Returning to the People's Tournament

Returning to the People's Tournament

IM dpruess

Some time ago, the People's tournament in Berkeley was one of the most exciting events on the California Chess Calendar for me. It was at a time, when I had never yet travelled outside of the state for an event. When I considered it a great effort to go by Bart to Union City or to hitch a ride to Sacramento for a weekend swiss. And the biggest traditional chess event in my hometown was the yearly People's tournament at the UC Berkeley Student Union. I got my start in adult tournament chess in that same building, playing monthly quads. But the People's Tournament was much more exciting.

I remember anxiously waiting outside after arriving early. I remember the excitement as my peers arrived, and blitz and bughouse games started up. And I remember my intense intellectual engagement as I loosed my various pet openings on my opponents. Today, when I returned to the People's Tournament after an absence of 8 years, I found not one of my age-group peers there. The atmosphere that used to be an intrinsic part of my tournament experience was gone for me... and yet echoed in the interactions I saw among the next generation of teenage chess enthusiasts.

Why did I miss for eight consecutive years the best tournament in my hometown? Looking back to the last one I played, in 2000, I finished tied for second. There were two players in that field who were clearly stronger than I, and about three who were comparable. Each year thereafter there were specific reasons that I did not attend: I was focused on my schoolwork or I was travelling or working. But that doesn't really answer the question. If playing were really important to me, I would have made it happen one of those years. The truth is that I was reaching the point where I would be one of the top players at local events; and that even winning first place at such tournaments no longer impressed myself. I was starting to travel more, to further and stronger events. Those held out the promise of greater glory, and I wanted it.

I do believe in supporting local events. I do believe in showing up and teaching a few things to the next crop of up-and-coming masters, just as I was able to learn from stronger Bay Area masters. But there are many ways in which I give back to my local chess community, and somewhere the People's Tournament got left by the wayside (though I did help organize it one year!).

My return has something to do with the sad (for me) events of Dec 24-5, 2008, when in about 24 hours I managed to fall 300 points in strength. I've since regained about 100 of those by my estimation, but remain perplexed, as I know of only one other comparably precipitous collapse in playing strength (barring illness/incapacitation). Be that as it may, I am trying to continue to enjoy chess despite the disappointment of losing so much strength, and I hope that one of these days it will magically return. Maybe tomorrow? As you'll see in a moment, it was not today! So part of the reason I am back this year is that the tournament is now strong enough to be useful for my chess.

Here are my games from today (I'm white in the first one):

Ok, here we are. Black has a disgusting and devastating tactical blow available here. What had I noticed with horror the moment I let go of my rook on f1? See if you can find it!

Lucky you! I need to get to sleep if I want to play better tomorrow. So you are spared my second game Tongue out

PS- be sure to check out the 9...Rb6 10.e5! variation!