Ever since I started playing chess, I would watch the tournament directors amble past each board as they attentively watched the players make their move. I wondered what it would be like to be at a tournament but have none of the pressures that players have anticipating their next pairing. I wondered what it would be like to organize all the behind-the-scenes issues that players are unaware of. Honestly I wondered what a tournament director’s experience is like.
Luckily, ICEA gave me an opportunity to TD their monthly tournaments. When I arrived at the tournament hall, I was swarmed with tasks to do. It was the first time ICEA held the tournament in St. Andrew, as we previously held it at the Wende Museum, so everything seemed unfamiliar.
As players started checking in and adapting to the new location, we got a new problem on our hands: the printer stopped working. As a player, I’m always frustrated that tournament directors put pairings up at the last minute; how would I have time to prepare? This tournament directing experience taught me that there are possibly a hundred problems that need to be juggled behind-the-scenes. A printer malfunctioning is not something that can be fixed in two seconds. Eventually, the printer decided to wake up, maybe the chess gods took pity on us, but we resolved the issue by a stroke of luck.
Checking in the players before the first round
Before the first round began, I gave a speech to the players (my voice cracks really outdid themselves), and I took a sigh of relief as the round started. The chaos was over.
I expected that I would have some free time once the rounds started, so I brought a book with me. I didn’t read a single word off of it though as I discovered that parents love to check their phones while in the tournament room. Never thought I’d see the day where I was ordering adults not to use their phones. Even though the playing and tournament directing experiences are worlds apart, one thought stays the same: those parents on their darn phones!
Starting the first round
Since I have a lot of experience as a player, I know that noise is very triggering, especially when one is deep in calculation, so my main priority was to make the exits as quiet as possible. Nothing is more annoying than hearing the creaking hinges followed by the slam of the door. I spent a lot of time softly closing the door after players exit.
One thing I learned from being a TD is that they should take up hiking as a hobby—I was walking between boards so much that it felt like I was hiking on a mountain uphill both ways. At one point, it felt like the floor was punching me every time I took a step.
Of course, I did not supervise the players by myself, I had lots of help. Dedian, the organizer, would sometimes trade shifts with me so I can take a break. Miana, a 4th grader and Felix’s younger sister, would manage our chess shop, helping to fundraise so we can continue organizing events like this.
Miana helping me TD
Watching over our chess shop
From this exciting experience, I made quite a few friends and met many great players. It was an incredible learning experience for me. Be ready for the next ICEA tournament, because TD Angela will be there for you!