Thursday, January 31, 2013

2013 Cardinal Open held in memory of Mike Anders

Michael Anders, 1955-2013

The 36th Cardinal Open held January 25-27 in Columbus, Ohio, was dedicated to a lost friend. Michael R. Anders, associate national tournament director, teacher, bookseller and USCF life member died in a plane crash on his 58th birthday. Mike was a private pilot who often flew between Kentucky and the Caribbean where he once lived and taught. On Friday January 4, 2013, while flying along the coast of Florida, from Fort Pierce, Florida, headed for Knoxville, Tennessee, Mike reported engine trouble and was attempting to make an emergency landing. Sadly, he didn’t make it. His plane crashed into a Palm Coast home, killing him and his two passengers, Duane Shaw, 59, a neighbor of Mike’s in Albany, KY, and Charisse Peoples, 42, of Indianapolis. Charisse was Shaw’s fiancée. Miraculously, the resident of the home, Susan Crockett, escaped with only a minor bruise. The plane was a 1957 Beech Bonanza H-35 and Anders was the registered owner.

Mike's full time job at the time of the crash was Spanish teacher for Clinton County High School in Kentucky. He previously taught school in Cincinnati, and was an active scholastic chess coach and tournament director. Recently he was living in Kentucky, but remained a familiar face at tournaments in Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee. He was the bookseller at the 2009 U.S. Junior Chess Congress, a USCF National event held in Anderson, IN and was the section chief at the K-3 SuperNationals in 2009. His most recent TD assignment was at the 21st Kings Island Open in Cincinnati this past November.

Whether he was directing or selling books and equipment, Mike was energetic, maintained a constant smile, and had jokes and stories to share with everyone. He was a class-B player, with a peak rating of 1774. But, more than playing, Mike always enjoyed conversation with other chess players.

Ohio chess organizer Grant Perks, who served as interim USCF Executive Director in late 2003, recalled that Mike was a teacher at Cincinnati Country Day School. “He ran concurrent scholastic and adult tournaments on a monthly basis during the school year,” Perks said. “It was an opportunity for me to bring kids to play in a scholastic event while I played in the open section. Mike organized at least one state scholastic at the school. He also directed the first two Queen City Classics.”

For a short time, Mike owned a barbeque restaurant in the Cincinnati area and then moved to the U.S. Virgin Islands before returning to Kentucky near to resume teaching. Mike enjoyed flying any time he could. “When I took the position at the USCF,” Perks recalled, “Mike willingly flew me to New Windsor at a moment’s notice. I wasn't scheduled to be there until the next week but wanted to reach out to the staff. Flying in for a quick turnaround wasn't feasible with commercial flights.” Mike, as always, was right there to help out.

Remembering Mike to the 190 players on hand for the Cardinal Open, tournament director Grant Neilley said, “It is rumored that Mike hadn’t yet passed the NTD exam, because he couldn’t help answering the questions with a humor the graders apparently didn’t share.” Neilley is president of the Fellowship of the King Chess Club, the sponsoring affiliate of Cardinal Open, a popular regional event held continuously since 1978. He concluded his customary announcements at the start of the event by asking for a few moments of silence and then declared, with a discernible combination of respect, affection and sadness in his voice, “We dedicate the 2013 Cardinal Open to the memory of our friend Mike Anders.”

Grant Neilley, Ohio-based tournament director

This was Neilley’s fourth year organizing and directing the Cardinal Open. He was assisted this year by Myron Thomas and Alex Neilley. Grant Neilley organized his first tournament in 2006 after starting a club the year before. “I was asking around to see how we could raise awareness of our club and boost attendance,” Neilley recalled, “and someone told me the best way was to organize a tournament. I wondered, Ok. How do I do that? I had never even been to one. If I had known then where it would all lead, I’m not so sure I would have taken the first step, and I’m pretty sure my wife wouldn’t have let me. But for some reason, I’ve come to really enjoy it, so I just keep going.”

The original Cardinal Open was initiated by Larry Paxton, who got his start in chess organization as The Ohio State University's chess club tournament director and editor of its weekly Phalanx back in the early 1960s. In 1971, he returned to Ohio and stepped into the presidency of the Ohio Chess Association, floating almost exclusively on the shoulders of David Wolford's Ohio Chess Bulletin and its signature tournament, The Ohio Chess Congress.

According to Larry, “Dick Fuller moved on to Baroque recorder music and I inherited his tournament staff including Susan Boone as O.C.A. treasurer. Susie made the O.C.A. look competent and professional.” Later, an outspoken critic from the Cleveland area said the O.C.A. was useless and hadn't done anything new for Ohio Chess in decades. “Susie and I were offended,” Fuller said, “and challenged.”

“But because of Fischer,” he continued, “the chess calendar was crowded, especially during fair weather months. We found a hole in late January, but had already decided that to rise above the routine, to make the O.C.A. ‘un-useless’, we needed the scale of the Ohio Chess Congress. For a new tournament to break in at that level would require guarantees. We not only wanted a big turnout, we wanted strong players. The risk of such an event in a ‘middlin’ state in mid-winter seemed huge.”

“We called the tournament the Cardinal Open for all its meanings, and held our breath. Although the Columbus Dispatch reported 200 players, we had, I think, 111 and that was enough. The tournament has never looked back. Grant Perks, Randy Ryan and David Hater popularized things like Friday rounds and second chance re-entries in Ohio, and attracted some of the Grandmasters. The Cardinal events have given the U.S.C.F. Grand Prix a strong launch each year.”

The entrants to this year’s Cardinal Open included Grandmasters Alexander Shabalov, Dmitry Gurevich, Alex Yermolinsky and Andre Diamant as well as International Master Justin Sarker and FIDE Master Atulya Shetty, 2012 Denker Tournament co-champion. The clear winner was Brazilian GM Diamant a member of the Webster University college chess team. Webster University will compete for the first time in the Final Four of College Chess in Rockville, MD, in April.

Diamont defeated Shetty in the final round to finish with a score of 4.5-0.5, his only blemish resulting from his fourth round draw with Dmitry Gurevich. FM Carl Boor defeated Shabalov in round 5 to take a share of second place with Gurevich at 4-1. Boor’s only loss was to Diamant in round 3 in what turned out to be the key encounter of the tournament.

John Marcsik of Kentucky and Tom Shutzman of Missouri shared Under-200 honors in the Open section. The Under-2100 section was won by Manis Davidovich of Michigan with 4.5 points, a half point ahead of Awonder Liang, Bill Turner, Chris Bush and John Miller. Tom Rosenbaum of Indiana swept the Under-1800 section with a perfect 5-0 score. Uner-1500 honors went to Matthew Yuan of Ohio (4.5 points). Michael Giglio and Ayush Sunkad, both of Ohio, shared the top prize in the Under-1300 section with 4.5 points each.

Grandmaster Andre Diamant (Brazil and Webster University), winner of the 2013 Cardinal Open

Games from the Cardinal Open will be presented in the next blog entry (February 7, 2013).

Portions of this article will be published in the March 2013 Chess Life magazine and the May 2013 issue of the Ohio Chess Bulletin.