This afternoon I was on the phone with real estate broker Shane Mehigan and I mentioned I played a tournament in New Jersey over Presidents Day Weekend. He asked me if I win money playing in tournaments. I laughed as I told him its funny he asked; the United States Amateur Team East is one of the few tournaments adults will play in that do not have cash prizes. Year after year, grandmasters, including Leonid Yudasin, John Fedorowicz, and Magesh Panchanathan and beginners alike will compete in the 350-team national tournament for nothing but glory and camaraderie. This past tournament, Chief Director Steve Doyle provided cake and coffee to commemorate its 50thanniversary. Since 2003, I played in all but two events, since the first time I played with Grandmaster Michael Rohde, Kevin Murphy and Aaron Rohde.
My few first years, I formed uncompetitive teams with whatever friends I could scrounge together. In 2007, my team Beavis Butvinik, made up of Fide Master James Critelli, NM Evan Turtel, Nick Panico, Alan Kantor and I, won 1stplace in the whole tournament. We made it on the cover of Chess Life in May 2007 and earned the right to compete in the playoffs between the winners of the East, West, North and South tournaments.
While I am a regular at the East tournament, I am going out of my comfort zone as this Thursday I am traveling to Raleigh, NC to compete in my first Amateur Team South with my team “Their Ain’t No Wall Between the South and North”:
-National Master Evan Rabin
-Prad Kothpalli (North Carolina Junior Champion)
-National Master Alan Kantor
These are the three things I love most about the USATE:
1) Forming Teams:
There are all types of teams, ranging from teams of 4 scholastic players, coaches and students, senior citizens, etc. Every year there are tons of teams that seemingly impossibly go right around the magic 2199.5 number, the highest possible average rating. Balanced teams typically win; check out Princeton University, who won the tournament 3 out of the last five years… the university didn’t have any players above 2400 in any of the years. This year and last, I decided to bow out of forming the most competitive team possible and play with friends and do some joint marketing with other chess companies.
2) Family Reunion:
Many chess players will play this tournament and no others throughout the year. It’s a great way to catch up with folks.
3) Gimmicks and Giveaways:
After cake was served before Round 2, Steve Doyle asked, “In what other tournament, do you get free cake and entertainment?”: Before each round, Steve ask trivia questions and the winners receive gifts, donated by various vendor, including American Chess Equipment, Russell Enterprises and as of this year, Premier Chess.
On Sunday night, before round 4, is always the team name competition. The audience has fun as Steve Doyle lists out his list of favorite names and it votes by show of noise. While my team this year, made up of Jesse Lozano of Complete Chess, yours truly, Bob Holliman, and Shelby Lohrman of American Chess Equipment, didn’t win a place prize, we did win Best Team Name with “Caruana Virus.” I first met Fabiano Caruana when he was eight-years-old in a Marshall Chess Club Friday Night Rapids tournament.
After the team name competition, everyone votes on the best gimmick via level of applause. This year, the winner was the “King Coffee Quartet”. Second place was “The Pawn Shop”, led by Igor N Khmelnitsky.
Check out my first-round victory from this year’s tournament against Matthew Grasso here:
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I look forward to reporting to all our loyal readers about my first Amateur Team South this weekend, when I’ll be able to share how how the level of competition, fun and camaraderie compares to the Amateur Team East!