Houston, We Have a Problem

Mar 7, 2011, 11:53 AM |
As promised in my previous post, these are a few of the more pertinent comments sent me in response to my email  asking for thoughts on this year's US Senior. It saddens me to report that most of the comments were not positive, with many negative in tone. No one had seen the tournament announcemant, and most thanked me for bringing it to their attention.
Round time
It is heartening to receive something like this because I know I am not alone: "I will never play in a senior event in which the rounds start after 3 pm , even if its only one round a day. For seniors I think the optimal starting time is late morning or early afternoon." Over the years I have talked with many Senior players concerning this topic and I can only think of two who said they would prefer to play at night, and one of those was an insomniac! Another wrote, "I'm not too keen on a schedule where the game can go until 1 in the morning or later, even knowing that I can sleep in in the morning.  The trouble is, I know I don't have to wake up at 6:30, but my body isn't so quick to catch on."
 I have found that as I grow older my energy level wanes as the day goes on. Others mentioned that fact, or something similar. The sad fact is, as I have been writing and saying for over a decade,  having a start time at night will cause most Seniors to not even consider participating in the event. This has to be well known by now to those in charge of USCF and anyone considering organizing a US Senior, yet they continue to persist in having the games played at night. Go figure... It is like they actually want to keep players away from the tournament.
Several mentioned the timing of the event, coming as it does a month before the US Open. One response,  "I, and most other seniors, will have to choose between the two tournaments. There will be very few, if any, seniors playing in both tournaments." The one I liked best is from a fellow from a cold climate. "I do not understand why they do not hold the tournament in some tropical paradise during the winter months, giving us a chance to escape the bitter cold. Going south is something that should be done in winter, not summer!" Then there was this one: "I have been to Houston in the heat of the summer for business and I will tell you that I will not consider spending a week in a hotel at the Houston airport." He was not the only one to mention this sad fact. In case anyone is not a baseball fan, the reason the Astrodome was built in Houston is because fans refused to come out in the heat and humidity to watch a baseball game in the middle of the summer. It will be so hot that going out during the day is out of the question, and the games are at night, so one is trapped in the airport hotel for a week. "Houston is not the Chess Hub of the US,or the "wife" hub of the US (if I was going to play,one rd a day..what exactly am I and my semi senior wife going to do in Houston?)," wrote one. Speaking of the wife..."I mentioned the possibility of a trip to Houston in July to play each night and my wife played a Tammy Wynette song, and it was not Stand By Your Man." For those of you Country Music challenged, he was referring to one of her numerous number one hits, especially popular with the women folk, "D-I-V-O-R-C-E"! This is another reason to play the games during the day. Women like to have their man at night; something that should be self-evident even to men from the world of chess.
"Clearly only people who are well off financially or have a free place to stay in Houston can consider this event.  For anyone else it's cost prohibitive.  I can manage a vacation like this once in a while, and the social aspects of a senior event where I may see many long time friends makes it attractive." Then there is this: "...now as for the format...I do not like it..too expensive for me,I am willing to do the US Open or World Open and blow $500+ on a Hotel room,but not for a mere $1250!..the prize fund is a JOKE!.." This brings up an interesting point. Why should a player like me, a class player, expect to win money at the US Senior? Would it not be better to take that 'class' money and award it to the more deserving players who score higher? If I play well enough to get into the prize fund, then I would be deserving of taking home some cash. If there were no class money, then the prize fund might be enough to get players like GM Walter Browne & GM Yasser Seirawan to play, making the tournament more prestigious. The reward for a class player should be the possibility of facing one of these legends! I do not go to a chess tournament expecting to win money. A throphy or a plaque should be sufficient for class players. After all, thousands, if not millions, of people travel to places like Reno, Nevada to bowl in leagues just for the enjoyment of it. Golfers do the same thing. No golfer not good enough to make the cut on the Senior PGA tour would expect to win money, yet they devote much time and money to the game. The most pithy response was from a titled player who could conceivably win the tournament: "The possible reward does not come close to the investment of time and money involved."
Although no one mentioned the early start time of the last round, I did read something applicable on  GM Kevin Spraggett's excellent website:
"Well, the tournament ended with a very well deserved defeat in the final morning round!  I got plenty of sleep the night before, did my usual routine including preparation.  I felt motivated.  But during the game my brain stopped functioning normally:  at one move I saw the correct move, but then started to think 10 minutes, then 20 minutes, then 30 minutes and finally 40 minutes without seeing anything special!  Simply, I froze up...a morning round problem with many players."-GM Kevin Spraggett, 56, on the early morning last round at the recently concluded Cappelle-La-Grande (  )
Anything else I add would, I feel, be superfluous. I will leave the last word to a well respected NM who has given a great deal to the Royal game: ..."the USCF is totally out of touch with it's membership.. I do not predict a long life for non-junior Chess tourney in the US."
This can also be read on the BaconLOG at: