My First Legit Tournament, Part 1 - The North American Open 2019

My First Legit Tournament, Part 1 - The North American Open 2019

I had played rated games before this (eight, in fact... so I'm still provisionally rated), but I hadn't played in a tournament like this before.  Seven games over four days in the U1250 section.  I've wanted to try this ever since I visited Vegas in the summer during the National Open (shout-out to Chesscoachnet).  They had a U1000 section at that one, and I thought I would have performed well had I got to play.  So I vowed I would not miss the next tournament in Vegas, which wasn't too far from home.

Japanesetutor ( had mentioned this tournament was coming (I had no idea there was a second one per year in Vegas), so I jumped on the chance to play in it.  The trip was more costly than I had wanted (had to fly because the roads I would have driven were covered in snow), but upon reflection it was well worth it.  I actually somehow got upgraded to a luxury private airline on my way over, so that kicked things off on a high note.

JT was kind enough to offer to share his room with me, as well as a $100 gift card the hotel gave him to spend. It had to be all at once, so we went nuts.  We bought a Beyond Burger, two french fries, a burrito, a stromboli, a smoothie, two large bowls of fresh fruit, two Gatorades and four waters.  I think we hit $99.25.  We also hit some stomach pain that night.

The next day, it was game time!  Round 1.  But I didn't have a pairing.  They told me to wait, and eventually offered me a full point, or they said I could choose to face another player whose opponent had forfeited and risk losing.  I said of course I wanted to play chess.  So they sent me in, and I found the board.

This adorable girl (8 years old?) listened as I explained things as the TD had laid them out, and I asked if she wanted to play.  She sunk down in her chair, shook her head slowly side to side, and tears welled up in her eyes.  What?  Why?  "It's okay, it's okay," I said and shook her hand before leaving.  What on Earth made her so upset?  I don't know what I did to make her almost cry, but I felt bad nonetheless.  Bewildering.

So I don't get a game on day 1, but the next day I get two!  I'm excited for it, and I've also been in the playing hall, so I won't have to adjust to that right before the game.  Keep in mind that this first game is by two "beginners" playing in the U1250.  Here it is, with my notes:

Alright, so maybe I lost my first game.  I already decided days before that if I were to lose every game in the tournament, I would just be happy to have participated.  But I do take away the fact that I was doing great in that game right off the bat (+3 at move 15).

It's encouraging to see that I found so many of the "best" moves, considering this experience over the board was more intense than any game I'd ever played before.  So silent, so serious.  I tried not looking at the board too much for fear that they would see "tells" of where I was focusing my attention and calculation.  A ridiculous idea that I maintained for the whole week.

I had also decided days before the tournament that I would avoid seeing my opponent's rating before the game (I asked JT to find my board number and color for me each day).  That way I couldn't be affected by it as I start the game.  So when I saw, while reporting the score, that this player was an 1168, I felt good about the game.  I had been winning out of the gate against one of the more higher rated players in the U1250 category.  Taking that opinion with me into the next game that evening may have had something to do with how it went. 

Another Shout-out to Jedi Master Canty ( for helping me get my head right for this tournament.  Your voice was in my head while I played, just like Obi Wan telling Luke to trust the force in Star Wars.

Say hello to the proudest chess performance of my life in the next blog post, here: