Musing about Portland, Tacoma, and Seattle Chess Club.. and

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Musing about Portland, Tacoma, and Seattle Chess Club.. and

Postby hgpitre » Wed Jul 22, 2009 11:20 pm

Here’s a conversation that I can imagine occurring if only people would come together to examine the current bases of our local tournament chess culture. It is put here also because I really would like you to read this and discuss the main ideas with your friends. If you care to post here, I hope we can find where is the truth in this matter. Maybe my presumptions are not correct. I like a good discussion. Have at it..


WCF, OCF and various NW Chess club organizers: Hey, fella, we’d like to encourage you to play in our next tourney. We have special class prizes for newcomers.

Amateur player: I’d like to play in a chess tournament one of these days, but with all the many things I have going on, I can’t be away from home for that long.

WCF/OCF: Whaddya mean? Surely you can try out two six-hour games each day. Maybe we can squeeze in one more for you at a shorter time control as well on Saturday. You’ll get your money’s worth.

Amateur player: Yeah, I understand what you mean, but time is money, and so I’d like to economize a bit. I can play only about four hours in a day. Got anything for me? I can play on the internet, you know, any time I want to.

WCF/OCF: We know the internet. Chances are you’ve been playing against someone secretly using his favorite chess engine. Come on and play out in the open with the real he-men of chess, twelve hours-a-day men. OTB chess is the best!!

Amateur: Sorry, guys. You aren’t being realistic. I have (choose among) a girl-friend, a wife, a wife and kids, a job I need to be refreshed for on Monday.

WCF/OCF: Okay, we’ll see you around, but whenever you get a chance, stop by to see the real deal.

Amateur: Well, I am an avid chess news reader, and I was just following Nakamura’s win over there in San Sebastian, in Spain. His games were played with the regimen of 40 moves in 90 minutes, and then 30 minutes more for the rest of the game, with thirty seconds increments per move throughout. The games weren’t more than five hours a day, and they were the best. Three former FIDE world champions in the field, and some other GMs, and Naka. Man, I think it is reasonable that an amateur would start out at a limit of four hours of chess per day. When you come up with a compromise from your Iron Man attitudes, let me know.

WCF/OCF: We heard about the Canadian Open. Game in 90 minutes, with thirty seconds increments throughout. But that’s not the real quality, he-man chess that we like here, like we’ve been playing for decades. You’ve heard about the great GM Portisch’s take on that, eh? He says the current FIDE rules have killed the end-game and its artistry. He decries those time controls. We’ve got his back.

Amateur: But the Canadian Open had top-flight players who weren’t afraid to put their ratings and skill on the line. They had Alexei Shirov, Michael Adams, Ni Hua, and Surya Ganguly, and more. Talk about end-game artistry. Check out Rd 5 Shirov-Panjwani. Those games were no longer than four hours approximately, and because it was one game a day, if it were here, I could be with my family soon thereafter, and not have the regrets your typical tournament schedule entails.

WCF/OCF: One game a day, week-long tourneys are special, and cost a lot to put on. And none of us officers of the WCF want to work that hard to put it together. Maybe later on, sometime in the next decade or two. Yeah. How’s this for our slogan? By the year 2025, if we’re still alive!! Zager & Evans, not. Ha, Ha... Well, we OCF officers can still revel in the glory that Ralph Hall brought to Portland and the OCF when he brought the US Open to Portland in 1988 or 89, even if we weren't that much involved then.

Amateur: Well, what about the typical club? What have they been doing? What kind of response have they been getting for their two-day, five round events?

TCC Organizer: Well, our last one offered up to twenty hours of chess for $30 in advance. That was the Evergreen Open. Great value, but because we had only eleven show up to play, the first prize was only about $60. Let’s see, looking at the cross-table there were only 23 chess games played that weekend.

Amateur: I can tell you right away. Twenty hours is way too much, and I don’t know anything about your playing site. If your playing site is not comfortable and clean I'll make my stay there even shorter. Maybe if you made your tourney shorter, lowered the entry fee slightly, and informed others about your changes you’d draw more players to participate, and can have bigger prizes.

PCC Organizer: Our last one was the Summer Open, on the same weekend as yours, and ha ha, we topped you. We offered up to twenty-four hours of chess, for $30 in advance, and it cost even less if you were a PCC member.

