September 14-21, 2014
Chess (and Poker) on the High Seas

Last Fall my wife and I cruised with Card Player Cruises on the Allure of the Seas. They hosted a first class poker room with tournaments and cash games as well as extra activities for our group. We had a great time. Wouldn’t this be a great venue for a chess tournament! Until 12 years ago the U.S. Senior Open was held on a cruise every other year and I thought it was time to restart that tradition.

Thirty four players are competing for the title of U.S. Senior Open Champion aboard the amazing Allure of the Seas. We started the cruise with a Welcome Aboard party hosted by Card Player Cruises followed by a congenial dinner with our fellow cruisers. Many of the players took advantage of the great shows and attractions aboard the largest cruise ship in the world.

After a morning in the port of Nassau we got down to serious chess. Robert Hampton gave GM Walter Browne a tough game, but Walter prevailed with a beautiful sacrificial combination at the end. Even though it was the last game finished Walter took the time to analyze the game for the benefit of the spectators.

1. f4 d5 2. Nf3 g6 3. e3 Bg7 4. Be2 c5 5. 0-0 Nc6 6. d3 Nf6 7. Qe1 0-0 8. c3 Qd6 9. Qh4 e5 10. fxe5 Nxe5 11. Nbd2 Re8 12. e4 dxe4 13. Nxe5 Rxe5 14. Nc4 Qe6 15. Bg5 Nd5 16. Rae1 Bd7 17. dxe4 Nb6 18. Rd1 Nxc4 19. Bxc4 Qxc4 20. Rxd7 Rxe4 21. Qf2 f5 22. Rfd1 Rae8 23. Rxb7 Re2 24. Qh4 Rxg2+ 25. Kxg2 Qe2+ 26. Kg3 Be5+ 27. Bf4 Bxf4+ 28. Qxf4 Re3+ 0-1

As a partner in Card Player Cruises, it is a pleasure to have the US Senior Chess tournament on one of our cruises. We have hosted several poker tours in the past including the Party Poker Million, the Card Player Poker Tour, and the Heartland Poker Tour, but never a chess tournament, so it's a bit of a shock to look over and see chess games being played on the poker tables after the chess events are done for the day.

One of the original challenges we faced was to find a logistical place to actually hold the chess activities. This ended up to be no problem at all, since we were able to use movable walls to section of 1/4 of the conference room and still have plenty of room for both the poker tables and the chess tables. Closing the doors to the chess area is sufficient to keep the noise out. The chess players are getting along very well with the poker players and there is some crossover play. Everyone is enjoying the scrumptious food in the conference room. I've been going around the dining room during dinner checking on everyone, and have received lots of compliments about the way the chess events are being run - thanks Alan Losoff and Bill Snead!

I admit that I knew nothing about chess before this cruise. Now I have met lots of really nice chess players, learned what a "simul" and a "blitz" are, and know how important it is to be silent while chess matches are being played. We hope this becomes an annual event on one of our cruises.

Today we are docked at St. Thomas. I'm going ashore for a few hours before playing my game. It's 2-1/2 mile walk to downtown Charlotte Amalie and I had 2 desserts last night. The food is incredible and all you can eat.

Last night 11 players challenged GM Walter Browne in a simul. Walter made quick work of us, but he still gave a prize to Matt Sankovich for playing the most interesting game.

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 b5 6.Bb3 Nxe4 7.d4 d5 8.dxe5 Be6 9.Be3 Be7 10.c3 0-0 11.Re1 Na5 12.Bc2 Nc4 13.Bc1Bc5 14.Nd4 Qd7 15.f3 f5 16.fxe4 fxe4 17.Qh5 Rf5 18.Qh4 Raf8 19.Nd2 Rf4 20.Qxf4 Rxf4 21.Nxc4 Rh4 22.Ne3 Bxd4 23.cxd4 c5 24.Rd1 Qc7 25.g3 Rh5 26.Bxe4 dxe4 27.d5 Qxe5 28.dxe6 Qxe6 29.Rd8+ Kf7 30.Bd2 Qb6 31.Rf1+ Ke7 32.Rd5 Qg6 33.Nf5+ Rxf5 34.Rfxf5 Qg4 35.Kf2 Qh3 36.Rh5 Qg4 37.Rhe5+ Kf7 38.Rf5+ Ke6 39.Rxc5 g6 40.Rf4 Qd1 41.Rxe4+ Kd7 42.Bf4 Qh1 43.Rc7+ Kd8 44.Rd4+ Ke8 45.g4 Qb1 46.Bg5 Qxb2+ 47.Rd2 1-0

10 players are taking advantage of the liberal bye policy to spend more time in port today at Saint Thomas or tomorrow at Saint Maarten. I don't expect to post daily (except results) but I will post on the last 2 days.

It’s all ending too soon. Everyone is trying to cram in as much of the great cruise activities as possible on the last day. The last round is today and the title will be determined on board 1. GM Browne who leads the field by 1/2 point with a perfect 5 will be playing Ari Levi.

Last night 12 players participated in the blitz tournament. Walter Browne won with 9-1/2 out of 10. William Marcelino took second and was the only player to score against Walter. Henry Ebarb won the under 1800 prize. The full crosstable is at the bottom of the results page.

Margeret Snead has taken dozens of great photos of the tournament and our players enjoying the cruise, and I will post many more here soon.

Cardplayer Cruises will host a farewell party before dinner and we will award prizes at that time. The players have enjoyed the cruise, and we are already planning another chess cruise (or 2) for 2015. The next cruise tournament will be open to all ages on August 29-Sept 6 and/or September 6-13.

A quick draw on board one and GM Walter Browne is the U.S. Senior Open Champion. Congratulations Walter. Full results are posted and a complete tournament repot will be sent to U.S. Chess On Line tomorrow.

This year’s U.S. Senior Open is sponsored by Vegas Chess Festivals, the U.S. Chess Federation and Card Player Cruises.