Usually my two biggest tournaments of the year are the ones in Reno, the Far West Open in the spring and the Western States Open in the fall. This year, though, I’m strongly considering a change to my travel schedule, because the U.S. Chess Federation has dangled a carrot that’s just too tasty to resist. For the first time in history, there will be a qualifying tournament for the U.S. Championship. The top 17 rated players will be seeded into the U.S. Championship automatically, but the remaining 7 berths in the U.S. Championship will be awarded at the Qualifier Open in TulsaÂ at the end ofÂ March.
The USCF has been gradually moving towards this system for a few years. In recent years, qualifying spots have been awarded in dribs and drabs at the biggest tournaments in the U.S. — a couple spots for the top finishers in the World Open, a couple spots at Foxwoods, etc. The trouble with this system is that it favors people who can travel a lot. And, let’s face it, it’s really hard to finish in the top two in a big open tournament.
But finishing in the top 7… somehow that sounds just a bit easier. Of course, the odds against someone like me qualifying are a zillion to one. Okay, let’s try to work out the odds. I predict that it will take a 5-2 score to qualify. To make it simple, let’s say that I will be playingÂ all IM’s and GM’s, and let’s say that I have a 1-in-10 chance of beating an IM and a 1-in-50 chance of beating a GM. Finally, let’s say that I play 4 IM’s and 3 GM’s. What are my chances of attaining a 5-2 score? (For simplicity, I will ignore draws.) Whipping out my handy calculator, I find my chances are:
5.76 chances in a million of going 4-0 against the IM’s, 1-2 against the GM’s;
4.23 chances in a million of going 3-1 against the IM’s, 2-1 against the GM’s;
0.33 chances in a million of going 2-2 against the IM’s, 3-0 against the GM’s.
In total, 10.32 chances in a million (or just over 1 chance in 100,000)Â of qualifying for the U.S. championship. Actually, I think my chances are a tad better than that. But anyway, how can I resist? You’ve got to at least try to make your dreams come true.
Besides, I thinkÂ the Qualifier OpenÂ will be a fascinating tournament. Everybody who’s anybody will come to Tulsa… all except for the top 17, who don’t need to come because they have already qualified for the championship. It’ll be a great chance toÂ watch the second tier, theÂ stars-but-not-superstars of American chess, battle their brains out. Lots of good blogging opportunities!