Amateur: If life’s activities were only decided by the per hour cost, it would sound like a bargain, but that isn’t the way I choose to live. How many players did you get, and were the prizes based on any attendance number?

PCC Organizer: We got ten players in the Open and nineteen in the reserve. Not bad, until you realize the prizes were based on 40 players entering.

Amateur: Do you think that other potential players might be in just as tight a fix as me regarding how much time they can put into this? I’d say you should reduce the number of rounds to four, with each round being no more than four hours long, and I might have a chance of participating once every two or three months. There may be a hundred or more guys out there like me in Portland alone. If you could get some of them to show up periodically, that could double your monthly turnout. You’ll have to go out and market this change in a different way. You’ll have to go to places you don’t visit now. They won’t come to you. It will take some brain-storming, and you may need to get some more members to work on this project. Maybe your OCF has the smarts, and the organization skill, and the will to win this.

SCC Organizer: Heh, heh, our last tourney, the Emerald City Open, had 47 players. Not bad, n’est-ce pas?

Amateur: What were the prizes based upon?

SCC Organizer: We exceeded the base of 40 entries. Our entry fee was $33 in advance, $9 less for SCC members, and we offered up to a whopping 30 hours of chess, but they had to play Friday night also, although some might have taken the two-day option, and only had up to 26 hours of play-time.

Amateur: At first glance, you Seattleites seem to be stronger and more enduring than the Portland or Tacoma players. But you are drawing from a huge local population. Measured against that, your turnout may have been paltry.

SCC Organizer: We are known as the True Old Guard preserving the best traditions of chess. Maybe some day GM Portisch could be invited to our club as we uphold along with our good friend, that jolly organizer in Reno, the memory of the dying standard of seven-hour games. Ah, can you imagine, up to fourteen hours of serious chess every day for three days? Valhalla, here we come!! When’s the next Reno event? Alas, such high quality is not always appreciated by the many.

Amateur: I know you offer byes. How many players took them? And couldn’t this be a sign that your event is too long?

SCC Organizer: In the Open section we had eight half-point byes which isn’t too bad. In the Reserve we had eleven half-point byes and three full-point byes. I still think that is good. They came, and for the most part, stayed to play.

Amateur: This long time control and long tourney is all in the name of providing the proper setting for good, fighting chess. Right? How many Masters and Experts registered to play?

SCC Organizer: There were no Masters, and just two Experts played.

Amateur: Maybe the best players voted with their feet about your tournament conditions. Did you ever think to ask those high-rated players about how they now feel about the length of the tourneys that you offer at the chess club? Their situations probably have changed since the hallowed days of yore. I hope you’ll ask not only those strong players you see occasionally, but also those who haven’t been around for years. When you have considered the players lost for many years, and adopt a policy to attract as many new players as possible to your events, let me know what you have come up with.

WCF/OCF and NW club organizers: You mean: Call you, because you won’t call us? Don’t know. We aren’t used to trying very hard to get people.

Amateur: Well, don’t worry much about me. Even more appalling is that you apparently don’t have much of a plan to get graduating scholastics or junior chess players to stay with tournament chess at least occasionally. Maybe part of what I’ve been saying applies to them, but surely if you’d like to increase the number of active tournament chess players you would put a lot of thinking into this. Good luck. Nice chatting with you.

WCF/OCF: Golly. Maybe we’d better use our resources, like the NWC Forum, and ask our players about their ideas. Maybe we’d better tell them in the magazine what we’ve really been up to, and how we really conduct our business. Change might be asked for. Are we afraid of change?
hgpitre
 
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Re: Musing about Portland, Tacoma, and Seattle Chess Club.. and

Postby satyajit » Mon Mar 08, 2010 2:58 pm

Nice thread hgpitre. You put in a lot of thought and created this conversation, and as you can except there is no response! People are not willing to talk about it. Your point about time controls worth pondering and FIDE has been moving in this direction of reducing time controls. I'd like to mention another aspect of these tournaments - prize fund!

