Sunday, August 28, 2011

Idaho History: Western Idaho Open

courtesy of:  Jeff Roland, ICA Trustee for Web Development and Maintenance

If you read the article on the 1964 Western Idaho Open (shown below), the organizers of the day were very excited about the “large turnout” of 19 players! Last year, we had 27 players at the 2010 WIO, and I plan to really promote this year’s event even better. At the PCC Centennial Open in Portland a couple weeks ago, I actually asked several players, a couple of them masters, if they would come, and they seemed positively inclined, especially as they are excited about Idaho joining Northwest Chess. And I am planning to get our ad in Northwest Chess. However, the weather will probably be the biggest hurdle. It is hard to get over those Blue Mountains!!! However, not impossible for the chess fanatic! It is ironic that the time of year most conducive to indoor activities like chess also makes it difficult to travel to play in them!

My theory, and has yet to be refuted to my knowledge, is that the only reason over-the-board tournaments don’t have more people these days (and this seems to be a national trend) is because the USA doesn’t have that charismatic superstar figure like Bobby Fischer was. The big boom of Idaho (ICA) tournaments happened directly after Fischer won the World Championship, and lasted for several years, then steadily declined over the years. I don’t think the decline was due to anything we as organizers did wrong. Numbers just declined as people found something else to entertain themselves. We’re actually doing better than they did back in 1964. At some point, I predict there will be another big chess boom in America. It is only a matter of time. And when that happens, the structured annual events and consistent tournaments and titles that the ICA does now (in spite of low turnout), will be crucial to that future success as those tournaments and titles and clockwork precision in holding the events will already be in place. I am very proud of the fact that ICA continues to go the distance and continues to hold consistent annual staple tournaments (like the Idaho Open, for example), and even if they aren’t large in number of players, they are still Idaho Opens! They still produce champions! They still produce excellent chess. And they are still newsworthy. 

Also, just to share even more how things were different back then, here is the tournament announcement. Note that play started at 9:30 am, Entry was $1.75. USCF Membership was $5.00. Time limit was 30 moves/hour, and clocks were only used on the slow games.

To find out how you can join the 2011 Western Idaho Open, contact the Idaho Chess Association.

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