By Chuck Ensey 1/27/04, Artwork purloined by Rick Aeria (who else could come up with this stuff?!)
German artist Siegfried Zademack's Chess icon
On the door to the office at the SDCC is a complete history of the Gambito, showing # of players and who won each rating class. It starts at #21, which was when the Gambito was first enhanced with a guaranteed prize fund donated by anonymous donors, but we also have the history of the first 20 Gambitos, they just had a different format so it didn't match with the others. Gambito #32 was the first one with two sections, it had a new higher $500 Guaranteed prize fund and drew a record, for that time, of 35 players. Please note that we don't count house players (non-paying fill ins) while the USCF makes no distinction. Gambito #50 had a $1250 prize fund. We tried to do something special everytime we reached a milestone number. #50 had a record 37 players and two sections. It was the first anniversary event, celebrating the Gambitos first full year. #75 had a $800 prize fund and 2 sections with a total of 32 players. Bruce & I worked very hard to get people to play, but it was tough to get more than 20 people to show up for the regular Gambitos.
This Siegfried Zademack painting exemplifies the plight of a chess organizer in America
The first Super Gambito was Rick Aeria's idea and did really help increase attendance, although slowly at first. During the first year of the Gambito, in 2001, it was supported by a Guaranteed Prize Fund every week (Initially $350, then $500 and finally $600). In 2002, it was strong enough to survive on its own, and all prizes were paid out of the entry fees with no donations necessary. The Super Gambito brought back the Guaranteed Prize Fund for the first Saturday of every month, which was more agreeable to the tighter finances of the donor community. The first Super Gambito was #91 and drew 23 players, but the second one (#94) had 27 and the third #98 had 36. Bruce decided to have two sections starting with #95 and this proved popular. #100 was the second anniversary and the first two day 8 round event and had a huge $2,000 prize fund. We advertised heavily, but not a single player came down from LA! We did have a record 49 players which still stands, although it has been matched a couple of times. Gambito #106 on December 28, 2002 only had 9 players. This year we cancelled that date, as both Bruce and I were in Vegas, but it's just as well, turnout would have been very light I'm sure. That was the first time in three years, though, that we didn't have a Gambito on Saturday (other than when we had the San Diego County Championships in June) and I felt a little guilty because we always thought that we would just have it every week come rain or shine, so people could count on it and not have to check to see if we were there or not. Some of the worst times have been when there is a big event in Balboa Park like the St. Patrick's Day Parade or the Gay Pride Parade. It is very difficult to find a parking spot on those days.
If Bruce, Rick and I seem reluctant to change things it is because the Gambito is very special to us, we have poured a lot of energy into finding the right things to make it work. We are open to suggestions, but we don't want to do anything so radical that it will change what has worked so well in the past and what our players have come to rely on - our consistency. Thanks for your support. The best way to make the Gambito grow is to just encourage your fellow players and friends to attend. I have personally talked to just about everyone in our club about playing. Some people just can't make it on Saturday due to other conflicts, but I am always trying to recruit players. We have a list of over 150 people who have played at least twice. One of these days, I keep telling Bruce, the stars will all align and 75 or 80 people will show up! Rick is looking forward to having three sections at some point!
Baldomero Garcia is correct when he says it is best not to have more than about 20 players in a section, because the way the Swiss System works, the two best players might not meet and would just tie with 4-0 scores. This actually happened early on in Gambito #34 when we had an influx of players in Round 2, finally ending up with 32 players! Arthur Macaspac tied with Micah Herzig with 4-0 scores. You can see some of the problems we had - with the first round byes, you don't know if one or two sections are needed, and you can't change after the first round is started! Should we ban first round byes, as some have suggested? That would hurt attendance even more!
A month later in Gambito #39 it happened again when Cyrus Lakdawala tied with Tony Davis, each with 4-0 scores and 31 players in all. It didn't happen again until Gambito #93 when Bruce and Cyrus both had perfect scores. After that we almost always had two sections, even when it seemed ridiculous, like when there were only four or six initial players in one section, but we had to hope that more players would show up for Round 2. Talk about growing pains!! By then we were convinced that two sections made for a better experience for everyone anyway, and we committed to it. So Bruce is well aware of the pairing problems in large sections and that is why the thought of three sections came up in Rick's head. The odd number of players in a section is usually not a problem because often we can recruit a house player to play the lowest scoring person. Many times no one is available in Round 1, though. Phil Skiba often helps us in the Reserve Section, or also Helmut Keil. In the Open Section, Ramin Sinaee has agreed to play house games many times, as have others. I guess with 80 players we would have to have four sections! That is a problem I would really like to have!
I will see about getting the Gambito listed on the SCCF website; I guess I figured that with all the articles in Rank & File that everyone in the SCCF was already well aware of the Gambito, but maybe not. The SDCC website has certaintly contributed to the gradual attendance gain in the Gambito (seasonal factors aside), in fact originally that was about all we covered. We all owe Rick Aeria a huge amount of gratitude (let's hear a round of applause! - and tell him personally too) for making this website so great, and now Rick is doing a super job on the Wednesday night stuff too.