by Mike Nietman, July 31, 2010
On behalf of the USCF Scholastic Council and Committee I’d like to welcome the participants, parents, friends and visitors to the 2010 Arnold Denker Tournament of High School Champions.
I first met Grandmaster Denker in my home town of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. You may know that in 1990 Don Schultz placed the World Youth Chess Festival there and called me up one night to ask, “How would you like to host a World Championship in Fond du Lac?” Of course, I was speechless and worked feverishly with Don to organize a most successful event.
Being Don’s close friend, GM Denker wanted to come along to assist and watch the top notch youngsters play. The US squad was led by Josh Waitzkin, Tal Skaked and gold medal winning Nawrose Nur. The foreign squads numbered about 40 with over 170 players in all including from Hungary, Judit Polgar and Peter Leko, Romania’s Gabriel Schwartzman, and a host of others from six different continents.
Grandmaster Denker came in shortly before the opening ceremony. Many of my volunteers were busy with various tasks so no one could pick him up at the airport. I asked my retired father to go to the Oshkosh Airport, about 15 miles from Fond du Lac, to pick him up. He said he would, and thoroughly enjoyed the stories that GM Denker told him on the drive back to the campus.
During the opening ceremony, GM Denker, with his deep booming voice, and another person alternated calling off the parade of nations as we shined a spotlight on the country’s flag and asked the delegation to stand. Much to our chagrin, when the spotlight shined on the big, red maple leaf, Arnold, reading from a script, called out “Costa Rica”. We caught it on stage and made sure that our friends to the north got their proper due, but later Arnold said, “Canada wasn’t on the script!”
I have many great memories from the event, I saw Judit Polgar at the closing ceremony clutching her stuffed teddy bear while modeling her gold medal. I also remember Hungarian born Arpad Elo visited the tournament to watch Judit play. Everyone including American Coaches, GM Pal Benko and Bruce Pandolfini wanting to have their picture taken with him, and having Arpad Elo speak to the participants before a round. No one was listening to my introduction of him until I spoke his name, then a hush immediately fell over the room. That was quickly followed by huge round of applause. Also, the Romanians asking us if they could doctor their flag after their country had navigated thru a coup seven months before. I saw the East and West German teams unite at the end of the event for a soon to be united country team picture. I heard the Israelis tattling on the Russian girls for discussing a position in the bathroom. I could regale you with my many memories of the event, but it would take us into your first round and Dewain wouldn’t be happy with me.
So, in Grandmaster Denker’s name, go out and make some memories that will last a lifetime!