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Hanken's Last Corner Print E-mail
By Jerry Hanken   
August 18, 2008
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Jerry Hanken, Photo 2007
This may well be the last of the Corner. The paper bulletins for major tournaments seem to be going the way of the Betamax.  Only the National Open and the US Open have them available these days and I don’t plan on going to the National Open next year. Who knows if YHR will survive another year to get to Indianapolis in ’09.
 
Just a word or two about this column. It began in Jacksonville at the US Open of 1990, one of the memorable disasters of a US Open. The attendance was low, the food was unavailable, and the playing conditions were just bad. It was organized by the late Ed Butler, who was way out of his depth as both a Policy Board member and an organizer. There was a famous T-shirt which asked on the front, “WHO KILLED THE US OPEN?” The answer, on the back of the same T-shirt was “THE BUTLER DID IT!” 

Mark Ishee and now IM Ron Burnett  (“Don’t call me little burn!”) were putting out the round by round bulletins. There had been bulletins before but none as full and elaborate as these. Mark, whose family was in the publishing business, asked me to do a small column to break up the monotony of game after game after game.  I thought about it and came up with “Hanken’s Corner.”  In the 1920s, H. L. Mencken, the fabulous cynic and satirist, wrote a column for The Baltimore Sun. He was “Your Humble Reporter – YHR -   and his editor became “Ye Kindly Editor” - YKE. They engaged in quite a lot of banter in the column to the amusement of the large readership of the Sun. I simply stole it and was always looking for a Kindly Editor who would banter with me. 

The Corner is actually a blog and was so, long before anyone had ever heard that word. (My 2003 Word Program still does not have it in its vocabulary)  I went on to write almost 400 of these columns in the next 18 years. Some are pretty good and were widely reprinted and quoted. Some were merely self indulgent and were about YHR. I spent an inordinate amount of space riffing on my “streak” of 38 straight plus scores I had kept up until it  was brutally ended by a 12 year old rated 1628, Paul Duncan in Chicago ’06. The game was in Chess Life For Kids in October of ’06). Some were just bad, though it pains me to admit it. But who is on the top of his game 400 times?!

They appeared in bulletins of the American Open, the National Open, and most consistently, in every US Open bulletin since 1990, with the exception of Reno 1999 (Weikel is not a fan of mine), and other tournaments. It is certainly a mixed body of work, but mostly I am proud of it. My best editor, or at least the one who “got it” best, was Eric Schiller in Concord 1995. His spelling and other technical editing left something to be desired but his banter was just what I have tried for, without success, before or since. That set of bulletins is a classic.
 
CLO editor Jennifer Shahade showed me that my round seven corner and my best game of the event was published last week. For those of you who missed it, check out the link and the game, republished below:



 My ninth round game was with White against the very correct Todd Imada from my home state. He is probably a low expert now. You may recall in the prior Corner I joked about an upcoming bloodbath at the Delegates meeting. It turned out to be less than a joke!  I am sure you will read about this elsewhere.  I mention it to explain why I literally fell asleep at the board five times during  my last round game.  I was both physically and mentally exhausted.  I would wake with a start and find my Monroi stylus not in my hand but on the floor!  Lots of nice people, including Todd, were kind enough to retrieve it for me. Aside from relative immobility, I have mild cataracts.  I am not yet using a magnifying glass as does the two thousand year old man, my friend Dan Mayers, but it may yet come to that.



What was remarkable about the game was that I blundered away a pawn which turned out to be a good sac, giving me two bishops and the clear initiative. The next time I nodded off, I realized I had blundered an exchange. As it turned out, this too was a sound sac!, giving me the bishops and a strong attack on the king!  If I had found the right place to warehouse my dark squared bishop, c7, I had good winning chances! But my last doze was fatal. I woke up to what I thought was a move to recover the exchange, -g4?? and completely overlooked the mate threat on my g2. So the dark squared cleric had to be exchanged with the bonus to Todd that the trade also compromised the white pawn position. That was one snooze too many and when I took the e-pawn, thinking it was protecting my hopelessly pinned knight on the e-file. (somehow I hallucinated that I was protecting the pinned knight with my queen, though I had a pawn on e3!),  now it REALLY was bedtime.

