Tennessee Senior Open

May 31, 2009, 11:28 AM |

The Tennessee Senior Open was a wonderful event! Not feeling my best, I decided to play the first round Sat morning, in lieu of Fri night, but attended the opening ceremonies at the Fair Park Senior Center that evening. The Mayor, J.H. Graham III, welcomed us with open arms. I told him this story: I left my hotel room after changing pants, as it was warm enough for shorts. After ordering a couple of burrito’s at Taco Bell, I realized I had left my money in the jeans. I felt foolish, but the employee, Nan Turner, handed me the grub, saying it would be on her! I simply could not believe it! I mean, that does not happen in a large city like Atlanta. This is a perfect illustration of the difference between a big city and a small town. I learned that during my stay in Hendersonville, NC. My theory is that people are much more friendly in a small town because they realize the people they encounter one day at a restaurant may be the same person they encounter at the library the next day. In a big city, one thinks they will never see that person again. It is the people who constitute a community, whether Crossville, Tn., or our small chess community. This has to be one of the major reasons Crossville was chose to be the new USCF HQ. A better place could not have been located!
The next morning, upon my arrival, the Mayor greeted me, giving me his card and asking if I would send him the tale I told him the previous night via email. I agreed, and have already done so. Then, when it came time for the picture, the Mayor asked me to stand beside him! Several others said a few words in greeting us, too, so the first round began a little late, which is very unusual for ‘Head ‘em up, move ‘em out Harry Sabine, as he’s known for getting the round started on time. Then, there was a drawing for prizes donated by the Crossville community. There were many drawings and I was fortunate enough to win one! There was free coffee, drinks and snacks for all the players, which was a real nice touch!
Harry was the head TD, capably assisted by Susan Houston, an employee of the USCF, and her son, Charley, who kept us updated on the US Championship. Harry is training Charley; passing the torch, so to speak. Charley is quite young, and was, therefore, reluctant to tell us Seniors to be quite, so I told him he was a TD, and to say what he needed to say, since he was ‘The Man’. I had to smile when Charley told a group, including me, to “keep it down.”
Susan remarked that the tournament had a different feel to it than any other she has attended, with the players acting more like a family reunion, or homecoming. Susan handled the ‘puter and also served as I like to think of her, as ‘Chess Mom’! She also coordinated trips for the players to the HQ. I went by earlier in the week, seeing old friends like Chuck Lovingood and Jay Sabine (and watching games from the US Championship!), Walter Brown, Alan Kantor, etc., and meeting new friends.
The Fair Park Senior Center was a fine place for the tournament. The lighting was superior, far better than the recent Ga St Champ, for example. The lighting is especially important for Senior players. Different folks from the Senior Center welcomed us, making us feel right at home. As I sat there listening to these wonderful people, I thought that this is the kind of greeting I’ve read about on the web in European countries. It made me real proud to be a chess player! These wonderful people made us feel special.
There were 35 players, far exceeding the small turnouts for previous Tn Senior tournaments, which were only a one day event with a G/60 time control. I think part of the reason was a tribute to Harry Sabine. We still miss the Fairfield Glade after all these years! One year it snowed heavily and we were stranded Sunday night and the Glade did not charge us for the room!
Players came from half a dozen different states, with one player originally from England and one from the Netherlands. NM Henry Robinson took first, 4-0. The fine Chess Café historical writer, Jerry Spinrad, was clear second with 3 ½. Seven players tied for third with a score of 3-1. I am proud to say I was in that group, losing only to Henry. An ornate chess set was donated by the Fair Park Senior Center and it was decided it would go to the biggest upset (I asked Harry if that meant the largest rating differential, or the player who got the most upset with a loss!). My first round opponent, Larry Grohn, rated 880, bested my third round opponent, Wieb Van Der Meer, 1420, in the last round to take the prize.
Mucho Kudos to Harry Sabine for holding this event! Although Harry and I have had our differences over the years, I prefer to think of it as a disagreement with a TD, not the man. The man is someone with whom I can share a drink of JD (what else would Harry drink?!), invite into the Atlanta Chess Center on a day it was closed and I was the only one there, make a cuppa joe, have a conversation, and show around. The worst thing I heard about Harry while in Crossvile was that he is a “fine man.” And I heard it not once, but many times. “Oh, you know Harry Sabine? He’s a such a nice man.” You must come to Crossville in order to understand what having the USCF HQ means to this community! These people are PROUD, and Harry Sabine, as the Mayor said, deserves much credit. The modest Harry pointed out the work of others…I can think of no one better than Harry to coordinate a Senior tournament in all 50 states! Senior chess is bringing players back to the game, in some cases after many years out of chess, to raise a family, and or work.
I would like to thank Harry, Susan, Charley, and everyone else for a wonderful time here in the mountains.