OTB Chess -- Far from Dead

Jul 28, 2013, 11:33 AM |



IMG_0017 Yup, that’s a catfish! What does that have to do with chess or learning about chess, or anything else that I normally write about?

Why, if you live in or near Minnesota, and it’s July, then it has everything to do with chess. That’s because the greatest chess tournament in the area, the Catfish Days Tournament in the town of Franklin, MN, is happening!

Every year, on the fourth weekend in  July, the township of Franklin  holds a festival that includes a chess tournament run by a the dedicated, friendly, and engaging oraganizer James Kanne. 


What is it that makes this tournament so special? Well, one thing is the people. The folks here are just friendly and having a great time. But the big thing is that James really cares about the chess players in his tournament.

And it shows in everthing about the experience. On Friday night there is a cookout before the last round. The grills are fired up and the townsfolk bring out all the goodies.  There’s free pop and water all the time. But where James really shines is in showing his appreciation to the players for supporting the tournament.

  The antique clock is one of the “special prizes” James awards. It is a gift for someone who is in their 10th year of attendance. 5 years attending gets a handmade, personalized horsehead. Those two items are some of the most coveted chess “trophies” around.

IMG_0012 The full area of trophies is amazing. Handmade wood pens, hand turned wooden bowls, the horseheads and clocks.

The prize “ceremony” at the end of the tournament where James hands out these items is a great time. No one wins one of these and considers it just another memento. Real love went into making these prizes, and winning one is special.

The tournament is run as a true open. This  year I managed to secure my first ever draw over the board against an oppoenent rated more than 2000.

In two more years I’ll have my very own horsehead!

The next time someone tells you that over the board chess is dying, tell them to come to Franklin, MN — they can get there by going to the middle of nowhere and turning left, and in this sleepy little community that isn’t even a dot on most maps, you’ll find proof that OTB chess isn’t dying — it’s just suffering from a lack of effort and care by those not as dedicated and passionate as James Kanne.

If a town this size can have a tournament this successful running for more than 20 years, then surely the bigger communities can have success as well.

Of course, it does help if after your last round, you can walk down the street and see this: