Thursday, September 15, 2011

Being Roped Into Chess Politics

The 2011 New England Open was my first "big tournament" in over 20 years, since I was a teenager. I thought about attending for a good while. Should I just skip it this year, stay at home and practice on the computer/study, or should I just say, the heck with it and attend? A colleague at work who has been a good inspiration in a number of ways over the last three years said, "Go for it. You'll probably get more out of the six rounds there than you will sitting at home on the computer for a month." So, with that attitude, I decided to go.

With everything that had gone on with me over the past two months, I decided to make it something of a vacation. I'd stay at the hotel (something I'd almost never do), go in the hot tub...and play chess. I figured if I got 2/6 points I'd be happy.

Cassia had other ideas.

I lost every single game. I lost the 5th round to a very nice girl, Pooja, rated 528 who, in my defense, was having a wonderful tournament. She ended up garnering over 325 points to her rating. Coming into the U1500 crosstable at 18th out of 18 she left it 6th. Still, remembering that several years ago I could sneeze on 500 rated players and kill them, that defeat was particularly hard to take. Cassia seemed to be saying, You abandonned me for over 11 years, buddy. I'm not taking you back that easily!

From a networking standpoint, however - usually not my strong suit - the New England Open was a wild success (depending on how you identify success, perhaps).

NH Player Pooja Welling in the 5th Round of the NE Open. Note Particpant Flags on Board 45
The week before the New England Open, after I'd decided to go, I'd been looking at pictures of old and current international tournaments. We've all seen them: two big-name players battling it out over the board with their national flags by them. I'd always thought that looked neat. I thought, Why can't that be done at the state or local level? It would "class up" the game. So, I went out and got a flag stand and small state flags for every New England state, a US and Canada flag, and an extra MA flag. During my first actual round, I put out the flags for myself and my opponent. I got MA, and Scott Stapel got his NH flag.

George Mirijanian, MA Chess Association President and the New England Open's Assistant Arbiter told me Monday, "Here we were starting Saturday mornning, and as I looked out at the sea of chessboards my eye was immediately drawn to yours and your flags. I'd been to a lot of big national tournaments - several US Opens, in fact - and I'd never seen that done. I thought, Here we're dealing with someone who thinks differently." Apparently I impressed George, although I had no idea how much.

Boylston's Own FM Chris Chase Prepares for the Round 6 Battle on the Top Board against IM Igor Foygel
I was also, apparently, the only person taking photographs. I was doing it for personal reasons, just on my mobile, but it turns out that those photos are the only record of the 2011 New England Open. George was happy to have them.

On Monday afternoon between Rounds 5 & 6 a meeting - the usual yearly meeting, apparently - for the New England Chess Association was held. I'd been googling NECA for a bit and could find absolutely nothing about it save for two broken links to a non-existent website on the Western MA Chess web page. Not being able to find out much about it, I asked George if the meeting was open to observers. He said, "Yes." So I went. To observe. Honest!

NECA is the regional chess association. I'm finding out that a full understanding of chess poltics takes Ph.D.s in politics, sociology, and in some cases abnormal psychology (but that last is a prereq. for any study of politics!). NECA is made up of representatives of the New England State Chess Associations as well as six Delegates-at-Large. It's not a membership organization like the United States Chess Federation or the Massachusetts Chess Association.

The meeting went quickly and quite reasonably well. Since, largely, the only people there were the people with an interest, or who were already representatives, the voting for the 2011/2012 Officers and Delegates went smoothly. Then we got to the Delegates-at-Large. All of a sudden George says, "I nominate Richard Kinne as a Delegate-at-Large."

NECA Delegates George Mirijanian & Steve Dann Debate an Issue
Hummmm. What? Wait a second! I stood up and explained that I was just there to observe. I wanted to find out more about the organization and how it fit into the maze of chess politics. Having me as a Delegate might be a bad idea because I had transportation challenges with no car. I couldn't get to meetings.

"That's no problem," George said. "We have one meeting a year - here."

"How are things done in the interim?" I asked.


And so, suddenly, in a moment of great weakness (Hey! I'd just lost five chess games in a row, the last to a 528 strength player! I was still in massive shock! :-) ), I found myself saying, "Yes" and taking on the role of getting the New England Chess Association on the web.

So, now we'll get to see how much damage I can do to New England chess. :-)

1 comment:

Ken Ho said...

I love the flags, Doc. Hope they never obscured the question of whether someone's flag had fallen....