Thursday, November 17, 2011

Tournament starts on Friday

Hello all -

This is John Michael's Dad again. It is 12:44 AM Friday morning in Caldas Novas, Brazil. I have been wrestling with computer and Internet issues for the last 2 hours in an attempt to get online, so I will not be able to upload pictures on this post. Will try to get more pictures up tomorrow morning (technical issues permitting).

Wednesday and Thursday were relaxing days - hanging out by the pool, going on water slides, playing ping-pong, visiting the water park across the street from our hotel, and just generally relaxing. Good weather - 88 and sunny yesterday and today, and just one quick rain shower yesterday. We are definitely starting to shift into tournament mode. The teams have been arriving at our hotel from countries far and wide over the last few days - some teams even arrived as late as 7:00 PM tonight. We have seen teams from South Africa, China, Bolivia, Peru, and several other countries that escape memory right now. The United States coaches held a team meeting for the entire delegation this evening to go over the rules/procedures of the tournament. There are some differences between United States USCF tournaments and international FIDE tournaments. The coaches are great - 10 in all. The coaches have divided the players up - each coach is going to work with 6 players. The coaches will be holding individual preperation sessions for 30 minutes each day with each player to prepare them for their game that day. At this level of chess, there is a fair amount of time spent preparing for each individual opponent. The coaches will look up their opponents games from the past and help the players devise particular openings based on what their opponent is most likely to play. Pretty high tech stuff - lot of computer analysis involved in preparing for games each day. After each game, the players will do a "post mortem" with one of the U.S. coaches. The coach will review the game they just played, analyzing areas that can be improved for the next game. The coaches are going to be very busy, and the players are going to be working with very accomplished Grandmasters.

John Michael was very excited to find out tonight that his coach will be GM Joel Benjamin during this tournament! For those of you that follow chess, Joel needs no introduction. Among his many accomplishments, Joel is a 3 time U.S. Chess Champion, and was hired as the official Grandmaster consultant by IBM to help with the Deep Blue chess computer that defeated World Champion Garry Kasparov in 1997. It is kind of like a Little League baseball player playing in the Little League World Series where his individual coach is Derek Jeter, and he has the ability to consult with 9 other Yankees players that are coaching the rest of his team! It is such a fantastic opportunity for John Michael to be able to spend this amount of time with Joel and the rest of the United States coaches. He will literally be getting counsel over the next 9 days from some of the most accomplished chess players in the world!

The competition is definitely going to be fierce. From meeting other parents from the United States and from other countries, it is clear that chess is much more of a huge deal in most (if not all) of these other countries. Some countries offer large cash prizes to players that win their division (up to $20,000 in some cases we have heard). A player from another country that wins this tournament can literally launch a career out of this event, and improve their families social status (entry to private schools, luxury housing for the family, etc.). In other countries, Grandmasters are superstars - every bit as popular as sports figures and entertainers are in the United States.

John Michael is ready to do battle - not intimidated in the least. He is very relaxed and confident - looking forward to seeing him battle with the best in the world!

Opening ceremony is Friday at 3:00 PM Brazil time (3 hours ahead of the U.S. East Coast) - first round is scheduled to start at 4:00 PM. Will hopefully be able to post results after each round, although the Internet has been very slow since the influx of all the teams.

Talk to you all soon!

Mr. Burke

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