again.

When I went to college in the late seventies, I earned a “student life” scholarship. One of the requirements for continuing the scholarship was to play a part in campus activities. "Aha!" I thought, "I could get involved in the college chess club." The college administration responsed: “College Chess Club? We don’t have a college chess club – we did a few years ago but not now. You could start it up again!” Gulp. So the die was cast. With trepidation (afraid that my chess skill and experience was inadequate for the title of club “president”) I volunteered to run the chess club.

As it turned out, it was great thing for me – I met a lot of nice people. For the first time in my life I played against a wide variety of opponents with unique chess styles. There really were people playing something other than 1. P-K4 to open their games! Even though there was never a tremendous interest in the chess club we did average about a half-dozen to a dozen students dropping by each week.

Now for my chess confession: In my senior year we established contact with a local city chess club who wanted us to host a USCF tournament on campus. This was a great opportunity – I had never even played in a tournament! Even better, this would be an official USCF sanctioned event and I could establish a provisional rating! Now I could get at least a rough answer to the question that plagues every chess player - just how good am I really?

The tournament was scheduled the weekend before winter break began – and although I could attend on Saturday I had to leave on the Sunday for home. Darn! As a compromise I ended up entering the unrated “beginners” section since it was a one day event held on that Saturday.

Much to my surprise I won the event 4-0 "free-and-clear" and took home the $40 first place prize. Yikes! To this day I still feel sort of guilty about it – was it not a conflict of interest for the “President of the University Chess Club” to take home a cash prize? And worse, should the “President of the University Chess Club” have entered the unrated “beginners” tournament in the first place?

Two other things I remember about the tournament. My final round opponent (another college student) tracked me down before the last round and proceeded to psychologically brow-beat me by telling me how fast he was going to beat me and words to the general effect that I might as well resign before even sitting down at the chess board. I had the last laugh however; I beat him in 12 moves! Even I could have told him not to bring out his queen on the second move!

The other thing I remember is that they did not give out a trophy or a ribbon or a certificate - just the cash prizes! I still regret they did that to this day. So a few weeks ago (more than 25 years later) I decided to go on-line and buy my own trophy (it cost me only $15 engraved!) I must say it feels good to have it – even if technically, as chess club president, it may have been a little unfair to enter the beginner’s tournament in the first place. However, since this may be the only chess trophy I may ever have – I won’t feel too badly about that. :-D

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