Teaching old dogs new tricks

Sep 1, 2009, 2:53 PM |

I have played at least one USCF rated game in 25 different states, more than any other native born Georgian. The Legendary Georgia Ironman, Tim Brookshear, is catching up to me, but since he was born in the great neighboring state of Tennessee, my record will still be safe for some time. I had hoped to participate in the US Senior in Oklahoma this year, as it would give me another state and keep the Ironman at bay.
I went through Oklahoma in 2002 in my van and was pulled over by the state troopers for not wearing a seatbelt. The thing is, I WAS wearing my seatbelt! I gave them permission to search the van because the alternative was to be taken to jail while they found another pretext to search. Another trooper was called to keep watch on me, so I was, for all intents and purposes, 'detained'. After taking everything out of the van ("You sure gotta lotta chess books, boy. Why you got so many?" After explaining I was headed to a chess torunament, I was asked, "Ain't they got no chest toonuments in Georgia?") they found no contraband and told me I was free to go. This as it began to rain. They laughed when I asked if they were going to help me put everything back in the van! After an experience like that, I'm sure readers can understand my trepidation about going back into the 'belly of the beast'.
Oklahoma is in the middle of the country, so the cost just to get there will be great for everyone. Since it is not near any large metropolitan area, it cannot draw from a local 'crowd' of chessplayers. The prize fund is not really an inducement to travel to the tournament.
There are two rounds per day. Writing about IM Jack Peters column in the LA Times (Jack Peters (LA Times)), IM John Donaldson, in his fine Mechanic's Institute Newsletter (Mechanics' Institute Chess Room) says: Peters questioned seven titled players, all in their late 40s or older, how they had been affected by aging. Most of the respondents cited fatigue as a significant factor, particularly playing two games a day ( by far the norm in the US).
If two rounds a day are mandatory, and I question whether there should be two rounds a day for Seniors, then there should be at least two hours between rounds. A Senior needs that time to replinish the drained energy supplies and to rest, while having the food ingested have time to begin to digest. With two hours, at minimum, between rounds, A Senior would have time to go over the game he has just finished without constantly checking the time to ascertain how many minutes remain until the next round.
The Legendary Georgia Ironman has taken a stand; drawn a line in the sand. He refuses to play in a tournament in which the time limit is faster than what in total would be a five hour game. Many times I've heard him quote IM of GM strength Boris Kogan, "You must be strong in the fifth hour!"
I have decided I would not play in a tournament in which the time control is faster than G/2. I have discussed it with Tim, and others, with my point being four hours is long enough for a 'real' game of chess, if one has to play two games in one day. My thinking has been that if one goes to work at an eight hour job, one usually works half a day, takes a break for lunch, and works the other half of the day. Also, I will admit to a great deal of fatigue in the 'fifth hour', especially in the second game of the day. When players are evenly matched the game is usually decided in the endgame, which takes place, most often, in the fifth hour of play. The unfortunate thing is that my brain, like my body, is not as quick as it once was, and that means it takes me longer to work things out, putting me into time pressure and seeing me blunder away a better, if not won, position.
I have never played in the time control that will be used at this years US Senior. I believe it is the new FIDE time control of G/90 plus 30 seconds added after every move. If you figure an average game to be 40 moves, then 90+20=110, which is less than G/120, my minimum time control. I do not know who came up with this time control, but, since Kirsan Ilyumzhinov is the gangster in charge of FIDE (do you really believe his 'body guards' took it upon themselves to murder Anna Politkovskaya?), and he has come up with many other absurd ideas, the possibility exists that USCF pooh-bahs are marching in lock-step with him by using this ridiculous time control.
Seniors 'cut their teeth' by playing in tournaments with a secondary time control. I won the Atlanta Championship in 1976 with a time control of 40/2 1/2, followed by a secondary time control of the sort Jerry Weikel uses in Reno. Granted, there was only one game a night for five weeks...IM of GM strength Boris Kogan strongly advised getting up from the board after the time control and going to the men's room, if necessary, to refresh one's mind. This is not possible with this time control. Not to mention the fact that one can never be certain when the game will end, especially in a, say, Queen & Pawn ending...
I sent out an email asking Seniors, and future Seniors, if they had ever played in a tournament with this time control. Not one responded in the affimative!
After being informed the Georgia Chess Association planned on using the very same FIDE time control at their Senior tournament next month, I queried the Legendary Ga Ironman and was astonished to read he intended on playing, writing, "You at least get into the fifth hour." His desire to play had caused him to compromise his principles. I informed my friends back home I would not play. Some time later I received an email from the President of the GCA, Mr Scott Parker, informing me they had decided to change the time control to G/100, with the 30 second increment! A game of 40 moves will now translate to a G/2, and I hope to play. It is not what I consider ideal for a Senior tournament, but then, it does conform to my stated minimum. A chessplayer who stands for nothing will fall for anything.
As the time ticks away, a Senior realizes each event could possibility be the last in which he participates. I've missed so many US Seniors for various reasons, and hate to miss another...I will NOT attend the US Senior this year, and the time control is the main reason.