Tonight’s blog post, fellow Duffers of Dama, is brought to you by espresso, specifically the twenty-four ounces of caramel espresso (with a shot of hazelnut creamer) that I procured from the gas station next door to the Rodeway Inn, the site—per usual—of this weekend’s Ohio State Checker Tournament. I’d probably have more points in said tournament had I not waited until after Round 3 to self-caffeinate, but given the crowd points are hard to come by: so far in the round-robin I’ve had matches with Louis Cowie, Alan Millhone, and Alex Moiseyev, and still have to play Michael Holmes and Rich Beckwith tomorrow. That’s a taxing enough schedule given a decent amount of sleep, but on the three hours I managed last night it was mere shades from (or perhaps of) delirium. You see, though the tournament didn’t start until 9:30 this morning, Alex and I drove up from Columbus at a rather tenderer hour: we started out from his house in the north suburbs at around 7:10, which meant I left my apartment at the still-dark 6:15, which further meant that my all-too-persistent alarm klaxoned me awake at five. Even after a concerted effort to limit my Mountain Dew (and Netflix) consumption the previous night, it was well after 2 AM by the time I got to sleep, so even facing the full-on glare of the fresh-risen sun I yawned my way through our requisite chunk of Interstate 71.
In case you’re keeping up with the math at home (and if you are, seriously, go read a book)—and more to the point, since I need a segue into this next paragraph—and are wondering why it took an hour to get from my apartment to the interstate, the answer is rather banal: Alex hadn’t had breakfast yet when I arrived at 6:45, so I hung around while he made and ate a relatively quick meal. Given my past experience with Alex’s alimentary preferences on tournament weekends, I half-expected there to be an entire Waffle House franchise in his kitchen, to ensure that he got his eggs, bacon, coffee, tomato slices, toast, and orange juice in preparation for yet another rating-enhancing romp through the (tournament) field. Or, failing that, even a clichéd bowl of Wheaties—or perhaps a Soviet-era top-secret shashki-skill-strengthening equivalent—would have been amusing enough to register in the few non-somnolent brain cells then at my disposal. Instead, I must report, his secret pre-tournament meal was rather ordinary: four soft-boiled eggs, four plain hot dogs, a couple dinner rolls, about a third of a stick of butter, and of course one glass of orange juice and one mug of black coffee. It made my entree of a drive-thru Sausage McMuffin and a can of Mountain Dew seem downright meager, but it seemed to work: so far Alex hasn’t lost any games, though both Rich and Michael could catch up to his score (11) depending on how they do in R4, which is still in progress.
I’m stuck in a likely sixth place after a lackluster first day: my first round opponent was Louis Cowie, and between the drive and a long ending (which I couldn’t quite manage to win) in our first game, I was so tuckered out that I seriously considered changing my name to Albert and learning three hundred ways to play the Cross opening. (Such a move, incidentally, would have helped in my round with Alan, which produced two lines I’d never seen before on 11-15 23-18 8-11. Clearly he didn’t get the memo about rest games.) It all came to a head in Game 2 with Louis, when I got myself into a weak but drawable ending, only to move into an easy two-for-one that I should have seen, well, in my sleep. I knew I was supposed to be nice to Lou this weekend, since the tournament is being held in his honor and all, but after giving that game away I was about ready to turn around and drive back home. But enough about that. We started off the tournament, actually, with a couple of nice tributes to Cowie: Alex presented him with an annotated booklet of all the games the two of them had played in the PA and OH tournaments over the years, and Rich presented him with a nice plaque honoring his career of checkeristic achievements, including his 30+ OH state titles and his unceasing work as a problem composer. The booklet has a lot of good play in it—I was the editor—and should be available as an ebook via the ACF Store later on this Fall. And speaking of new checkers books, if you haven’t already made your way to The Checker Maven today (http://www.checkermaven.com), do take a look at the newest Richard Pask ebook that Bob has generously made available.
Well, that’s about all the news for now. I’m about ready to fall asleep at the keyboard, thanks to a couple tough games with Alex in R4 (I did manage one draw) and a thoroughly formidable meatloaf dinner at Alexandir’s Steakhouse, the not-quite-official restaurant of the Ohio Checker Tournament. If I’m lucky, I might score a win or two tomorrow, and at least come away with enough prize money to support my caffeine habit for another day. Mmmmmmmmmm, caffeine.