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A Parent's Perspective on King's Island Print E-mail
By Mark Schein   
November 19, 2009
Aaron and Mark Schein at SuperNationals IV
If the fall weather has you down, and you’re looking for some weekend plans, let me recommend a Continental Chess Tournament to add some excitement to your life. Finishing work on a Friday, grabbing your child and heading to the airport for a two-hour flight to Cincinnati is always a treat. It’s even better if you have to rent a car once you land, and drive another hour to get to the tournament hotel. Over the years, Aaron and I have played in a bunch of these Continental tournaments and as much of a hassle as I make it sound, they're actually a lot of fun. You get the opportunity to play longer chess matches, in a more relaxed environment, without the scholastic-type pressure and hardly a neurotic chess parent in sight. You also end the weekend with a boatload of stories that your friends and colleagues won't believe on Monday (that is if they believe you traveled to take your child to a chess tournament in the first place). Some of our continental highlights over the years include:

1.The seven hour delay in June of 2008 on our trip to the Cleveland Open – all seven hours spent on the tarmac. (All for a one-hour flight)

2. The time we followed people who looked like adult chess players to what we thought was the tournament room, only to find out we had arrived at the United States Bowling Association convention.

3. The time Aaron literally fell asleep at the board during a long, late-night match. (What are the rules here? Can I wake him?)

Since the matches last anywhere from two to six hours, you, the parent can actually enter the tournament and play. I have. Nothing gives you a better idea of the concentration needed and challenges presented to your child than playing a tournament yourself. I say tournament because anyone can play one game. But try having to think hard and concentrate steadily until your head hurts for a couple of hours and then when the ordeal is over, realize that you have to do it all over again.  Sometimes, your futile struggle is against an eight year old. I can tell you that after playing a match, I sometimes don't have the mental energy to even annotate the next round. Or, when faced with a position where I actually have to calculate a few moves ahead, I will occasionally just say to myself, “just make the move, whatever happens, happens.”  How many of you would be happy if your child said that to him or herself? None of us would.  That’s why when I’m sitting at my board daydreaming about home, I still get furious when I look up and see Aaron looking around the room during a game. "What is he doing?" "He needs to focus."  Easier said than done.

It is very satisfying to sit down at your board in the U1300 section against a serious adult competitor who asks about your rating and be able to reply "I'm just here with my 12-year-old over there in the under 1900 section." And point to your little guy kneeling on his chair across the room.  It’s an interesting feeling to have your child standing over you shoulder with his arms crossed as you struggle to decide whether or not to push a pawn.

At the Bradley Open, Aaron finished his Saturday night match at 8 pm and my opponent was determined to use all three hours on his clock. So Aaron and I went to dinner. I came back every 15 minutes to check on my board. Most of the time, my opponent hadn't yet moved. You can do that at an adult tournament.

At another tournament that we both played in, Aaron came over to tell me that he had won and ask for the room key. In my enthusiasm over his victory, I made the mistake of continuing to play my match while hugging him.  My match was almost over and I kept moving my two queens toward what I thought was an easy mate while congratulating Aaron, only to be interrupted by my young opponent saying, "Excuse me Sir, isn't that a stalemate?" Hey, if your child wins, it's still a good round.

This weekend it was off to Mason, Ohio and the King’s Island Open.

Last year Aaron and I had run into some problems with the hotel for this tournament. Aaron pointed out that there was a hotel across the road. So, we wandered over and were surprised by how nice it was. When we checked in, the woman at the desk said, "and here's the pass for our indoor water park." DID SOMEBODY SAY WATERPARK? Did they ever. I was worried that Aaron would play too fast in an attempt to get back to the water. Heck, I was scared that I would too. But we didn't, and it was an added bonus on the weekend.

We played the two-day version of the event. We don't always play that version, but we did this time.

Saturday morning we showed up to tournament central. We were greeted in the tournament headquarters by what has become a calming and reassuring sight no matter how far from home at any chess tournament – Steve Immitt, tournament director extraordinaire. The sight of Steve in his yellow director's shirt lets everyone know that the tournament will be efficiently run and any issues will be fairly adjudicated. He has yet to acknowledge my “hellos” with anything other than "Schein", but he has more important things to do than chat with chess parents.

