New Beginnings (Dedicated to the Memory of FM Ron Simpson)
This past week was one of the busiest weeks I've had as a chess player. It started Wednesday as I made a day trip down to Charlotte to check out the beautiful new Charlotte Chess Center and Scholastic Academy set up by NM Peter Giannatos and Gary Newsom. I have to say, it's a very comfortable and welcoming place to play. It has a very nice library of about 200 books, a couple of big screen TVs displaying coverage of chess events, and a well lit and spacious playing hall upstairs which seats over 60 players.
I have to say kudos to Peter, Gary, and the large group of individuals and businesses who donated to get the Center started. Charlotte has long needed a dignified a classy place for a club and the new Charlotte Chess Center surely fits the bill. I hope that those nearby will lend the center your full support.
As it was, they were running the first two games of a three-week long G/29 D/0 event. This was their first rated event on Wednesday nights. In fact, they have rated events on Tuesday (G/75, a spillover from the center's predecessor the Queen City Chess Club), Wenesdays (G/29, 2 rounds a night), and Thursday (G/10 blitz). They also host the Reverse Angle series as well as a few action tournaments on the weekend. I managed two win both of my games including the first to finish in the series. After that game I offered up my scoresheet for the club to frame as a historic moment for the club. They declined since they didn't have scoresheets from their other events. The offer still stands though in case you guys are interested.
The weekend was very bittersweet for me in more ways than one. In the previous three years I authored an event called the Big Enchilada. This was Raleigh's premier event and had proved to exceed expectations of the community. For years organizers had spurned my requests to bring a weekend-long event to Raleigh since they didn't really see Raleigh as a viable place for such an event. Three years later, with an average attendance of over 110, that changed. As I stepped down from my organizing duties (In large part due to my health situation), other organizers showed interest in continuing the tradition. Of course since I would not be running the event, it meant that I could play in the event. So for the first time since 2001, I got to play a three-day event, and spent the night in the comfort of my own bed.
Unfortunately, something happened that cast a massive pall on the chess community, when FIDE Master Ron Simpson was beset by terminal cancer. Ron was easily one of the most well-liked and revered individuals that our chess community has known. He was vry nurturing and enjoy discussing the game with anyone and everyone. When I went through a huge swoon a couple of years ago, he was highly encouraging and his words painted a new perspective of the game for me.
Losing him was a huge shock and left a gaping hole in our community. The decision was made at Ron's funeral to retire the Big Enchilada name and create the Ron Simpson Memorial in its place. Ron's family was on hand including his son Victor, who played in his first tournament since his father's passing, and finished in the money. A fund raiser was also held for Ron's sons' college fund which raised over $1,000.
Grandmaster Maurice Ashley, one of Ron's closest friends came down from New York to play in the event. While I had originally planned on taking a bye in round one, I noticed that I was very close to being in position to play against GM Ashley in round one. I decided to rescind the bye and took my chances. As it turned out, I missed out by one board. I ended up playing against NM Chris Mabe. Although I was a bit disappointed about missing the chance the challenge a GM, I did make a little ersonal history with the game.
The road would clearly not get any easier for round two as I found myself in a battle with national 9th grade champion Aaron Balleisen. I had played three games previously against Aaron and while I had never generated an advantage in those games, I felt I played better than my 0+0=3- record againsst him would indicate. This time I got a rolicking attack going and looked to break through. At the critical point however I let my emotions and my ego get the best of me and all the work I had done in the opening and early middlegame came crashing down.
I was deflated after this game and along with the fatigue of an extremely busy week, I played poorly in my round three game against West Virginia's twelve-year-old master Advait Patel (He is a fascinating and energetic person to watch in a skittles session.) and by Sunday morning was hanging pawns and missing easy tactics. Despite my temporary spiral into chess scenility, I managed to maintain my rating. So I'll look forward to my next tournament..... a few months down the road.