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A Parent's Perspective, This Time Supersized Print E-mail
By Mark Schein   
April 2, 2009
The SuperNationals kicked off with blitz and simuls as thousands of kids and parents struggled to get in on time despite stormy Nashville weather.
Wednesday night, Aaron and I arrived in Nashville, for our 14th National chess tournament and our 2nd SuperNationals.  I’ll start off this blog with a shout out to all the parents of young elementary aged kids who are playing in one of their first big tournaments.  I’m not shouting out to you because of what you’re getting yourself into, or what you have to look forward to over the next few years.  I’m shouting out to you because your child probably didn’t wear headphones the entire trip to Nashville and you were probably able to chat and have company.  I miss those days.

Chess Life Online asked me to blog about this year’s Super Nationals.  With the economy teetering over the last few months, many of us chess parents thought the tournament might not take off.  However, it is clear that Super Nationals is TOO BIG TO FAIL. 

The USCF has really been touting this Super Nationals.  All the grade sections play at one time, in the same venue, in the same hotel, under one big roof.  What does this mean to a chess parent?  It means heightened competition, more tension, the need for better preparation, and I’m just talking about finding food for our children at meal times.  Yes, putting 5,000 chess players and their families in one venue for the same weekend will lead to longer lines and frazzled nerves.  I actually have a plan for dealing with this dilemma, but just as I wouldn’t (maybe couldn’t) tell you what Aaron would play against the King’s Indian, I’m not going to give up our game plan so early in the tournament.  Let’s just say it involves packing lots of food and eating at strange hours.

The crowds in the hotel, or the Biosphere, as it is often called, pose a delicate dilemma for handling the “Endgame” or what non-chess parents refer to as Sunday’s hotel “checkout”.  There are many variations that can be adopted.  The “main line” for checkout is to pack your belongings early Sunday morning, seat your child at his round 6 match, and then lug your bags around the biosphere for five or six hours before heading to the airport.  This variation has many weaknesses such as potentially not focusing on your child’s meal or preparation Sunday morning, not being near the tournament hall during round 6, and of course losing a bag during the course of the day.

A second variation involves the "delayed endgame" which is also known as "late checkout."  This, basically, postpones all your round 6 problems to round 7. 

The third variation is called the “sacrifice”, a monetary sacrifice of paying for an additional half or full day, just to have a room to retreat to between rounds.  As if this entire weekend isn’t enough of a sacrifice, the Monday return flight which jeopardizes your finances, job, marriage, and child’s academic standing all at one time is one option often selected by parents.  But hey, when you’re looking at what’s ahead of you this weekend, the endgame is the least of your worries.  You’re just hoping to get to the endgame and not get checkmated in the opening.  (By the way, the Opryland Hotel actually allows you to buy hours for $10 per hour after 12 noon on Sunday.  This appears reasonable under the circumstances.  Heck, they know you probably won't even be able to consistently find your room until Sunday.)

Just keep in mind that at the Hilton Hotel in this year’s New York State Championships, variations 2 and 3 were no longer available Sunday morning which led to people hiding in rooms, barricading doors and threatening litigation.  But we always say that the NY State Championship is a tough tournament.

Aaron and I love Nashville.  I went to law school here and the mild weather, beautiful city and friendly people make it a welcome destination.  That being said, most chess families will not get outside of the Biosphere the entire weekend and could very well be playing in any city in the country.  We try to see Nashville a little on Thursday.  Aaron has started to really enjoy the Blitz tournament, so if he also plays Bughouse, we wont have much time to wander.  I usually try to introduce Aaron to some of my Vanderbilt law school professors, in an attempt to make them feel better about giving me my degree.  Last trip we made it to the Hermitage, which was Andrew Jackson’s estate.  But by Thursday evening, the focus turns to getting through the first few rounds unscathed and buckling down for the intensity that is sure to follow.

I look forward to speaking with many of you around the tournament this weekend.  I made the terrible mistake of wearing an orange shirt today, which has resulted in my being asked hundreds of questions about pairings, missing boards or specific chess rules.  Luckily, I’ve been doing this for a while and feel comfortable giving a hand.  As I’m starting to notice, my son is moving around pretty comfortably without my help.

Mark Schein won Best of CLO: #5 for his 2008 two-part article, A Parent's Perspective.
Keep up to date on the SuperNationals on the official website and look for more thoughts from Schein on CLO later this weekend.


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