Checkmates: N.J. tournament unites chess amateurs of all ages
By Amy Kuperinsky/The Star-Ledger
February 15, 2013 at 8:08 AM, updated February 15, 2013 at 8:10 AM
Chess tournaments may seem like staid affairs, filled with plenty of silence and waiting. But sometimes they also allow for a fair bit of silliness.
At the World Amateur Team Chess Championship in Parsippany this weekend, for instance, there’s a team called “Te’o’s Girlfriend,” says E. Steve Doyle, director of the championship. That would be a reference to Notre Dame football’s Manti Te’o and the fabricated “girlfriend.” That team, he says, has no alternate.
“Every year, it’s kind of a commentary on pop culture,” says Doyle, who also writes a chess column for The Star-Ledger. He says teams are known to wear costumes — Doyle remembers a group disguised as nuns called “The Ladies of Perpetual Chess.”
The tournament, which takes place at the Parsippany Hilton from Saturday through Monday, involves about 300 four-person teams and 1,200 players. This is its 43rd year, with competitors of all ages coming from up and down the East Coast, other states and countries. The ballroom of the hotel will be filled with up to 2,000 people, including chess players’ families and spectators.
“You can’t move,” says Doyle. “It’s just packed.”
Competitors can range from as young as 4 years old to upward of 90, with various awards given to elementary school and college-age groups. Collegiate attendees include players from Princeton University, Texas Tech and Boston College.
“It’s the most players that ever show up at a chess tournament in the United States,” says Peter Tamburro, treasurer of the New Jersey State Chess Federation, and the co-writer of Doyle’s Star-Ledger column. West Point’s team, he says, will open the competition with an appearance from its honor guard.
“It’s kind of like a convention,” he says.
The youngest players come with parents who “stay there all day and read very thick books,” says Tamburro. There are also chess equipment sales and, on Saturday morning, an antiques expert who will conduct appraisals of vintage chess sets.
For players older than 65, there is also an Old Timers Trophy.
“Even though it’s called an amateur championship, we have lot of masters and grandmasters that play in it,” says Tamburro.
World Amateur Team Chess Championship
Where: Parsippany Hilton, 1 Hilton Court, Parsippany.
When: Saturday through Monday, with registration from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday. Rounds start at 1 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday; 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. Sunday; 9 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Monday.
How much: $200 (teams have four players with optional alternates); visit njscf.org. To reach the Hilton, call (973) 267-7373.