Round four, the evening round on the second day of USATE, is when it starts to get really interesting. Before play starts, the 1100+ players assemble in the cavernous ballroom. Steve Doyle reads the teams selected as finalists in the Best Team Name competition; winners are selected by applause. This year’s winner was the typically heh-heh kinda funny “What Happens in Parsippany Stays in Parsippany”. I thought the semi-naughty chess reference “Britney Offers No Draws” was much more clever but so it goes.
After that, the skits. This year’s winner was the faux-Kazakh team, complete with little national flags at each board and matching t-shirts that say something like “Glorious Kazakh team searching for pussycat chess bitch Jennifer Shahade” (don’t blame me, I’m just reporting here) and a performance of the Kazakh national anthem as lovingly rendered by Borat. The stuff about potassium exports etc, the whole nine yards.
The games are practically an anti-climax. Paired down again (surprisingly), Simple Minds manages a 3-1 win over “Rookfellahs”. My promising Dutch position dissolved into a draw; by that time I think my opponent’s position was probably better. Tim played a crushing and beautiful bishop sacrifice to win his game. Matt swindled a draw with a really clever sacrifice in a busted position. [Update: Matt’s posted the critical position on his blog. Nice shot, Matt. Still waiting for pictures … !] Jim capped it off with a win on fourth board.
But back to the sights and sounds. To crib from Principal Rooney’s secretary in Ferris Bueller, the geeks, the pinheads, dweebies, nerds, gearheads, loud-eaters, loud-talkers, close-talkers, the unwashed, they’re all here, mixed right in with the lawyers and options traders and consultants and so on. In between rounds they sprawl on the floor, congregating around big chessboards in the hallways, playing blitz chess, reviewing games, berating or congratulating themselves and their teammates and opponents. Burying themselves in giant tomes of chess opening analysis. Rudely bringing soup and sandwiches to the board during games, such that the overwhelming ambience of our third round game was provided by the nearby Russian guy’s sausage and peppers sub. Tomorrow, when everyone has to check out of their rooms before the last round begins, the hallways will become nearly impassable, the chatter nearly deafening, and the smell in the bathrooms unspeakable. And yes, these are my people and I wouldn’t miss it for the world.