2013 Hot ‘lanta Chess Championship

GM Alonso Zapata, who has recently relocated to Atlanta, sliced through the field of the 2013 ACC like a chef slicing and dicing a hog, winning all five games, to finish a clear point and a half ahead of Michael Corallo, and Darcy James Linde. Thomas Carlton, the last round victum of the GM, finished clear fourth with three points. Mr. Carlton, a former NM, now expert, has not played in a rated event in twenty years! He bookended his loss in the first and last rounds with three wins. He too has recently moved to Atlanta. There were a total of fourteen players in the Open section.
There were fifty-six players in the Amateur tournament. Andrew Park finished clear first with four and a half points. Four players, Raghurama Bukkarayasamudram; Steve Chen; Elena Gratskaya; and Pranav Narnur, tied for second with four points.
Three players, Anish Kumar; Adrian King; and Sreyas Kanaparti, tied for first by scoring four points in the hotly contested, nineteen player under 1200 tournament. Nima Rezaei and Jedrzef Rucinski were a half-point back in fourth-fifth place. After looking at the tournament announcement I wonder why there had been a separate under 1200 section since the tournament is not advertised as having one. I sent Thad an email with the question and received this reply at 12:18 am June 4, 2013:
Mike,
I sent this announcement in when my mind was on getting ready for
the SuperNationals. It wasn’t until after the State Championship that
I poured thought in it. The repercussion of the tournament structure
was bad.
I would have 500s, 600s, 700s, etc. being paired against 1400s and
higher in the first two rounds. I called USCF and they told me I had
to either go by the announcement or talk to everyone entering the
tournament.
I said that I couldn’t wait for that because I have a 3-day and a 2-day
schedule. I also couldn’t use accelerated pairings under the format.
So, I said this is the only thing that made since.
At that point I wanted to talk to new Interim Executive Director,
Franc Guadalupe. I consider him one of the top 3 tournament directors
in the country. He is a National Director and a International Arbiter. He
was recently the Chief Tournament Director at the SuperNationals and
the U.S. Chess Championship.
He said that I was perfectly correct. So I added the Under 1200 section
officially at 2 p.m.! on May 31st. I told the entrants that they could
play for money in the Under 1200 section or play up in the Amateur
and play for experience and Under 1400 prizes. It turned out that two
players each with 1181 ratings won the Under 1400 prizes.
Sincerely,
Thad

