My U S Open

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Yep, somehow my first (and only) U S Open got all mixed up with The Four Liverpudlians.

Chicago 1979 actually made the Complete Chess Addict book! (as being the Worst Tournament Venue Ever).

All due to the big Beatlemania event held concurrently with the Open. Still, it wasn't really that loud...unless you simply couldn't handle Bug Music (like in that one episode of The Flintstones!). As for me, I was (finally) getting into them--so I found I rather liked it. :)

"A Hard Day's Night"

My friend and I flew in. I think there'd been some sort of mix-up with the airline, so by the time we got to the site--the Palmer House--it was just about an hour before the round was to begin. And we were supposed to get a few hours' sleep on the plane ride...only we didn't (all of which probably accounts for why I accepted a draw in a won position that first round).

I remember snoozing away at a big round (!) table in back right around 6...with the round due to start in another hour (it was 7 PM each and every day!--one round a day for most of the duration).

It was one of the Majors--actually, the majorest (with 563 players that year). And so it came accompanied by all sorts of snazzy peripherals. Like the Wall Chart Room.

Seriously, one whole classy Palmer House room with nothing in it but wood paneling up the wazoo and the wall chart itself (formed of dozens and dozens of single pages taped together) which seemed to stretch on for miles!

So of course the first thing you had to do was go up and find your name on it. Fortunately, we had registered in advance (so there we both were!).

"Day In The Life"

We were staying at a mutual friend's house just an El's ride from the site. Our friend in Chicago had a very interesting job btw with numerous perks and benefits--chaffeur for the president of a major pinball company.

The daily sessions were over at midnight (and if I'm remembering right, they played out any adjourned games the following day...before the regular round). Then we'd head out to some restaurant nearby, and get back on the El headed for our Chicago pal's house.

I remember sitting out there on the stoop in shorts at around 3 AM, going over that day's games (it felt like it was still about 90 degrees out).

The two of them also went to a Cubs game one afternoon; I declined the invite (and now I wish that I had gone).

Oh yeah, and I remember this one moment early on standing on the shore of Lake Michigan and asking, "So where's the other side?" :)

"The Long And Winding Road"

I started out pretty slow for this one. I didn't even play up until the sixth round (a good thing there were twelve of them!).

I found myself involved in several interesting endings during the tourney (another by-product of there being so many rounds). I managed to win this one for round 2:

And in round 7 Bb8 here allowed my a-pawn to queen unhindered:

The following though (from round 5) is unique among my games. And yeah, I did manage to win it (somehow or other).

"Getting Better"

Round 6 I played Michael Brooks. He had just made master (at 2201) and would someday rise into the 2600s. Our game was short; but during the rest of the tourney he kept an eye on my games and gave me a few suggestions and encouragement.

One more B-player opponent--for round 7--and after that I was playing up the rest of the way!

"With A Little Help From My Friends"

So now I'm going up against Ken Jones. It's not like I have to worry though; I mean, the guy isn't nearly as good as Brooks (he's only 2198!). :D

Well, I was definitely getting stomped on throughout most of it, but then my opponent got into severe time trouble (especially with the goofy 50-move time control) no doubt through trying to figure out how best to clobber my awful position, and he ended up hanging a rook.

Somehow...I had won.

"What Goes On"

My opponent for round 9: Jeremy Barth. Listed at 2119, he was already reportedly somewhere around 2250 (based upon recent results).

At one point in our game I left to walk around a bit and came back to a very strange scene indeed. Apparently my opponent had stopped the clock; he was talking the situation over to one of the players next to us. What had happened? Everything looked the same, except that now his knight was hanging to one of my pawns. I assumed it had gotten nudged over there through some strange mishap.

But nope, he had moved it there, he explained. He had (somehow) overlooked the fact that it was en prise (no doubt until right after letting the piece go...and then you feel that horrible frisson down your spine). At any rate, he was certainly very honest and up front about it; and truthfully, he should've played on. I was already a couple of pawns down and he was a lot freakin' better than I was. :)

"From Me To You"

I also got the chance to meet Arthur Bisguier. He was playing my a rather crazy game (that probably seemed a lot closer to the two of us at the time than in fact it really was).

Afterwards Mr B chatted with us for a while. Saying how difficult it was to keep his rating up when he was expected to beat people like us 10 times in a row. I don't know how true that was--the two of us were after all still A players at the time (and here was a guy who scored 50 percent at Bled 1961--beating both Keres and Geller in the process!)--but anyway, it was a nice thing to hear him say. :)

And incidentally, despite his reservations he seemed to be doing alright for himself; he managed to take clear second at this one (with a 10-2 score).


One of those mornings I remember waking up. Those guys weren't around and the windows were still wide open from last night. When all of the sudden it seemed to be getting blustery and cloudy, as though rain were imminent. Then it happened! The Deluge. I got up and ran around to close all the windows as quick as I could...wondering at the same time how a storm could just arise out of the blue like that.

Then the next morning it happened again! Apparently not everybody's weather was like it was out on the West Coast. :D

"I Want To Tell You"

My friend was standing there watching the top guns (off in their corner with the wall boards) when Gheorghiu got up from his game with another top GM and strode over in my pal's direction.

Yeah sure, that could've just been a coincidence. But then the Romanian GM (and eventual winner of the whole enchilada at 10.5-1.5) actually said something to him!

I mean, here's a guy who once beat Fischer. So my friend was expecting something truly profound and remarkable...maybe along the lines of: "Note how my hypermodern play has thoroughly hamstrung his dark squares in subtle yet irreparable fashion."

But what Florin actually said was: "What's he doing?! He's just a piece down." :D

"Carry That Weight"

So now it's round 10 and I'm playing this old white-haired guy named George Kramer at 2300 (which rather frighteningly turned out to be his rating floor). Yep, I didn't know it at the time, but Mr K once had a rating in the 2500s (he even played Fischer a game in the U S Championship!).

Showing my characteristically firm grasp of the opening, I was down a pawn by the tenth move. But then somehow I managed to derive a perpetual out of it.

And so now they've got me playing Sergey Kudrin...weighing in at 2395 (not sure which was scarier to write down on the scoresheet--his rating or his authentically Russian-looking name!). A guy who incidentally would someday come along to win the whole shebang (just glad I didn't know about that at the time, not to mention him getting to be a GM--I'd've ended up looking like Don Knotts). :D

At one point I could've gotten the advantage, on the Black side of the Giuoco Piano. Okay, it wasn't much of an advantage--and obviously it proved easy enough for me to overlook--but that had to be the high point of the tournament for me.

"Baby You're A Rich Man"

Last round I was pitted against a 2134. Not even a master! What were they doing to me? :D

I managed to get up a couple of pawns but then let it slip later on and wound up with a draw.

So in the end it all came down to one thing: if this guy Long drew, I would win a coupla hundred bucks (and tie for best A at 8-4). And if he won...well, at least I got to see Chicago. :D

"You Never Give Me Your Money"

Long won.

So anyway, that was how I got to see Chicago. :)