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Hanken Blogs from the Pacific Coast Print E-mail
By Jerry Hanken   
July 21, 2008
Jerry Hanken, Photo 2007
The beautiful and elegant Renaissance hotel in Agoura Hills, California hosted the Pacific Coast Open Chess Championship from July 17th- 20th. The tournament ended in a four-way tie for first between GM Melikset Khachiyan, IM Enrico Sevillano, Robert Ashasaryan and the young hero, Sam Shankland, hot off an IM norm from Philly. Look for games from the winners later this week. This hotel has always been one of my favorites due to its great service and wonderful ambiance. This year was a real challenge for both the tournament and the hotel staff. There was a double booking on Saturday the 19th (a Bat mitzvah for a girl named Savannah)  and the chess players had to temporarily use smaller rooms. The hotel called in more staff and cooperated fully with directors Steve Immitt and Randy Hough to make this new configuration work. Almost 200 players had to find new board assignments in sometimes unfamiliar places but, astonishingly, there was hardly a complaint. When there was a squeaky door, hotel maintenance came with a can of oil in two minutes. Tables were moved almost unnoticed and water was available on demand for the thirsty players, now in scattered rooms. Between the organizational genius of Steve Immitt and the crackerjack hotel banquet staff, what could have easily been a disaster, turned out to be a classic case of victory over adversity!

By Sunday, when the money rounds were played, all was back to normal. The whole Saturday operation was awesome! Here are some of my personal highlights:

I stayed over Saturday night and was overwhelmed by the fine service. A new addition to the comfortable sleeping room, was a brand new plasma TV that kept me up far too late. Whenever I needed something, like a cleanup of a coffee spill in the middle of the night, a man was at my door in a minute. The most embarrassing moment for this old duffer, was a stupid fall from a chair I took in the TD room. I wasn’t hurt, but I have a hard time getting back on my feet due to my weak legs. As I struggled to get up, a large congenial member of the front desk management team was picking me up under the arms and getting me onto my feet like a 200 pound sack of potatoes. He wouldn’t even take a tip. Suffice to say, I wish I could have stayed a week instead of just a day. This was luxury living and I WILL be back!

·         My original plan was to play only four games, taking byes in the first and final rounds. The plans changed on Friday when I had a pleasant lunch with an old friend in Pasadena and was driving home. An idiot in a van made an illegal left turn and clipped the front right bumper of my until then unscratched town car, and took off like a bat from you know where. I was unhurt and the car had suffered only cosmetic damage but I was outraged. I tried to follow him for a few blocks. He never let me get close enough to see his license and I was afraid that I would get into another accident if I did not give up the chase. After I pulled over, I tried to call 911 on my cell. Busy, busy, busy. Gosh what if this were a real serious problem? I was able to flag down a patrol car on my way home. He took a report and went to the intersection where it happened. I told him a part of my car came off but we could find no missing parts. But there in the middle of the intersection, was a hubcap from a Ford van! It was off of HIS vehicle. Still, not enough evidence to track the jerk down so I am stuck with my $500 deductible.

·         I tell you this to explain why I was so shaken when I got home. I had to take a nap and woke up at one AM Saturday (Friday night) After I woke up, I just could not get back to sleep so by six AM I called Steve and asked for a second round bye. After a couple of hours of troubled sleep. I made the 35 mile drive to the Hills of Agoura and with bad freeway traffic, I got there just as the 3rd  round of the two-day schedule was about to begin. I  was faced by a strange array of men wearing kippas with drinks in hand, a bunch of little laagers in uniform (another small meeting at the hotel that afternoon) and the clearly identifiable motley crew of chess players.

After wandering like Moses in the wilderness, for what seemed 40 years, I finally found my board. I was paired with Andranik Matikozyan, a 2500+IM who has beaten me at least twice before. On top of that I had Black in this G/45 contest and I had left my chess glasses in the car so I had to play the whole game while squinting at fuzzy pieces! So what were the odds gentle reader?  Remarkably, the game went into a variation of a home cooked pawn sack, which I had not played for years. What did I have to lose? This was a game I was supposed to lose anyway... Remarkably, as we approached the tine control, I was a pawn ahead in a queen ending with a couple of minutes extra on the clock! Not wanting a time scramble with a player of his youth and strength, I proposed a draw, which he promptly accepted! The game will appear in my next report.

In the next round, I lost a well played slow game to a Russian expert named Vadim Kudryavtsev where I played some fine moves in the opening and middle game. I don’t like to lose of course, but at my age, the joy of the game overwhelms the negative feelings of a loss.

I wrote this blog while up all night, before playing my final two games on Sunday. I survived this tournament on pure adrenalin. Lets face it, I am immersed in chess like a pig in mud! Notice how throughout this article, I avoided the storm of nonsense with which my young friend Abby was faced when her choice of words was not so “delicate!”   Sheesh!!

Look for a full report on the tournament by Jerry Hanken with photos and games later this week.