As is usual, I hear the voices of Randy Hough and Al Losoff in my head. “Write about the tournament you egomaniac!!”  I will do that in my well disciplined Chess Life story for February. The discipline comes from my not so Kindly Editor Daniel Lucas.  I do want to say congratulations to my good bud Enrico Sevillano, the last top notch player I scored a full point against a couple of years ago (mea culpa, I just couldn’t resist throwing that in- it IS true), and to the great comeback from recently out of form results of “The Pittsburgh Pounder,” Shabba dabba do (as Joel Benjamin calls sometimes calls him), Alex Shabalov, last year’s US Champion, who started with a half point bye and also got the super score of 8-1.  This remarkable score was also achieved by IM Rade Milovanovic. Many 9-rounders in recent years were won with seven and a half.  With a finish on that score, my “horse,” Doug Root, took clear 4th . After I lost to Dougie, in the third round the Corner predicted he would win it all.  (I keep wanting to call him “Dougie” even though he is 45 and a very distinguished Professor. He still looks like the teenager who beat me up so many years ago!)

Enrico, the current Southern California State Champion, got the trophy on tiebreaks and, more importantly than that, the qualifying spot in next year’s US Championship!  It was only this morning, as I write this on Friday the 15th of August, that the very exciting news has broken. Next year’s US Championship will be sponsored by the new St Louis Chess and Scholastic Center!  Other details will appear on this website soon.

Just so you know, the president of the St.Louis Chess Club, Rex Sinquefield is a student of your web-editor and was in contact with our EB member, Randy Bauer. The arrangement was finalized by our Executive Director, Bill Hall, who also plays chess. Bill scored plus two in the Dallas U.S. Open, and is trying to hit the master mark one of these days-just 81 points to go.

What I love about the website most is that I don’t have to count my words!  I do want to end these ramblings with a word or two about the Westin Park Central Dallas hotel. The rating by AAA is “Four Diamonds” and all four are well deserved. I stayed at another Westin in Boca at the Senior Open, and Westins are the classiest hotels which currently host chess tournaments. The Dallas Westin was particularly notable for the level of service and the ambiance provided. From the plasma HD TVs to the “heavenly beds,” the rooms are spacious and comfortable. The service is attentive and the playing quarters are well lighted and roomy. The air conditioning was perfect.  I did not need a coat to keep warm as has been the case in other hotels. Water was plentiful and readily available to the players. The setup people were Johnny-on-the-spot.

Westinlead.jpgOn the down side however, the hotel food was quite edible, but a $20 breakfast was a little out of the price range for most of the players. My main contacts at the hotel, Will and Jonathon, tried very hard to get the banquet folks to set up a food and drink concession before and after the rounds. We told them that they could charge six bucks for a sandwich and $2.50 or even $3 for drinks and chips and they would not lose money. It was partly the fault of the USCF official who did the original contract negotiations, but the banquet people were hearing none of it. This did not tarnish the many good things the hotel did provide, but it left a number of players with negative feelings and that was too bad.  I am certain that if the Westin Dallas hosts future chess events, this will be remedied

Finally the answer to the two US Open quizzes which no one got. The FOUR US Opens which went 13 rounds, were Corpus Christi in 1948, Milwaukee 1953, Chicago 1963 (where I drew while almost beating Pal Benko, when he had been a recent Candidate for the World Championship. – OK, Bill Snead and Randy Hough, its just Hanken being Hanken here), and, of course, Seattle 1966 when not yet then GM Walter Browne, who was 16 at the time, disappeared in the middle of the tournament, and it was widely reported that he left with a 14-year-old teeny-bopper who was one of the fawning young girls drawn to the Beatles concert with which we shared the hotel! Nothing was ever proved and when Walter came back two rounds later, he was paired with YHR!! We made a draw. He went into an ending with a pawn less and two minutes left on his clock for 25 moves. When the time control came at 50 moves, it was I who was a pawn down and fighting for the draw! Walter did this time pressure magic almost routinely in those long gone days. 
 
The US Open where the players were housed in a Merry-go- round??  Columbus 1977 when most of us stayed at the Carousel Motel! It was the first time I saw and used a remote controlled television set. AWESOME!

I do hope to be back to the US Open in Indianapolis in 2009. This should be a banner Open as we have some great ideas to build it up.  If YHR is there, there will be another set of Corners if we do have US Open Bulletins. If I am not, let us hope we all meet in a better place sometime. To all my readers, critics or fans, I have genuine affection for you all. Go and enjoy our great game as I now do, more than I ever have before in my life.
Jerry Hanken

 
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