This Saturday is Hales Corners Chess Challenge XVIII in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Hales Corners Chess Challenges are put together and sponsored by my adopted chess club, Southwest Chess Club (formerly known as Southwest Chess Club of Hales Corners) and are held in April and October each year.
As you may know, Goddesschess has provided sponsorship to the Hales Corners Challenges since Challenge XVIII. Now, it's Challenge XVIII. How quickly the time has passed.
Our last time spent together (we were separated by a thousand miles and world apart...) was for a glorious week in Madrid in January 2012. Then, we both fell ill, diagnosed with the same heart ailment (atrial fibrilation, me with some extra complications) within a few days of each other. Don received first class treatment in Montreal and had been on the road to recovery by the beginning of August, 2012, but he passed away unexpectedly on October 12, 2012.
The photo above is one that was taken of Don at his home in Montreal a few months before we left for Spain in January, 2012. He called himself "Pallid'un," a spoof after the old television series that most of you are too young to remember, "Have Gun, Will Travel," and the "hero" of the series was "Will Palladin." LOL! He was a handsome/homely man, Just like Don. In the photo, Don is holding an Avon "White Queen" he'd picked up at a rummage sale. He brought that Queen to me here in Milwaukee in December, 2011. We celebrated a late Christmas and New Year's together before departing to Madrid the first week of January, 2012. That was our last person-to-person time together.
How does one recover from the unexpected loss of a loved one? I don't know that one can, really. I had registered to play in Hales Corners Chess Challenge XVI. GM Josh Friedel was playing in that event, and I so wanted to meet him, one of our few American-made GMs, but it was held on October 20, 2012 and I was, to put it simply, not up to the challenge. No pun intended.
My adopted chess club was so great! I received a personal note and autograph from GM Friedel on the back of a Challenge XVI flyer, and the chess femmes had group photos taken just for moi. I was so touched, moved to tears. Below is a photo of the FOUR chess femmes who played in the Open in Challenge XVI:
They're so beautiful! And below is a photo of the NINE chess femmes who played in the Reserve section in Challenge XVII:
I did not play in Challenge XVII in April, 2013, but I promised that I would play in Challenge XVIII.
WHAT WAS I THINKING????
I started "training" -- my version of it anyway, LOL! That meant playing game after game after game at chess.com, with my chess buddies and a few against strangers (one of whom was an obvious cheat) from April through this evening and still going on, and losing game after game after game. My chess buddy Shira Sanford, formerly Shira Evans, who played with me in one of the Hales Corners Challenges (Holy Hathor, that was back in October, 2010) and who, at her peak, had a rating over 1700, told me I was improving.
I sure the heck hope I look better now than I did in that photo above, and that was before I was diagnosed with my heart conditions, yikes!
So did another chess buddy, Ellen Wanek, who teaches chess in school programs and is a mover-and-shaker behind Chess in the Park in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. My recollection is that I met Ellen online after I emailed her about an online article I'd about her participation in the Sheboygan program, and then she came to play in one of the Challenges, and has come to every single one since then! Ellen told me that I've improved too. Here we are, yucking it up with some of the other chess femmes at Challenge -- I forget -- it was October, 2011. Ellen and I are on the left side of the table:
Love Shira and love Ellen. I think I have seen some miniscule improvement in my play, but I'm a million miles away from prime time.
I hemmed and hawed the past few months about actually playing in Challenge XVIII. YES, I started out with the intent to play when I was feeling particularly healthy in April, but as time went on and some health set-backs, I just didn't think it would happen. Challenge XVIII coincides with the first anniversary of Mr. Don's death, and as the time got closer and closer, I've been getting rather emotional. Not that those emotions have ever been far from the surface. Far from it!
I was afraid. Oh, not of playing crappy chess, cuz I generally do that with no outside interference. No, I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to deal with the stress. My physical stamina has been an issue for some years even before all this heart stuff started, and let me tell you, darlings, when you have a heart that will NOT behave despite procedures and strong meds, that saps the strength out of you and makes you feel cold all the damn time well, that's just the pits, and that's the truth. What if I collapsed or, even worse, broke down in tears in front of everyone?
I had actually informed Tom F. that I was not going to play, and began to make arrangements with him to pick up the Goddesschess gift bags that, for the last few Challenges, have been given to the top finishing female in each of the Open and Reserve sections. But I decided last Saturday after a sort of epiphany during a semi-nap on the sofa while that thunderstorm (I'm sure a lot of you heard it) rolled through our environs between about 2 and 3 p.m., that I needed to play and I must play and I would play. STOP THE THUNDER AND LIGHTNING ALREADY, I GET IT, I GET IT. Message from the Chess Goddess received, loud and clear. Geez.
So, I'm playing this Saturday. Guess what - it's supposed to be rainy that day. Oh oh - that means SHE is going to be hanging around making sure I give my best effort. How many of you can say you're going to be playing chess with the threat of a Goddess wrought typhoon hanging over your head if you don't give it your all?
Be there or be round. As a special one-off prize for this event only, I'm giving a $100 gift card to the top male finisher in the Open and a $50 gift card to the top male finisher in the Reserve, after tie-breaks and all that stuff that I will never understand if I live to be 100.