I have never enjoyed the US Amateur Teams more than I have this year, and I think it shows in the two games I have played so far, which I have annotated and posted online. Playing only in the mornings, against lower-rated competition, and having White in every round certainly helps to keep your spirits up. I have also had the good fortune of only playing very friendly and interesting opponents.
In the first round, I had the pleasure of playing Dale Brandreth, the rare chess book seller, owner and publisher of Caissa Editions, and author or editor of numerous historical chess books (including The Unknown Capablanca.) We spoke about his recent struggle to complete the tournament book for Chicago 1926 based on the (often illegible) holographic game scores. I told him about my own efforts to track down game scores, including from the Dimock Theme Tournament of 1924 and Lake Hopatcong in 1923, and how several people had mentioned Dale himself as the best hope of making a complete collection of Dimock games. He was familiar with Dimock's own history and offered some ideas, but he held out little hope that I'd ever complete the set (though he did say there were probably untold boxes of unopened materials in the Cleveland Library that could contain just about anything). He also told me some terrible stories about how historical chess documents and game scores go missing, from wives happy to finally throw the stuff in the trash to families worried about incriminating documents simply burning everything.
Our game was an interesting struggle, where he played an innovative move against my Two Knights Caro-Kann to get easy equality. The game could have gone either way, but he failed to attack swiftly enough on the kingside, making it possible for me to win the game on the queenside in an opposite-side castling scenario. This was probably my best attacking game in a long time and I was quite proud of it, especially since even the computer had little to complain about.
After winning our first two matches, the Kenilworth A team made it behind the ropes to Board 9, where we met a team made up of players from the Holmdel Chess Club: Tommy Bartell, Tod Chasin, Brian Meinders, and Bill Potts. Someone remarked that it was the unofficial New Jersey team championship, and our teams certainly represented two of the strongest clubs in the state. The match started out on such friendly terms that no one was willing to start the clocks before everyone was seated--that is, until the chief TD came over and insisted.
I won my game after my opponent walked into a terrible line in the Left Hook Austrian Attack against the Pirc, where Black has literally no play and has to put up with continuous restraint and torture. In some ways, the game reminded me of one that former Kenilworth CC president Joe Demetrick played in a team match and which I annotated. However, despite my win we only drew the match, meaning that we were basically knocked out of contention for the title.
This year the favorite seems to be a team comprised of GM DeFirmian, GM Fedorowicz, and two of their young students. The two kids seem to know how to play chess (unlike a particular kid I encountered last year) -- and they likely play better than their ratings. So I think they have a good shot at winning the tournament.
I hope others will be posting their about their experiences and some of their better games and comments in the coming week.