by Robert N. Bernard
On this frigid February afternoon, 1167 chess players invaded the Parsippany Hilton to commence the annual chess extravaganza known as the United States Amateur Team East Championship, also known as the World Amateur Team. Sponsored and organized by the New Jersey State Chess Federation, these 277 teams battle over six rounds to determine the championship, while other teams contend for prizes within their particular skill category. This year, 13 International Grandmasters are playing in the tournament, including former champions of Canada, Israel, and the United States.
What separates this tournament from many others is the overwhelming good spirits of the players, many of whom come from all over the USA, year-after-year, to play in this annual President’s Day weekend event. With low entry fees and no monetary prizes, most players are there to have a good time, see old friends, and enjoy some strong competition. “The first day is the ‘friends’ day,” said Steve Doyle, long-time tournament director and organizer of the event. “The second day is more of a relaxing and ‘silly’ day, while the last day, Monday, everyone turns into a shark.”
Indeed, most of the traditional contests happen on the second day, including the “Best Team Name” and the best “Chess Gimmick”. Every day has its fun, however; before the start of every game, Doyle stands at the stage and gives away chess-related door prizes for the obscure and amusing categories. “The first player to come to the podium wearing red socks gets a free book,” said Doyle. “I’m wearing red socks today too.”
After the first two rounds of competition on Saturday, many teams are still tied for the lead with two match wins.