A Fight for Survival: Thad’s No Fun Wins US Amateur Team South
By Ben Silva   
February 10, 2015
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Thad's No Fun: NM Richard Francisco, NM Sanjay Ghatti, Frank Johnson, Grant Oen and Thad Rodgers


The tournament went down in Atlanta. Home to Martin Luther King Jr., the setting of the hit series The Walking Dead, origin of the critically acclaimed hip-hop duo the OutKast, and cradle of CNN, yeah that’s right A-town. Hotlanta, the A.T.L, the Georgia Peach, need I say more? The event took place a whistle away from the ATL airport at the Crowne Plaza, not too shabby though they did hide us in the basement ballroom. I get it, we are weekend chess tourney warriors in the USA, a niche within a niche, but that’s okay because we were pretty much left to our own devices.

Friday night kicked off the 1st round for the 3-day schedulers and also introduced the players to the tournament directors: The commanding Mr. Gregory Maness and the ever-dapper Mr. Kevin Hyder.

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Dapper doesn’t quite cut it. In a city known for it’s exceptional contemporary fashion as well as the perfect harmony between the urban and country influences, this gentleman sported a cowboy hat, stud earring, a cane, fingerless/knuckle-less leather gloves, and 3 piece suits. All stylized, even pictures cannot do the details justice. I half expected him to start the round with a silver-plated six-shooter. Overall, the event was run smoothly and timely. The rounds all started on time and there weren’t any superfluous announcements made while I tried to prepare mind and soul for imminent combat. A job well done, evidenced by immediate posted final results. 

Round 2 saw the merging of the 2-day and 3-day schedules, 20 teams in all featuring chess inspired names like Pawn Ninjas, and Knight Raiders to the more intriguingly random such as Mtn Dew Ballers and the Panda Express. With a team average rating cap of 2200, and prizes for a number of categories, the amateur team events are truly for amateurs, and as such I wanted to be sure to cover a wide variety of the flavors present to compete. 

You had the high school squad the Flying Pigs with three unrated players whose own Thomas Suh scored an impressive 4/5 in his first ever USCF rated tournament, garnering him an initial rating of 1880! There were at least 3 college teams of sorts from the University of Florida Alum’s Even Later Gators (not to mention my own team) to Georgia Tech’s Yellow JaChecks. Technically the Yellow JaChecks were the only true university team with all currently active students and they represented their school well by finishing 4th overall and first in the U2000 category. Sadly, we (Florida State) did not get a chance to compete against either of these other two college adversaries, which I imagine would have been good old rivalry fun. 
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Then there was the all girl team The Queens Raid, masters of the poker face. These young ice-blooded princesses showed incredible poise and finished with a respectable team score of 2.5/5. They were one of the more entertaining teams to root for. Here is one particularly nice win by their board 2 Samhitha Dasari during their drawn 3rd round match against a higher rated and cleverly named team of older gents, Shades of Grey. The final position is especially forceful.



Round 3 saw the emergence of the front-runners and rating favorites all on 2 points. On table 1 you had the Lord of Files (2093) vs. Poison Ivory (2184), while table 2 sat Thad’s No Fun (2176) vs. Even Later Gators (2153).  Finally at table 3, the last remaining unbeaten team Sky’s the Limit (2017) up against the one loss Don’t Mess With Texas (2008). In each case the ratings favorite won setting up the all-important penultimate round in which the two highest rated and still undefeated heavyweights faced off.

Round 4 went down to the last second literally as Thad’s No Fun edged out Poison Ivory 2.5-1.5 thanks to a win on board one on the clock! That game had everyone crowded around as the two board one players fought to secure first place for their team. The game was brutal for both sides and saw white with an exposed king, and queen, bishop, knight and single pawn against a comparatively safer king, queen, bishop and 4 pawns plus more time which proved decisive. I dared not to reconstruct the game after that time scramble, but I did manage to squeeze into the crowd for a shot of the action.

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The stage was set for the 5th round. Thad’s No Fun would face Sky’s the Limit, who were held to a draw and 3.5 points in the 4th round. Would the leaders settle for the draw and tournament victory, or would they go Magnus Carlsen-style for the throat and the unblemished record? Leaving nothing to chance or manners, the top seeded No Fun vanquished their opponents with a 3.5-0.5 score. The big win was best exemplified by their board 1 win, a masterful performance by Richard Francisco. He finished the tournament on 5/5 and clear first on board 1.



The champions are in fact hometown heroes as members of the local club and US Chess League, the Atlanta Kings. They donned their moniker in honor of tournament director Thad Rodger. 

Other board winners included undefeated Grant Oen also from Thad’s No Fun on board 4, and the top board 2, Peter Giannatos of Poison Ivory with 4/5.

I want to congratulate our own David Frank who came out on top at board 3 with a score of 4.5/5 for over 150 new rating points. His score helped BroScience win the U1800 category. When I asked him if he had any comments to add he simply replied, “I got lucky." I would like to add that “luck favors the prepared” or bold, or both. I will leave you with his round 3 win.

 

The US Amateur Team East/World Amateur Team will be covered by Al Lawrence and the US Chess Scoop. Kostya Kavutskiy will report on the US Amateur Team West in Irvine, CA, while Betsy Dynako will write about the US Amateur Team North in Schaumburg, IL.