Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The Day I co-won a tournament with John Curdo

Photo: Robert Oresick

Clearly John Curdo is a chess legend. If John Curdo was a pro ball player, who would he be? To date Curdo has won 807 tournaments over more than 60 years. Won the Mass Open over 17 times (we say "over 17" because our record keeping is so poor). Cy Young with 511 career victories had an average of 24 wins for 21 years is the baseball player closest I can think of. I bet John Curdo easily won about 4000 wins which is 67 wins per 60 seasons. And still going.
Photo: Steve Stepak

Saturday 10/02/2004 early morning I head west on the Mass turnpike. Memories of my playing on the Westfield Chess Team/Club flash in my mind. I turn off at the Palmer/Ware exit now heading on North Main Street Palmer and stop of at RA Manley & Sons Plumbing Supply to talk to past chess teammate Ron Manley who is stuck watching the store and won't be playing in today's 2nd Annual Palmer Open. But he said he will drop in. Saying goodbye I head up to the Grange Hall that has conditions right out of the past: the hall is a dark musty building of wood construction of 100+ years old.

Logistics for an exerb tournament is trickier than in cities or suburbia where venues are more static. The director has to show up very early to places like this and deal with the conditions as presented. Set up the computer and make sure that chairs and tables are arranged ok. Move the cows out of the parking lot if necessary(only joking). You have to be more patient with the directors out here as they don't direct very often and it takes a little longer to work through things.

It's time for round one and the director Ed Kostreba is beside himself as the open section has only four players for three rounds. I say I'll play up if it will help. In fact there are 4 sections and only 25 players which make things complicated everywhere because the players don't want sections to be combined?!

In 2003, the previous year, The 1st Palmer Open had 38 players and Alexander Ivanov blew away the field. I think Ivanov's biggest challenge of that day was finding a good cup of coffee.

My Westfield State chess coach/sponsor Dr. Les Hutton was playing in the u1600 section and we had a nice reunion. Round 1 I got a 1 point bye being in the Open section; round 2 - I faced a mid 1800 opponent and won a nice game. John Curdo was the strongest player that day. I watched as Curdo created positions so tense they looked painful to look at, then blam they explode in Curdo's favor, winning his first two rounds.

Final round to be paired: I have two points and Curdo has two points, we are the leaders. We expect to face each other. This will be my first time to face John. My former teammate Ron Manly broke away work to watch me play the last round.

When the parings went up John and I were NOT pared against each other?! We went up to the TD and simultaneously asked what's going on? TD said that people would have to play each other twice in order for us to face each other. And that's not going to happen. So I was paired against a mid 1900'ds player, me with Black played a French defense and got to successfully blow him up with a nice bishop sac on his h2.John made short notice of his opponent as well. I WAS CO-WINNER OF THE 2nd ANNUAL PALMER OPEN WITH JOHN CURDO! My grandchildren will hear about this, probably too many times. John, classy guy that he is, gave me a hearty hand shake and congratulations. Later that summer at a college reunion I met several of my Westfield State chess buds and they congratulated me on being so lucky as to not having to face John Curdo.

What ball player or athlete would you equate John Curdo with?

Do you have any good Curdo stories?

Please Comment. Mike Griffin 05/06/2008

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