All the 2 day local tournaments that I am seeing here are based on the model of 'collect money from players = deduct expenses + prize fund'. So with this model if I pay a $25 entry fee, I could expect to win $100 at most and gain a net of $60 dollars per tournament. Calculating the average pay per hour - 60/12 hrs of play = $5 dollars per game for the first prize winner. So its less than the minimum wage this country has. Comprehend this - the most intense mind game pays you less than minimum wage if you win! What if you don't win or come 2nd or 3rd? Its even less.
Lets talk about the slightly larger prize funds (like Spokane) with less entrance fees. I won the tournament jointly and got $283 but I spend around $130 (including entry, hotel, food, gas), so I earned around $150 dollars. For this tournament I played four 4 hour games and one 2 hour game. But the actual playing hours were around 15. So I was paid $10 per hour of strenuous pressure I went through those games. Only I knew how many of those games were close calls and how my opponents just missed a better variation and I wouldn't even made any money.

Except for the joy of chess, the pride in winning and enthralling nature of the game itself there would be no local players in these tournaments. As far as I can see there is also no remedy for this situation, chess simply is not a game for masses and sponsors would not shower us with money. From what I've seen chess though America has lots of stronger players economically speaking it has nothing compared to the benefits that local players enjoy in my home country India. (which are paltry by the way but yet sustainable)
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Re: Musing about Portland, Tacoma, and Seattle Chess Club.. and

Postby FightingFinn » Wed Jul 21, 2010 9:05 pm

Looks like you've posted in a ghost town, HG. Chess needs a benefactor to be truly successful. Then ideas to make things better will have a better chance of success. On a brighter note, there do seem to be a number of good (young) players ready to burst on the scene. (I find myself not playing much better than a nine year old.)

Maybe the talented young people will bring a greater popularity of chess that will turn the tide.

Tim
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Re: Musing about Portland, Tacoma, and Seattle Chess Club.. and

Postby hgpitre » Fri Jul 23, 2010 9:55 am

Hello everyone..anyone,

Like Tim said it seems I have made a posting in a ghost town.. It has been a year and a day since I wrote the first entry. I think it stated the situation very well, and suggested some constructive ideas, and yet generated only two comments in a year. That silence is saying something immense...Thank you Satyajit for writing and bringing up the subject of the prize funds which is a difficult one to address.

I would like to call your attention to the recent history of the Tacoma Chess Club, as best I could glean in a short perusal.. # 1 they have a website which you can find through the NWC list of clubs, and they have a list of their annual membership meetings which gives a glimpse of the club's undertakings and financial position.. But not for the last three years, I believe.. From around 2002 with financial assets of about $5,000 they received a bequest of $40,000 or so dollars, and have grown their total assets to over $50,000.. But this was as of the end of 2007.. Where they are now, who knows?

If I were a club member there now, I would have asked that this be updated. But if you grant that they are financially solvent, you might ask: what do they do with their club?. Well, I know they do more than just offer weekend tourneys, but this year they have had a total of 48 players to show up on the weekend, and play in six rated events... an average of eight players per event.. In addition I have a suspicion that one scheduled event (Tornado #4) was cancelled due to low turnout.. So their average really stinks. This is a club that surely needs new leadership.. new energy.. Lend them a hand if you can.. Why not include some requirements on their part before you help out? Ask that at least half the people in the leadership step aside, to let a new vision come in..

Another item that deserves comment, but I won't go very far there, is: What happened with the management of the Lakefair Open in Olympia--The Clark Harmon Memorial? I know it was sponsored by the friends of Clark Harmon Memorial fund but I believe the WCF co-sponsored it.. Well, it seeems that some WCF leaders did not work very hard to get a good turnout there. 18 players @ $40 per entry does not cover a $1700 guaranteed prize fund. The result thereby diminishes the resources that the WCF has, to do other good chess development work in the area. If it has any work that needs to be done.

I would like to add more, but I won't because of the lack of previous feedback. But clearly, judging from the recent shuffling of chairs on the Titanic, I mean, The WCF officers, there is no prodding for change from the membership, and the situation will mostly continue on. Same as it ever was..Same as it ever was..Talking Heads..

