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?