To be perfectly honest, I wasn't expecting a whole lot of tough competition at the tournament in Dalton, OH this past weekend. I remembered a couple strong Amish players at last year's Indiana tournament (at which I played poorly) but had not encountered any of them in ACF tournaments, so many were still a mystery. On top of that, I knew that Alex Moiseyev would not be attending the tournament due to work and family commitments, and since Rich Beckwith has a world title match coming up soon, I figured he'd be staying home to study. As it turned out, though, Rich did drive down to play with us, which rather quickly dashed my hopes of coasting to victory! Regardless, though, there was plenty of competition to go around: many of the 18 players had been honing their skills for several decades, especially in Go-As-You-Please, the chosen style for this tournament. Their preferred lines didn't always match up with the books-- I surprised one opponent with the Martins' Rest line of the Glasgow, for instance-- but once you wandered into prepared play, watch out! Since I hadn't played any GAYP tournaments since last year's US Nationals, I brought along my copy of Carl Reno's book The Work of the Pentium: Creating New Lines of GAYP Play to study. I only had time to go over a couple Souter lines, as that's been my opening of choice lately, but even the limited study time paid off, as I got two important wins on the Souter to keep me near the top of the leaderboard.
As I mentioned in my initial forum post about the tournament, we played this weekend in the gallery/lounge area of a woodworking factory, which was a very different environment than the tourist-heavy Mercantile Building that hosted the Indiana tournament last year. Apparently Crist Miller, our host and tournament director, had recently rented the building from a larger company (which had moved to a new facility), so they were in the process of remodeling parts of it. However, the room where we played was just fine for our purposes-- at least once I learned to avoid getting my legs stuck under the relatively low tables! I brought my own board and pieces, unsure of what equipment would be available, but was pleasantly surprised to see a box full of standard ACF boards and pieces, no doubt acquired from ACF Equipment Manager Roger Blaine. Like most checker tournament player-directors, Crist put in a lot of time and effort handling pairings and other logistics, though I helped keep track of pairings and results via my laptop. It was a small enough group (18 players) to handle via Excel, though one of these tournaments I'd like to give ChessArbiter Pro for Draughts a whirl.
One unique feature of this venue was the large number of kids watching and helping with the tournament: a few of the younger players brought their families, and given the prevalence of banister-sliding and games of tag, I'd say that everyone had a good time. It was certainly a nice change of pace to hear children laughing, and to see the little ones toddle up to Daddy during a break in the checkers action. Understandably, the kids were shy around me and the other "English" (the Amish term for non-Amish people-- even the Irish ones!) players, but several of the boys watched the tournament intently from the second-floor banister or ventured into the playing room out of curiosity about the game and/or my laptop. The girls were less forward, and I think most of them either stayed in the kitchen to help with meals or kept rein on their younger friends and cousins. And speaking of the kitchen, the food was phenomenal! From the moment folks started arriving for play, the ladies kept us supplied with loads of great food, most of it homemade: deli trays, pizza, brownies, coffee, donuts, candy, soft drinks, and a full lunch menu on Saturday. They did put out a donation box for lunch costs, but as with the main tournament all the profits went to benefit the Ohio Crippled Children’s Fund. Though the surrounding area had a few restaurants, it was really nice to have food (and caffeine!) available on-site, and let us have a smooth and well-run tournament.
I have to head out for the evening, but will be back later with more impressions about the tournament and the wonderful people who played in it. Stay tuned!