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On Chess: Returning To Over The Board Chess Tournaments

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St. Louis Chess Club
Ben Simon playing Bruce Brodly with STLCC’s new safety measures that include Plexiglas barriers between players.

In a recent meeting at the St. Louis Chess Club, a key question was asked: When can we return to over-the-board tournaments? Chess players, always eager to test their mettle in competition, have made do with online play, but there is nothing quite like planning your attack while sitting across from your opponent.

Following CDC guidelines and state and local requirements is a must. Nothing is more important than the health and safety of all members of our community. With that in mind, we decided to test the waters, as long as our tournaments have no more than eight competitors and the event concludes in under two hours. The club recruited its first field of eight participants for the “Secret Action Quads,” the online edition of the longstanding Friday Action Quads.

For the first time since March, the clocks began to run at the St. Louis Chess Club. As the name would imply, “quads” are tournaments in which players are divided into groups of four. To keep the pace lively, players had a little over 20 minutes to finish each round. Our eight players were ready for battle.

In a contentious fight in the first quad, Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo and his opponent, Michael Pugachev, each had five seconds left. Orlando, with just a bishop and knight on the board, was helplessly trying to deliver the toughest checkmate in chess. Pugachev was keeping his king out of the corner and doing his best to force a draw but unfortunately ran out of time and lost the game. He quickly quipped, “Do you even know how to checkmate with a bishop and knight?” Orlando just smiled and said, "Guess we'll never know, but I'll gladly take the win on time.” Orlando went on to sweep the competition and take first place that evening.

In the second quad, STLCC staff member Tracee Stewart dominated the competition. Tracee has been a regular host of weekly free chess lessons available on the STLChessClub Twitch and STLChessClubYouTube Channel during the pandemic. She gave a warm welcome to the visitor Bruce Brodly with an astounding checkmate. Tracee essayed an opening novelty on Ben Simon, the club’s videographer and producer, and capped off the wonderful night by defeating Michael Pugachev’s mother, Lucy, who was making her tournament debut. Tracee also won $36 and a slew of rating points.

While it was a little tough to gauge your opponent through a mask and a Plexiglas barrier, it was refreshing to play a human eye-to-eye instead of across the internet void. Win or lose, everyone went home happy and enjoyed the camaraderie that live chess brings to the table.

For more information about upcoming programs and events (both in person and online) at the St. Louis Chess Club, please visit - saintlouischessclub.org/events.

Mike Kummer is an International Arbiter and assistant manager at the St. Louis Chess Club. He has worked at the Chess Club since its grand opening in 2008.

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