Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Birth of a Chess Tournament

Before my first weekend chess tournament less than a year ago, I was a total patzer. Now I'm a total patzer who is in love with weekend tournaments! I was having so much fun going from town to town getting my tail kicked when a brilliant thought occurred to me, "hey why not get my tail kicked in my own home town?" And that, as they say, was that. From that moment on it was my determination to create a weekend tournament in Columbia. This is the story about how a guy who went to his first weekend tournament under a year ago managed to put together a successful tournament in my own backyard.

Formulation of a Plan

Like all good chess games, I knew that I needed a plan of action. A poor plan is better than no plan at all. I certainly did not want to conduct a tournament "from move-to-move". That is, sort of floating through dealing with whatever comes my way as it happens. So the first thing I did was list the positive things about my "position".
-Good contacts
-Computer skills
-Stunning Good looks

Now what were the challenges I was facing putting on a good tournament?

-No money
-No tournament organization experience
-No location
-No safety net in case the tournament flops

Now it was a matter of setting a goal and using my positives to get there while minimizing my negatives.

The goal: Get 30 people pre-registered for this tournament and a total of 60.

Ok so I have my goal set. Thirty people. I knew with 30 we had a great shot of making 60 people total. Nothing draws a crowd like a crowd. When people log onto the site they need to be able to see lots of people registered for the tournament. So how to get thirty?

Step 1: Make a freaking awesome looking flyer.


Step 2: Beg my local club to play

I got in front of my local club, shamelessly I might add, several times and practically begged them to sign up and play in this tournament. I had to make up stuff like there would be dancing chicks and elephants and midgets cutting backflips. And clowns. I fooled enough of them into signing up under false pretenses that some other people started taking notice.

Step 2.5: Spam chess message boards

I took out a map and drew a 200 mile circle around Columbia and decided to post a tournament announcement on the following message boards:

Columbia Chess Club - Columbia SC
SC Chess Associaton - South Carolina
Queen City Chess Club - Charlotte, NC
Charelston Chess Club - Charleston, SC
Aiken Chess Club - Aiken, SC
Greenville Chess Club - Greenville, SC
North Carolina Chess Association - North Carolina
Asheville Chess Club - Asheville, NC
Atlanta Chess Club - Atlanta, GA
Knoxville Chess Club - Knoxville, TN
Jacksonville Chess Club - Jacksonville, FL

Did I mention I did not have the financial safety net for this tournament to fail?

Most of the club presidents also agreed to email the announcement out to their members. That's right. Spam from the Columbia Open! Right in between your penis enlargement and 80% off of pharmaceuticals ads in your inbox was us, the 2009 Columbia Open!

Step 3: Gather a good team and start farming out work

Amidst all the fake promises about making thousands of dollars and a celebrity guest appearance at the tournament by Ernest Borgnine, I managed to get a few people interested in helping me out. Joking aside, interest in the tournament was going nowhere fast without help. So here is a shout out to all the people that helped me.


Step 4: Securing a place to play

I knew from the beginning I wanted to play in a specific part of town. So I went to several hotels before getting lucky and getting a great deal on the best hotel in this part of town. Again, lying is critical here. Promising the hotel that 200 chess players with limitless amounts of money would be staying in their hotel, they had no choice but to give me a great conference room at a very reasonable rate.

Step 5: Challenging people who signed up

Ok, so far I've mixed in a few "embellishments" about my plight. But all joking aside I did seriously challenge some people who signed up. I would email them and say "I challenge you to get one person to sign up!" Literally every person I challenged actually snagged someone for the tournament. I thought that was a clever idea.

Step 6: Snag a sucker willing to part with his money

No seriously I appreciate it, Mike, the tournament would not have been possible without your help.

Step 7: Relentlessly pressure club presidents to urge their people to play

Hey you guys know how much it sucks not to have people show for your tournaments. So, again, I appreciate your help.

Step 8: Ignore the haters.

For some reason it really seems to be a universal axiom that your biggest criticizers are the ones who don't lift a finger to help. When people tell you that you can't do something, tell them what they can do. Don't surround yourself with negative energy. People love to drag people down to their levels when they are miserable. Refuse to go along. Annoy those people; work hard and smile.

Final Results: 54 Players pre-registered.

There have been 3 previous installments of the Columbia Open. All three tournaments combined drew 66 players. Now, 48 hours before the beginning of my first chess tournament organized, we have 54 committed and the clock has not even begun on the first round. I certainly am not trying to minimize the efforts of my predecessors. I am simply celebrating a success for a guy who knows nothing about organizing a tournament.

Erik Murrah - August 19, 2009

Thanks to all the following for your help in making the 2009 Columbia Open possible: Bob Halliday, David Grimaud, David Gongre, Ron Labrecque, Matthew Wilson, Mike Meekins and Comtura Networks, Mark Love and, David Jones and his magnificent chess sculptures, Gary Newsom and Charlotte Chess Club for running the best Saturday tournaments around, The Columbia Chess Club for all the kind words and encouragement and most importantly actually believing all the hype I fed to you, Ashley Tyrell and Hilton Hotels for being some of the best people to work with, The State newspaper for your interest in the Columbia Open, International Master Danny Kopec for your sagelike guidance and actually reminding people there still truly are gentlemen at the top, last but certainly not least my dearest wife, love of my life thank you so much for your encouragement and trying to convince people I'm not a total dork. I am so sorry that I will not be home this weekend but I SWEAR I will take the trash out and clean the garage up Monday ok? I love you.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Erik for taking the chance to make this tournament a reality! Thanks to everyone for supporting it and helping to make it successful!! Chess is alive and well in the Midlands!!