As we walked into the room, a man approached me, placed his face real close to mine and said "How are you?" Before I could answer, he interrupted and said, "I have a bad cold, but can't find a drugstore that is open" and walked away. Let the games begin.

As those of you who know me already realize, I can't give you much "chess analysis", but I can give you a parent's observations of this event.  The tournament had a good number of kids playing, mostly in the lower sections. Since this was southern Ohio, football team clothing and hunting attire was almost mandatory in the playing hall. There was lots of bright orange or camouflage, accompanied by Ohio State red or University of Kentucky blue.

The Open section featured some well known stars.  Grandmasters and IMs.  I recognized GM Eugene Perlshtyn from his chess lectures online.  I watched him play and kept expecting him to look up and explain why he had just made a particular move.  However, he never looked up. The tournament also featured some rising stars. I watched John Hughes pull out a great win in round 3 and Kevin Cao win some terrific games. The tournament room had a very spacious and relaxed feel to it.  I would recommend that tournaments start to place a few bottles of Purell around the tournament halls.  With all the concerns about flu, and chess being akin to hand to hand combat, we would all be better off.  But, that’s just a chess father’s opinion.

Aaron played in the under 1900 section and had some ups and downs. He drew round 1 and lost round 2 in a brutal fashion.

He lost even though he was up two pawns and had 30 minutes left on his clock to his opponents nine minutes, with most of the pieces still on the board. (This opponent didn’t lose a game all weekend so, in retrospect, it wasn’t such a bad loss.) Needless to say, this loss felt terrible. As we walked to the hotel, Aaron, with tears in his eyes, stammered to me "as upset as I am to lose my game, I'd be even more upset if I didn't win the position you just drew." Yes, it's true, I drew an easily winnable endgame. Such is life on the Continental Chess Tour.

Aaron went into the dreaded night game (round 3) with his confidence in tatters. He was matched with someone around his rating and the game dragged on into the night. It especially dragged on for me because my opponent had hung his queen at 6:30 pm. Although Aaron was up a pawn, it was now 9:00 pm and Aaron looked exhausted. They had been playing for three hours. It was time to rally the troops and come to his aid. I started with a sliced apple.  At 9:15 pm I followed up with York Peppermint Patties (can anyone say “sponsorship”)?  At 10:00 pm I brought out the dreaded combination of Cherry Coke and Three Musketeers.  Aaron was clearly winning his match, (although losing the dental/nutritional battle), but had to stay awake.  I pulled out all the stops.  Earlier in the day, Aaron, who rarely notices clothing of any kind, pointed out to me what he considered one of the worst looking chess shirts he had ever seen.  It was a T-shirt emblazoned with the word DRAW above the cartoon characterization of two naked men shaking hands on a chess board.  At 10:30 pm, I bought the shirt.  I put it on over my sweatshirt, and wore it into the tournament room.  As soon as Aaron saw me, his face lit up and he sat up with renewed energy.  A few minutes later he won his match.  We headed back to the hotel for a late night dinner of pulled pork sandwiches and potato skins.


Saturday morning’s round was at 9:00 am and Aaron seemed somewhat tired.  He put up a 3.5 hour fight, but lost to a much higher rated opponent (who finished 6th in the section).  I somehow won my match even though I was hoping my opponent would offer me a draw.  When he finally did, I knew I had a slightly better position.  However, I didn’t know how to win it.  I looked over my shoulder to make sure Aaron was still playing (had he finished already, I probably would have accepted the draw), and turned down the offer. A little while later, my pawns advanced far enough for the victory. 

After round four, we were faced with an interesting dilemma.  We could play round 5 and risk missing our evening flight home, or we could hit the water park.  We hadn’t really had a chance to get into the water since Aaron’s games were all going 3+ hours.  The Schein boys said goodbye to Steve Immitt, changed into our bathing suits, and never looked back.  As we headed out to the car for the trip back to the airport, Aaron said, “Thanks Dad, I had a lot of fun and don’t want to go home.” Isn’t that what it’s all about?

Also see J W Holes' video reports from the King's Island Open.

Mark Schein's past CLO contributions include a Parent's Perspective Part I and Part II from 2008 and a Parent's Perspective, This Time Supersized, Part I and Part II. Schein is also the co-founder and co-namesake of the Schein-Friedman Scholarship. 


November - Chess Life Online 2009

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