Friday, September 09, 2011

TD-ing: A Gentle Reintroduction

Who hasn't dreamed of being a referree? Being able to run on the pitch with the other players, wearing a special uniform? Being able to blow a whistle when things go wrong? Wait. Sorry. That's football.

Look around the Bolyston Chess Club. Take a good look around and name me the one thing you see everywhere. Yes, you could answer the chess books of our rather extensive library (and, indeed, I might have to accept that answer) but the one I was going for was the "TDs WANTED" flyer that is seemingly on every bulletin board and door and wall in the club. I mean, you'd think they were serious or something!

It is with those flyers in mind that I presented my newly-renewed Club Arbiter qualifications to Bernardo at a small lull during my first tournament last month and said, "I'd like to help." And thus was born a second beautiful mentorship!

As I mentioned before, the first person to teach me tournament direction was Joe Ball in Syracuse, NY, decades ago and light years away. You didn't have to worry about cell phones. Anyone could beat a computer. There were no laptops. All the clocks were analog clocks. There were no such things as half-point byes. It certainly is a different world now!

Bernardo Finally Able to Concentrate on Playing. His New TD protégé, Doc Kinne, Takes the Reigns for the Sept. Thursday Night Swiss
Introducing me into this different world 25 years later is our own Bernardo. I paired with cards 25 years ago. I don't think we even have cards at the club now. It's all done on the computer. And while there is a part of me that misses the cards, I have to admit that the computer gives you a very interesting flexibility, and the current chess scene seems to have taken advantage of that flexibility. Twenty-five years ago the option of half-point byes where you can request to not play a round for whatever reason and just take a half-point, didn't exist. It really complicates the score groups in a Swiss System tournament. But, with the computer simplifying things such as this, half-point byes are quite common. Whether they're a good idea or not may be the subject of a future article!

One of my favorite aspects of computer pairings is the computer printing out the wall chart and pairings for you! And, honestly, when I direct, this aspect of computer pairings will be your favorite aspect as well - you won't have to decypher my writing!

Digital Clocks: Chess Savior or TD Nemesis? You Decide!
Do I have a nemesis as I'm reintroducing myself to tournament direction? Well, yes I do. Believe it or not my biggest challenge in this new age has been the digital clock. Specifically the Chronos Digital Clock. From mistakenly resetting Steven Stepak's clock at a tournament last month, to not even being able to figure out how to turn off Harold Dondis's clock after the first round of the September Thursday Night Swiss ended, every experience with the Chronos clocks have been an adventure. I'll probably have to sit down with an owner's manual sometime soon.

Digital clocks as a class, I think, have revolutionized chess timing for the better, all things considered. But they certainly have complicated matters! As limiting, perhaps, as analog clocks are, they certainly were simple - two dials, two wind-up keys, and two buttons. That was it. Now certainly the Chronos Digital Clocks are simple - three buttons across the top - but they're anything but simple or obvious, at least to me so far.

So, this month, for the first time since 1992, I am the Chief Arbiter at a chess tournament - specifically our September Thursday Night Swiss. I can't imagine a better introduction! The Thursday Night Swiss, of course, is a tournament held one night a week for a month under Classic time controls. Once the round starts you have time to retype the financial record sheet, make sure about your money balance, etc. And you have time make sure everything is set up correctly for the eventual USCF ratings submission which takes place in three weeks instead of three hours. Due to these factors I'd certainly recommend the Thursday Night Swiss as an introduction to anyone who wants to direct. At the risk of jinxing myself (FM Chris Chase's comment: "The night is still young!"), the first round went swimmingly, so I look forward now to the rest of Thursday nights in September!


Ken Ho said...

Even if you didn't have half-point byes in your area of NY back then, I thought we had them in this area even back in the mid-1980's, but perhaps someone else remembers more clearly. I don't remember ever requesting one -- I go to tournaments to play....

Bernardo's rating is expected to rocket upward now that he can concentrate on his game.

The Thursday Night Swiss is the club's flagship tournament in many ways. If someone were returning to this area after decades away, I believe they'd expect the dependable TNS to be running still.

I always understood that one of the points of digital clocks was to reduce the tournament director's time pressure work because two players using time-delay might be able to avoid the need for intervention. I do believe that is true. I did recently lose a game to Harold because I couldn't program my own digital clock in time for the round start, so we played with an analog one, and of course I lost on time, just seconds short of checkmating him. Ah well, that taught me to always pre-program my clock for future events.

Robert Oresick said...

Hi Doc
Thanks so much for taking up TD-ing again with such enthusiasm -- it is a real help to the club.