The best I can do is work in the directions I have previously gone in when I get some help from others. I hope to see you around at some good tournaments. They won't take place unless you pitch in.
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Re: Musing about Portland, Tacoma, and Seattle Chess Club.. and

Postby Russell Miller » Fri Jul 23, 2010 3:13 pm

I should have replied long ago to H.G.'s posting as for the record he has an error in the first posting in this thread. The US Open in Portland was held in 1987.
I was rather surprised that the turnout at the Harmon Memorial in Olympia was so low. It had a TLA in CHESS LIFE and on the USCF website which is unusual for PNW chess events. I noticed the top finishers were all local Olympia players.
I have wondered for several years what would be the turnout of an event that had good publicity and low entry fee and low prizes or maybe just chess books as prizes. It would have to be held in a location that has low or no cost for the playing site.
Players who want OTB chess play but don't want to devote a weekend to such need to attend their local chess club. I went to the causal play night at the Portland CC last night and played one skittles game with no clock. I even won it. I only played the one game and there were only 6-8 players in attendance.
I have played a couple of G/60 4 round events at the Portland CC in the last couple of years. One of my wife's comments has been I seemed worn out after the play. I also did not do very well as I had winning positions but lost on time. Probably need more practise at that time control. In the Washington Open in Spokane I won some prize money.
I have made some efforts to try to get Tacoma CC to spend some of their funds that they were given but with no results. But since I don't live in Tacoma or belong to the club it is probably not going to happen because of anything I say or do.
Hope to see more discussion on the subject H.G. raised.

Russell Miller now Vancouver WA
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Re: Musing about Portland, Tacoma, and Seattle Chess Club..

Postby Giuoco » Fri Nov 19, 2010 3:30 pm

Hello everyone, my name is Joe Davis and I'm a B level player here in the Seattle area. I've been in and out of chess at different phases of my life and I think my story is typical. I don't have any organizing experience, but I have some thoughts on would make chess more popular (at least for non scholastic players). First I would like to go through my chess history.

I got injured playing pee wee football and had back surgery, so I couldn't do anything physical for a few months. I had a friend who played in chess tournaments and played him a few times and he crushed me. My first goal was just to get good enough to beat him. I started going to tournaments with my friend and his dad. I caught the bug and played consistently through high school and was part of two high school state championship teams. My studies in college took my away from chess and I played casually after graduating between working, family, etc.. I'm now just coming back to chess on a more serious basis as I'm financially and socially able to dedicate more time to it.

Here are my points I would like to add to the discussion

Throw chess players playing for profit out the window. I don't believe any non titled player, believes chess is a good financial choice. Personally, I would rather get a trophy than a check, but I'm probably in the minority on that topic. Don't go overboard like some of the scholastic events, but the winner of a tournament should get some type of keepsake. Even a little trophy presentation at the end of the tournament or the beginning of the next one if people don't stay.

My most valuable thing I've gotten from chess is the relationships I've built with my fellow players. So creating a friendly environment is super important in my mind. I think locally we've failed to do that in a lot of ways. I can still remember some harsh words of high rated players I looked up to mocking a comment or move I made. People running tournaments need to manage the rude or difficult players better I think. What brought me back to chess from videogames was the honor chess has compared to the unhonorable online world. We need to focus on honoring chess and its rich history by our behavior and actions. That will in turn, create the environment we want.

In the same vein team events might be a way to boost participation. If I was on a team for a season for example I would be much more likely to show up if I felt like my team "needed" me. Maybe even just placing people in teams randomly. Players could share knowledge about opponents, decide board order, and force some interaction. Players today could really just play on their computers. What pulls me away is the face-to-face social interaction.

Also, we should be promoting chess in places where it matches people's backgrounds. Like math clubs at every school in the area. Every college should have a chess club I would think. I don't think the general population grasps how complex and deep of a game chess is. If we could appeal to a piece of the video game population for example, that's where big growth would happen. One idea would be to rent some space at the Penny Arcade Expo in the table top gaming area. Those are our people.

So to sum up my ideas would be to make bigger deal recognizing peoples success (not with prize funds), create an environment where people feel welcome and wanted, focus more on the team aspect of the game to take away some of the isolation chess can bring, and bring chess to people with interests similar like math or video games.
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Re: Musing about Portland, Tacoma, and Seattle Chess Club..

Postby hgpitre » Sun Oct 30, 2011 1:31 pm

Hail Portland Chess Club,

100 years of providing chess in the Portland area!

The organizers discovered that a well-apportioned tourney at a nicely located hotel would bring out the players. They should not have felt there was a great risk in pulling it off. There was no holiday weekend needed to make the players and hotel available. So I hope that in the next years there will be more well-planned events organized by either PCC, or the OCF, that are situated at a hotel. The Centennial Open at the Doubletree Hotel was great!

