The 2014 US Amateur Team South Tournament!
The US Amateur Team South Tournament (USATS) has been held in Florida for the past 17 years, and for the past two in Boca Raton. But this year at the last minute, Thad Rogers’ American Chess Promotions was awarded the bid for the event to be held in Norcross Georgia....
This was ideal for a group of friends scattered around the southeast US. John Nardandrea (Ocala) and I (Orlando) have always played together on teams, but it was difficult to get first board Miles Ardaman and David Haimes, both in North Carolina to get to the same venue. Norcross was going to be ideal; but two major problems stood in our way. First, the hotel was subpar. One travel website described it thusly: “This used to be a Holiday Inn Express, but over the years it has devolved into something called the Garden Plaza Inn.” Several calls to both Thad and the hotel, assured me that the hotel had renovated and we would be happy. This turned out to not be true. The “renovated” rooms turned out to be just non-smoking rooms. Our room had no light bulbs or hangers, and a television that I think I sold in a 1991 garage sale. In our other room, the adjoining door separating two rooms was off the hinges and hanging by a thread! Down in the tournament hall, there was no water service (Thad went to the grocery and bought cases of bottled water for the playing hall and hand soap for the bathrooms)! The second problem was much worse. A storm sweeping the eastern half of the country was zeroing in on Atlanta. One weather channel characterized it as “a catastrophic ice storm of historic proportion!” Our wives were against our going, but Dr. Nardandrea, always the optimist said it would be fine by the weekend. I called Dave in High Point, North Carolina and he was digging out from a combination of ice and snow but said it was doable. Our problem was first board Miles Ardaman. Miles lived on top of Cold Mountain, near Asheville, North Carolina and the roads were impassable. He texted us updates, “state DOT says roads in Western Carolina are not drivable, will check later”. Finally, at 10am on Friday, the authorities gave the okay to drive. We all converged on Atlanta by 5 pm on Friday and had a great reunion.
“Later Gators” from left; Miles Ardaman, John Nardandrea, Larry Storch, David Haimes
The tournament had a solid turnout with 142 participants. Our veteran team, “Later Gators” was ranked second. The tournament was going to be won by either the top rated “Russians never Retreat” led by Daniel Gurevich (2396), Toby Boas’ (2205) “Gators, our chess pieces block” or us. After sprinting out winning our first two matches with 7.5/8 points, we ran into trouble in round three. We had two points from boards two-four. I won, and both John and David drew. That left usually reliable Miles Ardaman (2264) battling Lawrence White (2116) on board one. In terrible time trouble, Miles had a rook and two passed pawns against his opponent’s queen. The lower rated opponent was desperately trying for perpetual check, but Miles was under the mistaken impression that we needed a win on board one and used all his time trying to win, losing on time instead. This left us at 2.5/3 trailing the other two teams by a half point. In round four, the leaders drew 2-2 while we scored a solid 3.5-.5 win with Miles rebounding beatingAndrew Cherepanov (2470). That resulted in the three top rated teams all tied with 3.5/4. “Russians” had white against us, while Toby’s team played a team of experts and A players on table two. Our last round was very disappointing. David Haimes (1916) had a winning attack against their fourth board, Elena Gratskaya (1840), only to lose his way. Miles was defeated by Daniel Gurevich (2396) and Michael Corallo (2248) played a nice attack against me. Finally, John Nardandrea (2246) succumbed to Richard Francisco (2348) to complete the 4-0 sweep. Meanwhile, with his higher rated team tied 1.5/1.5 against their outranked opponent, Toby’s game against Reese Thompson (2097) was the last one. He rallied from an inferior position to tie Gurevich’s team with 4.5/5.
The “Russian” team had the better tie breaks and took the Southern USAT title. We finished with 3.5 and captured top senior team as Miles turned 50 in December. For me it was a wonderful weekend to catch up with old friends. Not only did I enjoy spending time with Miles, John and David, I caught up with Atlanta resident Justin Morrison who played on my 1991 team. Thad said he would like to host the event again next year, I told him that would be great as long as he used a different hotel!