It’s good to be back in Virginia; after having played the World Open. I can say with, what John McLaughlin called “complete metaphysical certainty” that I will never play a tournament like that again. It was full of sandbaggers and other, less subtle cheaters. The atmosphere was tense with grown men arguing with one another about the touch move rule.The impulse to win drove people to ridiculous extremes. One of my opponents even tried to fight me; it was a half-hearted gesture, and he backed down before too long. Still, the idea that he wanted fisticuffs in a hotel lobby, or at least bluffed as though he did, has taken on a surreal quality several days later. Humans are at their most ridiculous when they lose their sense of proportion.
I was registered in the sub-1600 section but my second round opponent, the would-be pugilist, had a peak rating of nearly 1800. He began to drop points (suspicious, no?) in the months before the tournament began. I’ve been thinking about a system to prevent such things from happening, ensuring greater parity in class tournaments.
1) Many players get their “chess fix” playing tournament chess on the ICC (International Chess Club); their USCF ratings are much lower than their actual strength. The USCF should institute prize caps for those with ICC memberships after 2014.
2) The ICC is not the only way to get good outside of traditional OTB tournaments; people can study on their own and improve markedly. Speaking to Bill Goichberg, head of the CCA, he indicated to me that this was legitimate. How this protects the integrity of his tournaments I’ll never know. In order to claim a full prize you should have to submit your score sheets to a director whereupon he’ll insert them into a computer. The computer will rate you and see if the moves you’re making are indicative of higher strength. Your prize will be adjusted accordingly.
3) Restrict the World Open to those players who attend at least eight USCF tournaments per year. I laugh at the International Master who is over 2400 FIDE; his rating in the states? 1800.
4) Do something about the overactive bladders of tournament-goers. Continually visiting the bathroom seems unsavory – especially when you’re under eighteen and have a healthy prostate.
5) Get rid of any and all electronic devices. The appearance of a phone anywhere in the hotel during a game is ground for immediate expulsion. How many games I lost to Rybka I don’t care to imagine. The event was poorly administered and the directors ought to take some etiquette lessons.