Abby's Amateur Team Woes
By Abby Marshall   
February 12, 2008
Abby Marshall. Photo Jennifer Shahade
The U.S. Amateur Team East (February 16-18, Parsippany, NJ) is one of the greatest tournaments in the world, and at the World Youth in Turkey I had made tentative plans to put together a killer team with my roommate and teammate from last year, Ettie. A couple months later I checked with her to make sure we are still on for a team, and it appeared that she had spurned me for another team, despite the fact that last year our team did very well, even beating the top-ranked team on first board. So I was so dejected that I considered not going. On second thought, I sent out requests to see if anyone needed another player with the hope of forming a stronger team than Ettie. A couple weeks went by with no definite offers, so a friend posted my plea for a team on her blog. The idea was that if multiple people were interested in having me as a teammate, they would have to participate in an elaborate contest involving a wide range of abilities, like something involving chess of course, and putting together a French recipe from ingredients at a gas station. I found a team soon thereafter in a more normal way, so this contest was abandoned.

I have to get something off my blogging conscience: recently I came across an article that makes the claim that writing a book is a piece of cake compared to blogging. While I'm not sure the author was serious, let me give an example of why I believe this is hugely false: often, when someone comes up to me and says they have read my blogs , while talking to them I realize that they have put more energy into understanding my blog than I did when writing it. Why this phenomenon exists I cannot answer, except that it should not occur with someone who has slaved for years over a book only to have most people inhale it in less than a week; for lack of a better example, JK Rowling took like four years to write the last Harry Potter book and most people read it in six hours. Besides writing, music is another area where sometimes (meaning most of the time) it feels like the audience cares much more about the songs than the artist does. This is partly why I like Radiohead’s music so much; it actually seems smart on purpose.

OK, anyway, after an Internet Chess Club discussion involving many lols, I got signed on to a team with Karsten McVay, Nicole Maffeo, and Evan Ju. Ok great, I get to be on the most photogenic team of the tournament! Literally half an hour later I heard back from Joel Benjamin, my coach in Turkey (and he’s also a GM, but that’s not as important) with an offer to be on his team, and I told Karsten oops sorry and gave a thumbs up to John Macarthur, who will also be on Joel’s team. I probably sent Karsten about five messages profusely apologizing. Here’s a taste of those obviously very concise, clear messages:

At 7:50pm I wrote:

hey kar, um so yeah so i was super happy to hear that i can be on your team cuz i really needed one haha and it’s an awesome team and like i totally love it but um hmm i just got a message from joel benjamin and an offer that i really cant refuse. So i know i said yeah to your team so like ill let you make teh decision whether i can change teams. but i really want to be on joel’s team. oops sorry :/


oh yeah it's not definite whether i can be on joel's team or anything, so can i let you know by the end of the week whether it's even a possibility? then you can decide whether to let me play on his team or just stay with your team...either way is cool. im sorry, i know im being so back and forth on this.

And in case I haven’t driven Karsten completely crazy yet, I write at 8:02pm:

so yeah im really sorry, so i guess im kicking myself off your team. i talked to linda's mom about it and teh all-girl's team, and she and i brainstormed a little about possible alternatives like linda taking my place on a team of you, evan, and nicole, or finding another girl to have an all-girl team if that's what you want to do.sorry!

I’m sure you guys get the idea. Oh man, it sounds really bad in hindsight. Let’s just draw closure on the rest of the scene.
Unsurprisingly--probably out of confusion more than anything--Karsten calls me and gives me the third degree about abandoning her team, and I start to feel guilty and say ok I’ll play with you guys (I do have some regrets because I would have placed first board on that team as opposed to second board on my current team, but if I change my mind one more time my head will be blown off). Of course, ten minutes later I was kicking myself and trying to call her and John back with no luck. I can be really stupid sometimes. So I decided instead to call Linda Diaz’s mom Diana, (who regularly sees both Karsten and John) and ask her to convey the message that I changed my mind again, and finally it was settled. I actually haven’t heard back from John yet, so hopefully he will read this blog and know that I am on his team.

My team is mixed doubles, with Joel heading the team followed by me, John, and Joel’s wife Debbie, and I have been warned that the women on Joel’s team always do really poorly. Hmm. Curious, I checked out this “cursed” team and in fact Elina Groberman (second board last year) was apparently so upset with her performance that she has not played in one tournament since last year’s Amateur Team!
The winning name last year was “what happens in Parsippany stays in Parsippany”, and that somewhat holds true, because the same team that won last year, Beavis and Butvinnik, is reuniting for another shot at the title. Another interesting team includes three GMs and an 800…waah I thought there was a rule against this…whatever.

The name of my team is 3:10 to Yermo. I asked Joel what did this mean and he told me it was a movie and Yermo was the name of a grandmaster. Yes Joel, I get it, but Yuma is a place while Yermo is a person; is our name implying that we are going to Yermo’s house? Also, I remember Yermo recently saying he was looking to do something outside of chess, making this already confusing name even more ridiculous. It’s better than some dumb pun off my last name, but I still feel that I have been cheated and deceived.

I guess all is well that ends well. Karsten told me that if I face her team, I would have to drop my game. I think she was joking. I guess we will have to see…