I arrived at the North Dekalb Mall, site of the tournament, a short time after the start of the last round. Having previously been to the exact same location last summer and a few days earlier for the Thursday Night Throwdown I entered from the rear used usually by people who work at the Mall. It surprised me to find the door to the site closed because I was aware there was no air conditioning in the former Ashley Stewart space being used by chess organizations recently. Since there is AC in the back hallway, I assumed the door would be opened and a fan would have been placed there to utilize the much cooler air. As I walked through the back way I saw a smaller room containing people playing chess. When Tim Brookshear and Championship Chess previously utilized the room last year, when the AC worked, it had been decided this very room in the back could not be used because of the lack of AC. Upon entering the room my olfactory senses were overwhelmed with the acrid, pungent smell, which took my breath away. As I struggled to breath I noticed GM Alonso Zapata playing on first board. I could not help but wonder what he thought of the condition of the playing area as I exited after managing only a brief stay. Although there was a tall, thin fan pointed into the room, it was doing about as much good as a band aid placed on a human being burned over ninety percent of his body. It was so hot in the back room hosting the top boards that when I made my way into the main playing room it initially felt much cooler. Unfortunately the feeling did not last long and I had to go out the door into the walkway of the Mall where there was, fortunately, AC. Over the next five hours I would make brief forays into the tournament hall to spectate, but spent most of my time out in the walkway, talking with parents and players. I would like to take this time to thank each and every one of them, especially the Senior players with whom I talked, many after a last round loss. The older players did not fare well in the last round. From the look of them, I would have to say they were lucky to escape alive. All of them looked wilted. The words used to describe the conditions were, “brutal,” and “miserable.” One Senior did say that he would not go so far as to use words like that, but that it was “extremely hot.” In the sake of fairness I will say that one, Georgia Senior Champion Alan Piper, said the heat did not bother him because he is extremely cold natured. He chuckled when I told him that is why so many Senior’s move to Florida. I was able to question Alan concerning the US Senior. His prize in winning the Ga Senior was $500 towards the US Senior, which happened to be this past weekend. He did not go because of the distance involved and his age, saying, “I may have done it when I was younger. I even considered sleeping in my car to save money, but my wife did not like that idea. I just cannot do the things I did when young.” My reply was, “I know that’s right!” When asked what he intended on doing with the money he asked, “What money?” I assumed he had been given the $500, but I was mistaken. He was to receive the money only if he made the trip. I asked if the second place finisher was given the opportunity to take the money and run, but he had no idea. As a matter of fact, Alan had no idea about what the GCA intended on doing with the money intended to defray expenses for the player who would represent the Great State of Georgia in the United States Senior Open. The Armchair Warrior would like to inform anyone reading this post to make it known to the board members of the GCA that comments can be left here and there are many Seniors who would like to know what will happen to the money, and if there will be a Senior tournament this year.
There was one fan blowing cooler air from the walkway into the main playing room, and another fan left by Tim Brookshear. Other than the small fan blowing on the promoter, Thad Rogers, those were the only fans to be seen. Although a dozen industrial size fans would not have been able to cool the room they might have mitigated things somewhat, causing the disgruntled parents and players to feel the organizer had at least addressed the major problem of heat. Tim Brookshear said he called Thad after the Thursday Throwdown to inform him, “Conditions were barely tolerable, and only because it was night.” Tim also told Thad he would need to purchase some kind of portable cooling unit for the weekend. Thad took time to go out into the cool of the walkway for an interview. He told me he thought the AC was working and when he found it was not he had gone out to purchase a fan. I asked about the possibility of buying, or renting, a portable AC unit and was told it was, “Too expensive.” Having previously worked at the House of Shame, I was only to aware of what the lack of enough air conditioning would do, since there was never enough during the long, hot, sweltering summer at the Dump. Thad said he was “Pleased with the turnout,” going on to say he had “Outgrown the Mall.” Thad told me he was, “An international arbiter; international organizer; and National TD,” going on the say there were only a “handful of National TD’s.” One would think someone with that kind of resume should realize how important air conditioning would be to a comfortable environment for playing chess. He also lamented the fact that he had been told he could not sale books and equipment at the Emory Castle chess tournament this month.
One nice lady, the fiancée of one of the players in the Championship playing in the back room, who happens to be new to chess, asked me, “Aren’t these kind of things usually held in a hotel?” I told her it had been my experience that most major tournaments in other states were usually in a hotel, as were all bridge, backgammon, and scrabble tournaments. After learning her fiancée was playing in his first tournament in two decades and they have recently relocated to Atlanta, I told her that one player I know who travels to tournaments in other states tells people that “Georgia is backward when it comes to chess.” The fact is that my home is thought of as the armpit of chess in the US. The people in the chess community may not like it, but the sad fact is that we are thought of in the same way one thinks of the banjo players in the movie Deliverance. If anyone wishes to question that statement, take a look at a chess magazine or go online and check out the fine tournaments in top-notch venues and contrast them with the recent Georgia State Championship and this tournament, the Atlanta Championship. I won the 1976 Atlanta Championship held at the downtown YMCA on Luckie street. It was a better venue than the North Dekalb Mall.
I spent five hours talking with anyone and everyone about the horrible conditions. As you can imagine, the parents were extremely concerned about the effect the heat would have on their children. Most of them could not understand why there was no AC in the playing hall when there was AC in the rest of the Mall. I told them the gentleman who had rented the other space, recently used as the site of the state championship, for his Sight & Sound’s Black Cultural Expo Museum (http://www.sightsandsoundsblackculturalexpomuseum.info/1.html), did not have AC either. I visited the museum and talked with Mr. James Horton. It was an interesting experience, to say the least. Although it was warm there, it was not as hot as the tournament site, possibly because there were not many people there. Some of these parents have taken their children out of state to participate in good tournaments held in excellent venues. They are clearly bewildered, and some are appalled, by the conditions they experience in Atlanta.
It is a medical fact that prolonged exposure to heat can and will kill, especially older people. As I looked at the bedraggled faces of the Seniors to whom I talked that afternoon and evening I thought of the frog who, if thrown into a pot of boiling water, will jump out immediately. But if a frog is placed into a pot of cool water and the temperature is increased slowly, it will stay in the pot until it dies. I know the mind of a chess player because I was one when younger, and because I worked at the Atlanta Chess Center. I know chess players will endure almost anything to be able to make another move. That fact was demonstrated when I visited the Dump while another nameless/faceless weekend swiss was taking place. I was not working there at the time of the visit. The toilets were clogged and had backed up with raw sewage overflowing and going out into the skittles room. That did not deter the players, who seemed oblivious to the stench as they continued to push pawns. I will never forget the sound of the “squish, squish,” each time someone took another step…The place should have been closed, but the manager had decided to “nut-up” in his room, which, come to think of it, may not have been a bad idea! I have always heard that the “show must go on,” but I am not too sure about that, especially when the health department could close you down. It seems that maybe there ought to be someone willing to “do the right thing” and save chess players from themselves. I know one Senior who was unable to make it to his chess camp the Monday after the event because he was too ill. He now regrets having played in the Hot ‘lanta Championship.
Thank you for reading, and if you find it interesting enough, tell others. In the near future I will have an interview with GM Zapata and NM William Stewart, who has a new book coming out this summer. The GM also has a book coming out, but it is in Spanish. I know one player who will purchase it, Dr. Cano!

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One thought on “2013 Hot ‘lanta Chess Championship

  1. Nikolai Astrov says:

    Thad was handed lemons and made lemonade!

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