As regards the quarterly events at the PCC-- the five-rounders over two days. You need some retooling there. It's not a big, big event you are trying to hold. Among other things, cut down on the amount of the chess sitting time. My recommendation which I have previously shared is to have no more than four rounds in the weekend. Maybe lower entry fee a small amount, maybe not. Offer a master some fee for providing analysis of the other players' games in between rounds, and give the best players a little more incentive to come out... maybe provide them lunch nearby. Raise the quality of chess playing over time, and make it a bit more sociable and educational. Maybe there's some sponsorship that can be found if the educational aspect is emphasized.

The monthly (Game in 60 minutes) tourneys, which I would otherwise praise, have a glaring flaw. Realizing that the club has regularly offered the seasonal opens which potentially require 24 hours of chess sitting in a weekend, why do they race through four rounds of chess in barely more than nine hours in one day? They should have lunch and other breaks clearly allocated and stated in the schedule, which will make the events more sociable. Consider this: maybe the two players will forge a friendship from discussing their closely fought game after it finished, but with such a tight schedule as they currently have, it is not good to discuss anything. Got to get ready for the next game!! Thus, killing the partnerships, the learning points that could be made. Commit to a schedule with something like round 1 at 10AM, round 2 at 1PM, round 3 at 3:30, and the final round at 6:30.. Cut out the threat of even shorter time controls if you have a good turnout. Four rounds in a day is enough. By the way, the schedule for 4-round Tornados at SCC in Seattle is not adequate either on this point.

When would the TD's be turning out the lights at the club? Probably about 9PM. Twelve hours after they kicked off the chess day with registration. Not bad a result for an improved event. Maybe they could shorten the time for registration to a half hour. Maybe they could insist that the players have already taken care of their memberships. No current memberships, no play. It takes time to get addresses, etc. right. The registration time is not the time and place for this. Make that a responsibility of the player to do at his own time at home. Rotate the duties of TD. This is essential. More club members need to become competent enough to run the show. There really aren't that many playing disputes that the TD encounters. The computer programs available help us greatly. To make a good event just record the right results, get the pairings right and on-time. Planning in everything makes all this go better.

I hope you take this as intended, as constructive criticism. If you are in a position to influence the PCC. Let them know if you agree with me, and then we will both have better tourneys in the future that we can support with our entry fees and participation.
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Re: Musing about Portland, Tacoma, and Seattle Chess Club..

Postby MicahSmith » Sat Jan 10, 2015 9:34 pm

hgpitre wrote:Amateur: Well, what about the typical club? What have they been doing? What kind of response have they been getting for their two-day, five round events?

Amateur: I can tell you right away. Twenty hours is way too much, and I don’t know anything about your playing site. If your playing site is not comfortable and clean I'll make my stay there even shorter. Maybe if you made your tourney shorter, lowered the entry fee slightly, and informed others about your changes you’d draw more players to participate, and can have bigger prizes.

PCC Organizer: Our last one was the Summer Open, on the same weekend as yours, and ha ha, we topped you. We offered up to twenty-four hours of chess, for $30 in advance, and it cost even less if you were a PCC member.

Amateur: If life’s activities were only decided by the per hour cost, it would sound like a bargain, but that isn’t the way I choose to live. How many players did you get, and were the prizes based on any attendance number?

PCC Organizer: We got ten players in the Open and nineteen in the reserve. Not bad, until you realize the prizes were based on 40 players entering.

The PCC seasonal tournaments (Gresham Open, Spring Open, Summer Open, Fall Open, Winter Open) usually get more than 29 players. Also, the time control on the second day has changed from 6 hour games to 4 hour games so it's a maximum of 20 hours now instead of 24. If that is still too much, you can always take byes. We could make it four rounds but I think having it be 5 rounds makes things more flexible. It allows people to play 5 rounds or play 4 rounds and take a bye. Another advantage of having 5 rounds with 3 rounds on Saturday and 2 on Sunday is that players who can't make it on Sunday or out of town players who don't want to stay overnight can still come on Saturday and get 3 games in. Also, for two day tournaments that are only one section like the Gresham Open and Harmon Memorial (when it is in Portland), it might be necessary to have 5 rounds to make sure you don't have more then 1 perfect score.

Also, the 2-day, 5 round tournaments aren't meant for the new amateur player with little time to play. The PCC Quad 45 is great for new players with little time to play. It's 3 rounds of G/45,d5 split into groups based on rating.
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