Recap of the 2016 Niagara Falls Open

On the weekend of April 15, I competed in the Niagara Falls Open held in Niagara Falls, Ontario. As this was only my second time playing in Canada I was unsure of what to expect. This tournament, like many before it, had it’s trials and tribulations. There was drama and intrigue. It is unlikely that I’ll be returning to play in this tournament. That said, I wanted to describe my experience for those who are thinking about it in the future.

I’m going to do my best to try and portray things as fairly and as accurately as I can. The organizers are nice people. They were cordial and welcoming and seemed happy to have me there. My intention here is to give suggestions about running and organizing tournaments.

I want to stop here for a moment and discuss something important. We should no longer have tournaments that are using digital clocks without delay/increment. Full stop, PERIOD. If you are in a tournament, and they aren’t using delay/increment DO NOT PLAY.

It’s 2016, the chess world should no longer have a place for the analog clock. You should buy a digital clock. Some of you may be thinking about the less fortunate who cannot afford a digital clock and blah blah blah. I will point out that it isn’t the kids who have analog clocks, it’s [generally] the old men who have them. These Luddites with their analog clocks are a stain on tournament chess. We’ve been putting up with them and allowing them to continue this practice for far too long. Buy the right equipment, or don’t play.

Keeping this in mind, let me take you to the first round. My opponent was a tough player, but he soaked up too much time on moves that I felt were not critical. He found himself in egregious zeitnot (time pressure) by move 27. He had two minutes to my 20 and without increment or delay he was a dead man walking. He played good moves rapidly and was able to hold the position. Eventually, his Zeitnot overcame him and he blundered and resigned:

As you can see; it was a hard fought game. We both made some inaccuracies and there was some back and forth but I think we both played well. It’s a shame to win a game like this on time; but hey, the clock is part of the game. My opponent was visibly upset. It didn’t seem fair to me that we had to play in the first round but again; this is sport and there are winners and losers.

That night I didn’t sleep well; I was tossing and turning all night and things felt “off”. I awoke to an email from the organizer at 1:18 AM which read,

“Hi [lifezugzwang], Because you told, [organizer] that you have a higher USCF rating than your CFC rating, we may be obligated to use that rating for the rest of the tournament. Are you okay with that? Signed: [other organizer]”. 

My response was thus (sent at 5:30 AM):

“I would prefer that. It’s more fair to the other competitors.” 

Problem solved right? Wrong. When I showed up for the second round the organizers asked me to talk to them outside. Outside they informed me they were taking the following actions:

  1. Starting from the second round my rating would change from ~1750 -> 2112. Which I mentioned in my email was fine. No problem.
  2. My opponent would be awarded a half point bye. – what?
  3. I would receive one full point bye. – wait, what?
  4. Our game would be expunged from the record; and would not count towards my CFC rating.
  5. I would not play this opponent again.

So, on top of a terrible nights sleep, and a tense first round game. I was told that, “You didn’t win, and additionally, your opponent didn’t lose”. Think about that; you play a game of anything; and after you’ve won, a judge decides that your game will not count. I was a “good sport” and despite some objections on my part I shook hands with them and went in to play the second round. With all that on my mind I turned in this debacle of a game:

Hot garbage; and it’s understandable why. I was seething at the situation that occurred before the second round.

In the third round I was paired against a gentleman rated ~1500. I didn’t calculate much this game; my mind was a mess and I was exhausted. He made a few passive moves and I won a nice miniature:

After that game I received a text from an old friend who is in school at University of Buffalo. As it turned out he had a free night. He drove up to visit me in Niagara. We did all the silly touristy stuff you do in Niagara; including the Ferris wheel!


That night my sleep was much better and I felt like I was finally firing on all cylinders:

By this point my opponent from the first round had dispatched a few weaker players. Despite losing to a master, he now had 2.5/4 while I had 3/4. In the final round I was paired against one of the two IM’s in the tournament. We played an interesting game which culminated in four queens on the board. I overlooked his forcing line and got myself checkmated:

My opponent from the first round won a game against someone rated ~1600 which gave him 3.5/5 and left me with 3/5. So, despite each of us losing two games, he cashed and I did not.

Addendum: After speaking with the Director of the CFC my first round game was rated. My rating was adjusted to something closer to my USCF rating. I shouldn’t have any issues playing in future CFC events. I’m glad everything got worked out, but I’m disappointed that there was drama in an otherwise well run event.

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