The Typical American Open
Concord open took place 14-17 (for most of the players 15-17) January in the small town located near the Pittsburgh Bay Point Area, in California. It was part of the American tour, and had various sections for each rating.
The word that can specify an open here is flexibility. Chess is a business as any other. Therefore, the organizers try to attract as many people as possible, providing them various options. They can either choose the four days scheme, when they play all the seven games in the normal time modus (2 hours per 40 moves, and additional hour till the end of the game), or play the three-days schedule. This means that they will play three days, and in the first day the first two games are in a semi-rapid time limit (75 minutes per game). After that the two tournament schedules are gathered together. Most of the players choose the three days-schedule, as they have one day less to pay a hotel, or they simply have work to do in that day.
Another peculiarity is the re-entry option. If a player plays in a lower rated section, and let’s say loses his first game, he can quit this tournament and re-enter the next day into the open section with the three-day schedule, thus starting a new tournament. However, in that case he will have to pay yet another entry fee.
There is no special treatment to any players. Each of them has to carry his own chess set and clock for his white games. Someone had told me that it is not a rare picture to see the likes of Kamsky and Nakamura with a chess set under their arm at the tournament hall. Grandmasters’ only privilege is that do not pay entry fee at the start of the event. But in case that they take prices- those entries are deducted from their price.
One more interesting thing was the five-second delay modus. This means that your clock starts to count the seconds only after five seconds have passed by (and not adding five seconds on the clock as I thought). Still, as some players come with mechanical clocks they cannot use that system. But none cares. It was a bit unexpected for me that despite all this freedom, and lack of control the tournament went smoothly, and none ever complained of anything.
The byes are allowed, and you can take as many as you want once that you have announced them before the third round. You can take one whole bye-bye to the tournament as long as you pay your fee. You can also leave it whenever you want in case that you do not like your tournament situation. When I asked the tournament director Bill Goichberg if he can place the pairings on the internet the night before the rounds he replied: “I do them in the morning, as many people leave the night before, and there is no sense to repair them.”
Headphones are also allowed during games, and most of the people use them for better concentration. Some listen to the music. The look of an opponent with headphones on performing strong moves was bit too scary for me though.
“Why do you guys take so many byes?” I asked Daniel, a new acquaintance who I meet at the station while we wait for the free bus shuttle for the hotel (which was never coming). “You see man, I work as a DJ in San Francisco, and there was none to replace me for my show, so I took a bye for my third game. I worked till 3 a.m., and here I am (it was 10 a.m.) for the fourth one.” But then you must be tired-why do not you take another bye in the morning?” “Ah, no, I want to play some good games and if I have the chance to make to the money that will be good.” Daniel is 42, rated around 1300 and started playing chess three years ago, but he really enjoys it. “You know man, this is something that you can always keep learning, and satisfy you.”
I started the event horribly scoring 2/3 in my first game, which objectively could have been much less for the level of the play that I was showing. But then things went better and with two final black wins I managed to tie for the first with Daniel John Bryant, each of us scoring 5.5/7. There was an additional tie-break criteria (which I never understood what exactly it was, neither it was written anywhere), and Daniel got some extra bucks for edging me in that.