Armageddon Your Pieces Takes Amateur Team South on Tiebreak over Team Nobody
By Melinda J. Matthews   
February 22, 2011
The setting for the ever-popular US Amateur Team South was the expansive Sonesta Hotel, skirting the northern edge of a revitalized downtown Orlando.  The location was a revelation for this Disney- and suburb-weary chess parent.  At times the weekend even felt like a mini-getaway (for me): I could vacate the hotel premises for short bursts of time without needing a car, roaming the pedestrian-friendly streets easily.  I enjoyed long walks around Lake Ivanhoe and Lake Eola, a yoga class in the park (punctuated by a madcap squirrel battle) and a leisurely ramble through a vibrant street art festival infused with an infectious reggae beat and the distinct smell of funnel cakes.  I almost forgot a chess tournament was underway.

A sign on Lake Ivanhoe called this section of Orlando, “The City Beautiful: The Legacy Continued.”  After experiencing it first-hand, I have to agree: Although the architecture is far from the classical Beaux-Arts standards set by Daniel Burnham’s White City, the downtown’s balance and scale – the blend of historic charm juxtaposed with modern sleek, the public parks and centerpiece lakes, the walkability, the viability – all pay homage to the intent of the City Beautiful movement (which was to bring people back to the city center and cure social ills through the ideal mix of inspirational architecture and accessible open spaces).

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But I digress (my inner urban planning geek escaped momentarily).  The tournament attendees did not descend upon Orlando for a history lesson and a tour of downtown.   No, they came to participate in what’s become a classic President’s Day showdown among chess players around the country, old and young, neophyte and seasoned: the Amateur Team regional playoffs.

Team chess itself seems like an oxymoron, but the Amateur Team tournaments rank among the most popular precisely because of the team element: it’s a different kind of challenge, requiring a slight shift in mindset to both concentrate on your own game while strategizing for the team.  As Larry Storch, president of the Central Florida Chess Club wrote, “This tournament represents the very essence of our chess experience.  We are not playing for cash prizes or class prizes, but for the love of the game and the enjoyment of competing among fellow chessplayers.  Adding to the enriching experience is the team concept, where chessplayers play both for their own glory and for the advancement of their team, a unique concept.”

It’s been a long time since my son, Nicky, played in a USAT, precisely because it falls during an activity-filled, family-centered President’s Day weekend.  This year, however, Nicky and his friend, NM Robert Perez, were highly motivated to pull together their team, Nobody, featuring Robert on Board One, NM Daniel Gurevich on Board Two, Dalton Perrine on Board Three and Nicky on Board Four.  All four boys know each other well, having met either through ICC or tournament play (or both).  And, since none of the Nobody crew plays for school teams, they were happy to experience team dynamics, with all its ensuing camaraderie and competition.
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NM Robert Perez, NM Daniel Gurevich, Dalton Perrine, Nicky Rosenthal

Despite late starts to the rounds, Chief TD Harvey Lerman and assistant Steven Vigil kept the Open and Scholastic tournaments moving along smoothly, as usual.  Saturday night was complicated by a wedding reception scheduled in the ballroom directly across from the Open section’s room.  The reception, complete with DJ, pulsingly loud music, animated conversation, plus a tempting array of appetizers and an impressive ice sculpture spread out in the hallway between the two rooms, definitely served as a major distraction.  The wedding party, I’m sure, did not relish the idea of scruffy, bleary-eyed chess players milling amongst their well-groomed guests any more than the chess players appreciated the chatter and noise in the midst of intense concentration.

The problem was solved by moving the Open section one floor up for the evening.  Many of the players enjoyed the coziness of the smaller upper rooms so much that they played the Sunday morning round there as well before being required to return to the main tournament hall for the final round.  Having players scattered about lent a certain splintered and fractured feeling to the Sunday morning proceedings.

Going into the final round, Nobody held a slim lead over Armageddon Your Pieces.  In the end, both teams finished with 4.5 out of 5 points (they drew to each other), but Armageddon toppled Nobody on tiebreaks to capture the championship and the Ugly Rook. See a tournament recap by Peter Dyson of the winning team on the Central Florida chess website.

Here are the final standings:

US Amateur Team South 2011 Champions:
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Armageddon Your Pieces
(Left to Right): IM Javad Maharramzade, Jeremy Mandelkern, Matt Helfst, Peter Dyson

2nd Place Open:
Nobody
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3rd Place Open:
The Scheming Mates
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U2000 Open: Better Lucky Than Good!
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U1800 Open: Still Too Cool For School
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 U1400 Open: Hall of Wards
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Special mention has to go to Dalton Perrine, and not just because he’s a Nobody.  His spectacular 5-0 finish earned him top Board 3 honors and launched his rating past 2200.  So congratulations to our newly-minted National Master.

By popular vote (which meant screaming and shouting approval), best team name went to Disturbing Behavior.

I was unable to collect games from the other team members before departing for home, but here is one of Nicky’s:



After the game, Dalton Perrine showed Nicky 16. f4, a win he had overlooked.

The scholastic section was dominated by four teams who flew in from the Virgin Islands Institute for Training and Learning, accompanied by their coach, former World Chess Olympiad participant Darryl Allen.  This was their second attempt to win the championship.  Last year, they lost on tiebreaks; they descended upon the tournament determined to take clear title this year.  They fulfilled their wish with a first-place finish for the Rock City Gambits (which also won best team name). Tropical Storm took third place and the Hurricane Knights won U800. The fourth team, V.I. Castles, finished seventh overall.

Scholastic Team Champions:
Rock City Gambits
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(Left to Right):  Abdul Abiff, Arthur Williams Jr., Alexander Emmerich, Shamiel Vanterpool

Scholastic Third Place Finishers:
Tropical Storm
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Scholastic U800 Champions:
Hurricane Knights
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I asked Coach Allen about his post-tournament plans for the team.  And, in what has become the classic answer for sports champions of every type and ilk, he responded, “We’re going to Disney World!”  (And they really are: the teams return home on Tuesday after a Monday date with the Mouse).

Sandwiched in between the Virgin Island teams were the Hart Attacks in second place. 

Scholastic Second Place Finishers:
Hart Attacks
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Team Chung took the U1000 prize for Scholastics.

All in all, it was a pleasant weekend spent in friendly competition and comfortable surroundings.  Nicky and I, as usual, were among the last participants to leave the hall, bidding farewell to Harvey as he finished his paperwork.  We sped home under an enormous orange moon (and I mean it literally: we arrived at our doorstep in obscenely record time, fueled by my caramel macchiato with an extra shot of espresso).  As I drove, Nicky and Robert began texting...which led to sending chess moves back and forth...which led to each of them pulling out boards in their respective cars to embark upon hotly-contested rounds of progressive chess.  I couldn’t help but smile as Nicky frowned at his board, concentrating on finding the perfect multiple moves: after a full weekend of marathon chess, these boys chose to relax and unwind...by playing more chess.

See a tournament recap by Peter Dyson of the winning team on the Central Florida chess website. Also look for reports on CLO soon from the US Amateur Team East (won by West Orange Krush), US Amateur Team North (where for Whom the Azbel Tolls edged out chicago.edu on tiebreak) and the US Amateur Team West.