Saturday, March 8, 2008

Mamas Don't Let Your Babies

Grow Up To Be TDs. One day I thought it would be cool to know how to run tournaments. That way, I wouldn’t have to depend on other people to TD tournaments. If I ever found a suitable cheap space to run tournaments on the weekends, I could run the whole thing myself. Since the USCF has migrated their operations into a web server, it’s handy to submit memberships and rating reports. And learning the rules in a formal manner might make me a better player. Best of all, it might expand my narrow little world into another dimension.

Alas, being a TD holds little reward and much grief. You get to mediate in touch move disputes where one person must be lying or at least mistaken, but no one seems to be able to prove it either way. The other day, I witnessed some pretty bad sportsmanship that turned me off from chess a bit. One player was down massive material (lone king versus queen and two pawns) and was playing for a swindle. The other player may have been trying to promote a second queen, which is his perogative when facing a player who refuses to resign a hopeless position. The player trying to swindle got mad at being subject to the equivalent of chess torture, so instead of resigning, he decided to just let his clock run (he had about 45 minutes). On top of that, he began consulting chess books, something that’s expressly forbidden in the rulebook. I was in the middle of playing my game, so I asked another TD to take care of the situation, but it still distracted me. The other TD persuaded the guy to resign. He turned his king down in a huff and hardly saw the error of his ways as he continued to blame his opponent for some kind of injustice.

If one can’t get along with his fellow chess players, perhaps one should know the loneliness of living in a town too small to support a chess club.

I work well with data, contributing to the idea that I’m a good administrator, but I have issues when dealing with actual people. My problem is that I try to please everyone, but often end up pleasing no one. Sometimes, being tough but fair is what is called for from the TD, but I have a tendency to second guess my decisions and become hesitant. And I really don’t want to be the big mean TD who ruins one or both players’ good time. I’ve generally avoided conflict because I’m also thin-skinned.

There is a particular out-of-town chess player that I’ve had multiple run-ins with. Once I bumped his Quick rating 200 points up to his Regular rating so that he was ineligible for a blitz class prize. Another time, he tried to demonstrate insufficient losing chances after his flag had already fallen. Both times I held my ground and ruled against him. Luckily, the other TDs have also had run-ins with him and always support me. He regularly complains about pairings and threatens to never come back, but so far he’s always returned. But I’m paranoid of going to his neck of the woods for tournaments and being made to feel unwelcome. Thin skin.

There’s a controversy regarding the format of the club championship. Some people want a round robin, some people want knockout matches, and still others want a swiss. We’ve had round robins for many of our championships, but there have been problems with people forfeiting games and screwing up the standings. We’ve had people delaying games for various reasons and then others complaining that the delayer is angling for an unfair advantage. I made the mistake of opening Pandora’s Box and asking for a democratic solution. My simple 3-format ballot has had the slate expanded by four write-in votes. Of the eight votes I’ve received, they seem to be split evenly among four choices. It’s surprising how much passion there is about the format of a club championship and whether people should be allowed to make up for being absent. It’s not unlike the Republicans versus the Democrats. I finally called off the vote and went with the Republicans. But I feel like I betrayed my fellow Democrats for the good of the State. The best explanation I can come up for my actions is that like one of the presidential candidates says, it’s time for change.

The worst thing is that it’s hard to completely compartmentalize my TD duties while I’m playing. It’s just a little harder to concentrate on this difficult game when the externals erupt and interrupt. I know I just need to offload some of the duties with the other TDs, but I just cheerfully keep taking up the slack, so they let me.

So far I've probably avoided the worst kind of disputes, but I think I need to take a sabbatical and concentrate on playing.


Eric Shoemaker said...

Hi Ernie, I have to admit that I have never seen a T.D. without a difficult task. Putting up with us players can be tough.

I have tried to remain as flexible as possible regarding format of the Club Championship.

I will play under any format, even my idea isn't chosen, although Grant was probably right in thinking that a more balanced format would be better. An easier schedule for me would only call into question my "Preparedness" for the upcoming tougher games, should I make it that far (In doubt, due to my consistency problems of late).

I am only inflexible about the nonsense of making up games. If someone is sick, near dying, broke their chess piece moving hand, then of course I would be flexible.

But if they're "angling" or want to watch a Basketball game, then that is their problem. I could care less about Basketball.

By and large, one should have the "Ethics" to keep your outside interests from interfering with the Chess Club's Activities.

Thursday Nights are our meeting times. Due to my ethics, I have scheduled everything else around this date and because I have, it allows me show up every Thursday Night.

I would also like to say this: It is an absolute insult to players like George Fischer who in the years I have known him, shows up every Thursday with few exceptions. He's an ICON for good sportsmanship and showing up at the club!

Grant may be the biggest culprit, but he was not alone in times past. These people know who they are and it is up to them to "Clean Up" their act and have the "ETHICS" not to "Hold UP" the Chess Club's activities "Unnecessarily."

The bottom line is this: If you are holding things up, then it is you that must change, not the others.

If I was to fall ill tomorrow and could not play my game, then of course, I might wish to make it up. But if I want to hold things up because I want to go bowling with some friends, then that is irresponsible behavior and you don't make friends that way, at least not lasting ones.

I should also say this: Many of those deemed "Inflexible" became that way after the many experiences of T.D.'s not doing anything about the behavior of such individuals.

Had their been no abuse at all, I would certainly have both cause and reason to be more flexible that I am now. But I remember all too well, waiting for games to be finished and sometimes waiting longer than an acceptable time for things to be finished.

That said, that is why I took the hard line. I have never needed to make up a game but once in the 8 years I've been here and that was by mutual agreement in a game against Peterson.

If the irresponsible players could be more ethical and responsible, then guess what--Flexibility will return! But it starts with Ethics and Responsibility.

Many people have children. You yourself do. What if one parent was lackadaisical in child care? My advice: If you wouldn't put up with that at home, then do not put up with it at the Chess Club either.

The reason we meet on Thursdays is because we don't meet on Sundays, or Mondays, or Tuesdays, or Wednesdays, or Fridays, or Saturdays.

That leaves us "Thursdays." What a concept!

Wahrheit said...

Ernie, you've certainly done your part, probably a good idea to let someone else take the heat for awhile.

I have ideas about how to run the Club Ch. which I'm going to put out there, but I don't expect unanimous agreement... :)

Polly said...

TD'ing is a thankless job, but somebody has to do it. Sometimes when I've had a particularly difficult directing assignment where the players have been royal PITAs (pains in the ass) I think there should be a new requirement for players. Every rated player has to direct at least one tournament, and take the TD test. Then they would see just how difficult it is to be a TD.