Under normal circumstances, I pack light for checkers trips: a board, a bag of checkers, my laptop, and a change of clothes is usually enough to get me through a weekend. To do so, though, flies in the face of 28 years of concerted practice being a type-A logistics-obsessed hoarder—a species that populates much of my family tree. In fact, when I attended my first Nationals back in 2000, I hauled an extra duffel bag of checkers books all the way from Illinois to Las Vegas (by Greyhound!), and all the way from the Greyhound station to the hotel. Those books, of course, sat unread in my room for the entire week, which is probably just as well since I tried my level best not to play safe go-as-you-please draws, rather to the detriment of my final score. In any case, I slowly learned my lesson, and these days if I bring a book at all it’s with a wink-wink-nudge-nudge to myself, since I know full well that I’ll be too busy and/or tired to read it.
This week’s circumstances, however, are anything but normal. Not only is this the first real tournament I’ve ever organized, but it’s a big one—big fish are here from little ponds all over the world to play for a share of the Gene Lindsay prize fund, and there are quite a few average-sized fish (like myself) hoping to pick up a few wins and swap a few stories along the way. Already the players are jockeying for position and sizing up the competition, and already everyone (from grandmasters on down!) is playing skittles games for mental and psychological warm-ups. Meanwhile, I’ve been trying to figure out if I’ve forgotten anything vital for the tournament, which is rather unlikely since my Camry is pretty much packed to the gills. A lot of the bulk this year is copies of the Basic Checkers reissue, which is already selling well: though it technically debuted at the Southern States Tournament a few weeks ago, the $25 price tag is attracting a lot of interest, and I expect Jim Loy’s book of BC corrections will sell equally well when he arrives later this weekend.
But even beyond the books to sell, I had a packing list a mile long (yet somehow forgot my sunglasses): posterboard to make giant crosstables, exhibits on checkers and on Richard Fortman to entice the public and occupy the players, various office supplies to supplement the referees’ own stashes, sadly neglected books from my candidacy exam reading list, pre-printed nametags for a few dozen players, and of course a 12-pack of Mountain Dew. Of all that, I can pretty much guarantee that the Mountain Dew will get used up, but the rest may be iffy. I just felt better having all of it available, even though technically Roger Doll and Kim Willis are running the show. And somehow I doubt I’m the first tournament organizer to take comfort in that fact, as every TD and ref I’ve seen has at least three times as many papers, scoresheets, and pencils than are actually needed.
In any case, we’re well underway here: Kim and Roger are running the registration table with assistance from Rich Beckwith, Alex Moiseyev is socializing with some of his competition (and more than a few fans), and Ron King, by all appearances, is staying in his room and plotting new cooks. We won’t have full registration data until tomorrow afternoon—play starts at 1 PM—but so far I’d guess we have about 25 players at the hotel, with more en route. Our main playing room here at the Days Inn holds 24 boards comfortably, but we’ve also made arrangements to spill out into the breakfast area and another meeting room or two as needed, particularly if the talking gets too loud. I brought my camera and digital camcorder with me, so will work on getting some footage up here, if the technology and the wireless network decide to behave at any point this week.
As for me, it’s been a very busy few days: I had a full day of teaching and grading on Thursday, and then went right home to pack and hit the road to my mom’s house in Illinois. We had a little time to catch up that evening, but since I had a 1 PM meeting here in Springfield (a couple hours west of my mom’s place) and since Interstate 72 is currently one giant orange construction barrel, we didn’t exactly have the luxury of a leisurely Friday morning. After a brief stop in Decatur, IL to pick up some brochures for their “Decatur Celebration” event (which will have a checkers event run by our own Rich Beckwith), I got here just in time to do a final walkthrough of the tournament space and to talk logistics with the hotel staff. Once that was done, I made the rounds of restaurants in the immediate area, to hand off info about the tournament to any managers on duty and to encourage them to sponsor the event. So far it looks like Bob Evans will be giving us some sort of sponsorship, but other than that it’s anyone’s guess. If I ever try to put another tournament together, I’ll definitely have to factor in at least one scouting trip (doing so this time wasn’t practical since I had to teach summer school in Columbus) to bug local businesses. But for now, I’m just going to do what I can, and try to enjoy the tournament!