October 19 - 20, 1973
Dartmouth Fall Open
This would be the second of many chess road trips I would take during college. This would also be another out of state tournament that I would play in before playing my first tournament in Vermont. Freshman year I didn't have a car so I had to either take a bus, bum a ride with someone else going to the tournament, or hitchhike. Yes, I did hitchhike to a few tournament before I had a car at college. I always had someone come with me. I was crazy back then, but not stupid enough to hitchhike by myself.
This particular tournament I was able to get a ride to the tournament, and I spent the night sleeping on a friend's dorm room floor at Dartmouth College. My back aches just thinking about some of the places I slept in lieu of spending money on a hotel room. The joys of being a college student on a budget. Fortunately entry fees were pretty cheap back then. There wasn't much prize money, but that didn't matter since I sucked and never won enough games to win my class.
My first round game was against a 1646. Back then I thought 1600s were God. I wasn't sure I'd ever get my rating that high. When one plays chess as badly as I did in this game what can one expect? I blundered a piece on move 6, and got my king and queen forked on move 18.
With a time limit of 50/2, 25/1, 25/1 I had a lot of time to kill until the second round. One of my friends took me over to the academic computer center where I played chess on the Dartmouth College mainframe. To tell you how bad chess programs were back in the 70s, I kept beating the computer. Unfortunately I did not save any of the games I played against the computer. I guess like most people at that time, I didn't think it was any great accomplishment to beat a computer at chess. Little did any of us know back then what computers would be able to do with chess in the 21st century.
The only bright spot in the tournament for me was winning in round three. I had won a knight and then in the end game promoted a pawn. The interesting thing about looking at these old games is reading the English Descriptive notation. I'm looking at Black's move sequence of P-R6, P-R7, P-R8/Q and thinking to myself "White is promoting." 30 plus years of Algebraic notation is making me think the sequence was a6, a7, a8/Q.
I would play in this tournament every fall throughout my four years in college. My junior year I had a car at school, so I didn't have to bum a ride from people. I would load up the car with some of the kids from the Burlington Chess Club or UVM and we'd hit the road Saturday morning to make it in time for round one. I got my first speeding ticket on that trip because we were too busy talking about chess, and I wasn't paying attention to the speedometer. Fortunately I got the ticket in New Hampshire where it was just a flat fine for a first time speeder. $20! My next speeding ticket would be 26 years later driving to another chess tournament. It cost more then $20!
Each year that I played in the tournament my rating was a little higher. However I never improved my record beyond 2 wins, 3 losses. Every year I would play some horribly short game on Sunday in round 4 or 5. Two years in a row I'd lose to Hal Terrie during one of the Sunday rounds. Hal Terrie is one of those players that I played in the 70s who is still an active tournament player. He's a Life Master, but at the time he was "only" rated in the high 1800s. Here is my super butt ass ugly lost from the 1974 Dartmouth Fall Open.
I'm afraid too many late night hearts or blitz chess games on Saturday night in the dorm were to blame. Also three rounds on Saturday at the traditional 50/2, 25/1, 25/1 made for a long day. Many players were pretty wiped by Sunday. I think one of Bill Goichberg's best innovations was eliminating the 8:00 PM Saturday night round and changing his weekend tournaments to four rounds with two games a day. Some people bemoan advent of sudden death. Personally I don't miss the endless time controls.