My first OTB tourney

Mar 28, 2011, 8:45 PM |

I learned to play chess here on not quite three years ago, and probably 99 ½ % of my chess experience has been on this wonderful website. So it was a real treat for me this past weekend to play in my very first OTB tournament — a Rated Beginners’ Open at the U.S. Chess Center on M Street in Washington, DC.

While I have played in dozens and dozens of tourneys and team matches on this site, as well as hundreds of turn-based and live games against players of every rating, with the clock running anywhere from 14 days to 1-minute blitzes, I knew going into this tourney that I was crossing over into a different world, one in which chess tournaments are played according to customs that go back generations. Seasoned chess players, of course, take for granted the many layers of challenge in an OTB tournament aside from the game itself: the body language of one’s opponent, working the clock, writing down moves. I knew going in that all this would be a hurdle for me, and I was excited to stretch my comfort zones. With my novice status in chess generally and the dearth of my OTB experience, I went in expecting that I’d get clobbered pretty soundly in the games I’d play, and I did indeed lose three out of my four matches (and in my one victory, my opponent had the advantage for most of the game until a sudden blunder of his opened the door to a mate). Truth be told, while I like to win, I like even more just playing, learning bit by bit about this magnificent game and meeting truly fine people whose sportsmanship, generosity, humor and humanity are truly a blessing. That has certainly been my experience again and again here on, and I was pleased to find similarly rewarding encounters in this OTB experience — my first, yes, but not my last.

I was impressed by the people I met at the U.S. Chess Center. The staff/volunteers were very friendly and helpful, and the other players I met there were really delightful. I was pleased to see a huge number of children participating enthusiastically in the tourney, and it was still more gratifying to see young people of seemingly every race, color and creed coming together to play this timeless game. Gone are the days, thank God, that chess tournaments were the exclusive purview of stuffy white dudes such as myself.

After a particularly exciting round I got to chatting with maybe half a dozen of the other adult contestants, and I wasn’t all that surprised to discover that all of us turned out to be members. We exchanged usernames and contact info, and now we’re friends here. I look forward to the games I’ll play with these fine players.

I enjoyed all four games in the tourney, but the most exciting one was my match against the very capable jonblack, who deftly turned disadvantage into a decisive victory.