Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Boston Spy in the Dallas Chess Club

Recently, I noted that the Dallas Chess Club was one of our major national chess rivals, in terms of attendance of both strong and regular players.

This weekend, I had a chance to check it out and play in one of their events.

Located in Richardson, Texas, just north of Dallas, the Dallas Chess Club is located next to a pretty little park with a picturesque pond.

Driving up towards the front door, I knew I wasn't in Davis Square when this little guy waddled in front of my bumper.

In terms of space, I thought it was comparable to the Boylston Chess Club-- until I was led upstairs for my first round pairing. This extra annex room held about 30 people. Tightly. I had to fight my way through crowds to get to my board every round. They had a bigger room downstairs, but it wasn't clear to me why we were crammed into the upstairs rooms.

The club has a nice skittles and TD area, with a vending machine for snacks. They have a modest collection of books that doesn't come close to the more than 2500 volumes that we have. They have some chess decorations and mementos, but the Boylston's chock-a-block full of chess trinkets and trophies earned over our 100 year history. Maybe the Dallas club is tidier than us and puts all that in storage.

The club clearly hosts lots of tournaments, but their staple format is G30, a punishing and blistering pace for the over 30 set. The event I played, on a Saturday, started after 6 PM and used game 25 minutes + 5 second increment timing, a new format to me. After every move, you get 5 seconds added to your time, no matter how much time you used. That's right-- if you play faster than 5 seconds, you get extra time. This had a few tangible effects on the style of play at the beginning and end of the game. The openings are blitzed out (I couldn't write my moves down fast enough, so I didn't get so much time added to my clock). At the end of the game, winning positions slowly become even more clearly winning-- a player in time trouble but up a piece eventually makes up time with a series of quick moves and will rarely be in danger of flagging.

Given the required heart health to play so quickly, it is also little surprise that the majority of players were under the age of 14. In fact, out of about 35 players, only 3 or 4 were adults, and most of them were pretty young kids. But don't kid yourself -- these kids are strong. At a current rating of 1970, I was 7th on the wall chart. The top player, 10 year old Tommy He, is rated over 2150 and he smacked me around using just a few minutes on his clock. While I suspect that some of these ratings may be inflated by clock jockeying and local isolationism at Dallas's many rapid time control events, the speed with which Tommy calculated some complex lines told me his rating is legit (He is ranked 3rd for 10 year olds, and his quick rating is 8th for under age 16. Did I mention that he is a FIDE master?).

I am proud to say that, despite my rapidly aging brain, his was my only loss to a strong field firing on all synapse-cylinders.

All told, I have a favorable impression of the Dallas Chess Club. They were very friendly to an interloper and the kids were alright (rowdy, joking, but strong and serious about chess). If only the event had started earlier in the day, with a slightly more sedate time control, I might have kept my cortisol levels in the normal range.

And maybe we should import some ugly ducks for Davis Square?

No comments: