A Blueprint for Winning

by admin on July 2, 2012

I uncovered the following item that I should have included with my post from yesterday, “Ohio Memories”: the crosstable for the 1989 Roosevelt Open.

There are lots of interesting things about this!

Back in those pre-Internet days, you could order a tournament report from the USCF for a small fee — I think it was five dollars or so. (Now, of course, you can print it out on your computer for free.) I only paid for two crosstables ever, for the first two tournaments I won: the 1988 Georgia Congress and the 1989 Roosevelt Open.

This particular report cannot be downloaded from the USCF website, because it happened “before the beginning of time.” Even though it was clearly printed out by a computer, the USCF’s online records only go back as far as 1991.

The list of players looks like a who’s who of chess in the Kentucky-Indiana-Ohio area for that era. Dennis Gogel (#2), whom I never had the pleasure to meet, was nevertheless a name I recognized from when I used to live in Indiana (before 1975). He had been around forever, and he was almost invincible. His USCF member page show that there were years when he scored close to 90 percent. (For example, his 1994 record: +59 -5 =7. Sick!) He has not played since 2006, though. Does anyone know why?

I wrote about Charles Diebert (#3) in my last post. Ron Burnett (#4), so I am told, was a rare species: a master who learned his chess mostly from playing against computers. I have to correct one mistake from my last post. On the wallchart Burnett’s rating was shown as 2507, but as you can see his official rating at the time was 2462. This means he is not the highest-rated player I ever beat. That honor goes to Ed Formanek, who was rated 2492 when I beat him at the 1992 Ohio Chess Congress.

Douglas Jennings (#5) was an African-American player whose game was as solid as a rock. He played the Slav Defense back in an era when it was very unpopular — not like today — and I could never find a chink in his armor. According to the USCF he stopped playing tournament chess in 1992; perhaps he decided that getting his National Master title was enough. John Hayes (#8) was another Columbus-area player who played extremely eccentric openings. I loved his creativity, and it was thanks to his creativity that I got a chance to play my favorite winning move of all time. This was the subject of my 100th ChessLecture, and perhaps I will write a post here about it some day… but not now.

Hans Multhopp (#14) was a Cincinnati institution, a great attacking player and a really friendly guy who reflected Cincinnati’s German heritage. He had the creativity of a John Hayes but with more soundness. He is an Original Life Master, which means his rating has been “floored” at 2200 for a number of years, but I don’t think he cares about ratings too much. I mentioned Joe Kennedy (#18) in my last post. The last really familiar name on the list to me is Fred Whitacre (#23). He was basically a “life 1800” player, who was just at a level where he could give me a tough game but I would usually win. I guess that made him a favorite opponent of mine! According to his USCF page he has been inactive for several years.

As you can see from the crosstable, I had an outstanding rating gain of 50 points at this tournament (2187 to 2237). The only bigger gain I have had since then was +60 at the 2009 Western States Open (2086 to 2146). However, that’s partly because the Western States had more rounds, six instead of five. My performance rating at the Roosevelt Open was 2508, which almost certainly makes it the best tournament of my life if you judge purely by rating.

Another thing you can tell from the crosstable that I got a little bit of a break pairing-wise in the last round. There were three people tied at 4-0: Gogel, Diebert and me. If I had been paired against either of them I would most likely have lost, and I would not be talking about the best tournament of my life. However, the correct pairing in this situation is the one that TD Larry Paxton assigned: the two highest-rated players (Diebert and Gogel) face each other, and the third player (me) plays against the highest-rated player in the next score group (Weaver). Diebert and Gogel battled to a draw, and that left the way clear for me to take undisputed first place.

Interestingly, this is EXACTLY the same way that I won my first tournament, the 1988 Georgia Congress. I was in a three-way tie with GM Boris Kogan and NM Douglas Brown at 4-0. Again, the correct pairing was the top two (Kogan and Brown) against each other while I played the highest player at 3½ points (NM Mark Coles). Brown pulled off the upset of the tournament by drawing with Kogan, and I was the beneficiary of his hard work, when I beat Coles to finish first at 5-0. So I think I found a blueprint for winning USCF tournaments. Unfortunately, I have never able to do it again!

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

John Hallas July 16, 2012 at 12:18 am

Douglas Jennings (#5) was an African-American player – why is that relevant – you did not say the other players were white

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admin July 16, 2012 at 12:00 pm

Hi John, I thought that somebody might notice this! But here’s the thing… I *did* say one of the other players was white. I specifically mentioned Hans Multhopp’s German ancestry. So I felt that I was being equally fair to Jennings and to Multhopp.

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