The Road Warrior - Part 1
So the Weak Square embarks on two out-of-town tournaments two weekends in a row and commits to report his findings to you, my faithful readers. My first tournament was Land of the Sky XXIII in Asheville North Carolina this past weekend, January 29, 30 and 31. The weather was horrible. It snowed like 9 feet in Asheville and I thought we were going to have to get a team of huskies to sled us the last 15 miles of the trip because there was a foot of snow on the Interstate. There was also a littany of cars strewn about the side of the road, abandoned that looked like some kind of scene out of a zombie apocalypse movie. Despite our adventure getting there as usual out of town tournaments are fun. You also get to learn a lot. For example, the gentlemen that I traveled with learned that I like to sleep naked, always have. I'm not 100% sure they guy I was sharing a bed with appreciated that fact when he found out the next morning my sleeping preference. They also learned that no matter where I am, I always take my autographed poster of "The Hoff" with me for inspiration and pin it up in the room. David Hasselhoff is hands down the greatest actor of our generation end of discussion.
Land of the Sky - Asheville, NC
The weekend began in tremendous fashion. We left Columbia at 5pm to get to Asheville in plenty of time to enjoy watching some of the first round GM games. We got caught up in some snow but were still making excellent time. We reached Hendersonville, North Carolina in only 2 and a half hours only 15 miles from our destination. The next 4.5 hours consisted of several of us standing in half a foot of snow in the middle of I-26 because traffic was dead stopped drinking beer and talking about who would win a fist fight between Starr Jones and Shamu. I got Starr Jones because of her weight advantage.
I was really antsy about getting to the tournament late even though I was playing on the 2 day schedule. Apparently word had broken out at the tournament that The Weak Square was going to be in attendance and I can only guess that all of the GM's were unable to perform at their best because they were constantly checking over their shoulders to see if I had arrived yet. We did not get checked in until midnight and I was obviously put off because I was unable to sign autographs or take pictures with fans. When we arrived there was one GM game still going on. I'm not 100% sure who the guys were but they both had last names that looked like a cryptogram. I was certain they would want to know I was here and safe so I kindly walked over to their board and whispered to them that I was here and ok. They seemed really angry about something I guess their game wasn't going so well.
We hit the bar for a little bit after arriving and there was some guy in there so drunk he was trying to fight everyone. He could hardly stand up or talk so eventually someone just sat him down in a chair in the corner and he spent the rest of the evening drooling on himself and mumbling "Walk Like an Egyptian" by The Benglas for like an hour straight. I found at later that guy was actually me. Funny things happen when you consume enough alcohol to slay a horse. Naturally I ended a stressful day with my standard hour-long candlelit bubblebath.
After a miserable night of sleep I began Round 1. I'm not necessarily blaming my garbage performance on my poor night's sleep but I really did sleepwalk through my first game and lost to a higher rated player. He was like 4 years old or something crazy like that. My second game ended in a draw with a higher rated opponent with black so I cannot complain. My third round game ended in victory against a higher rated opponent. So the day ended on a positive note.
In other news, a gentleman from out of town had an absolute meltdown at the board when he thought his opponent touched his king and then moved a different piece. The tournament director, who was standing by watching the entire thing, said he did not see him touch his King and ruled against the plaintiff which caused him to lose the game. He had a Christian Bale-like freakout and started calling everyone in the room unethical and the tournament was rigged because he was not from North Carolina. Like a champion his opponent sat their stone-faced and silent when the guy was done with his tirade he simply said, "you played a good game. You are a fine competitior." It was truly a class act. I am pleased to report the guy who had a freakout made a public apology the following day before the first round began for his behavior and told everyone it was a great tournament and he would definitely be back next year which was met by applause from everyone. I thought that was nice. But real men don't apologize... ever. That's just my rule and all four of my ex-wives understand this.
I was really surprised at this junction, but everyone seemed so preoccupied with chess that the tournament directors, players, GM's and even hotel staff acted like they had never heard of The Weak Square. I realize everyone had a stressful time getting to the tournament because of the inclement weather so I did not necessarily blame them for being shy or coy around me.
My roommates kept me up until 4 in the morning so I was really angry with them. Then things got nasty when I woke up and they were drawing mustaches on my Hasselhoff poster and snickering. It almost came to blows. The next morning I got paired with this guy in Round 4 who looked like Dexter. I was afraid if I beat him he would serial kill me so I threw the game on purpose. The final round of the tournament I played perhaps the most fun game of my chess career. I threw caution to the wind and just went for an all out kingside attack. I gave up a bishop and an exchange sacrifice to keep the attack going. My opponent was in a pressure cooker but took a lot of time and found the correct defensive resources. He was under severe time pressure due to my mating attacks lying all over the board and the fact that he was intimidated by playing a celebrity. He made his time control with only seconds left on the clock but in doing so left a somewhat dubious defensive position. He played a queen sacrifice to save a possible mate. In a completely wild attacking game that should have never ended in a draw we agreed to a peaceful conclusion when it appeared I could not mate him and if he tried to mate me I had a perpetual check on the board. Very fun game!
We wrapped up the tournament by saying our goodbyes and hugging all of the new friends that we met. I even gave Kaidanov a hug during his last round game against Kudrin. Again, he was really angry about something. When we were leaving the tournament a bunch of cops were arriving so I'm not real sure what that was about. All in all it was the most fun I've had at an out-of-town tournament. I play in Charleston, South Carolina next week in a tournament called, oddly enough, The Snowstorm. The tournament director made an announcement about Snowstorm but joked that perhaps Land of the Sky should take the name "Snowstorm" and perhaps Charleston should take the name, "Land of the Ocean". It wasn't funny.
Until next week. Like The Hoff says... Stay Cool!