I got a nice win in Round 6 of the USATE 2008 with the Nimzovich Defense (see Briones-Goeller, USATE 2008
) to help our team finish 5-1 and thus give us a good shot at taking the Best New Jersey Team title. That cheered me up a bit and changed my outlook on the tournament -- which had not been helped by a forfeit win in Round 5 followed by a very long wait for Round 6. I had been in a very gloomy mood all day until the end, but the win helped me go home happy.
I think our whole team had been feeling down following our loss to the Three-Gs, which basically meant that our chances of winning the title were completely sunk in Round 3. In fact, one of our players was so upset about it that (in my opinion) it caused the medical condition that made it impossible for him to continue. That meant that Bob Rose and I would have to play two games on the last day.
At least Bob and I actually got to meet each other after over two years of playing on the same team! "Yeah, it had been sort of like that movie Ladyhawke
with you two," Stoyko joked; "you played in the morning and he played in the evening and you were doomed to never meet."
As predicted, the Three-Gs finished 6-0, taking the title with never a doubt.
According to Steve Doyle, I was mistaken regarding the 1000-point rule. The USATE has never disallowed stacked teams
, even when the national event imposed an anti-stacking rule from 1994-1998. So the Grandmasters will play for the championship. I wonder how the other three teams will feel about that?
I engaged a lot of people in conversation about the Three-Gs, especially during my hours of waiting around after my forfeit win in Round 5. I encountered a surprising diversity of opinion on some matters, and was shocked that many people saw little wrong with the idea of three GMs playing on the same team. Here are some things people said:
- Rather universally, people thought the Three-Gs made it impossible for ordinary master and expert teams to challenge for the title, but this only diminished the morale of those who held onto "the dream of glory." While some play for no other reason than that they have a chance to win a national championship, most go to "the Teams" just to have fun. And even those out to win the championship were generally philosophical about it, saying "there's always next year" or "these stacked teams come and go." Only a couple people were "outraged" by the Three-Gs.
- Everyone I spoke to believed that the three GMs had been paid off (Three-Gs plus room and board was the standard estimate) so that the youngster could take home a share of the title. But they generally added "it's a free country" or "his Napster-rich parents are welcome to buy a title if they want to do that -- it's their money." Several thought it was nice that the GMs got a pay day.
- When I suggested to people that this was an "amateur" event, and a paid team had no place there, I rarely found much support for my view, to be perfectly honest. One player, whose team had won before, thought that the word "amateur" should be stricken from the event's title since he thought it had really diminished his achievement in the eyes of his friends and co-workers when he had won. In fact, he said, some people had even teased him about his "amateur" status. When I mentioned this to other players, they agreed and said that it was about time that we just called it the "World Team." One even suggested that it be modeled it after the World Open, with lots of cash prizes, though he balked at raising the entry fee to pay for that. The meaning of the word "amateur" in the event's title seemed completely lost on most people I spoke to, especially anyone under 40.
- The organizers suggested that something might be done to address the issue of stacked teams in future events. But they did not think the 1000-point rule was workable, especially since they want to encourage both GMs and juniors to play. The strongest recommendation I heard mentioned was that there should be no more than two GMs per team. One proposal I heard batted around was that individual scores could be factored more strongly into the results, so that any team that regularly lost on bottom board might suffer when compared to teams with more uniform results. I didn't much care for this proposal, since there are many occasions when players might want to take a draw once a match had pretty much been decided, and it struck me as onerous and hardly fun to always have to play for the win.
With so much complacency among chess players, I don't think there is much sense in complaining about the Three-Gs. No doubt they will go on to win the national title (who could possibly stand in their way?) and get their pictures on the cover of Chess Life
.For the rest of us
, there's always next year.
Labels: USATE 2008