NM Crumiller vs. San Marcos
Two weeks ago, the San Marcos Chess Club hosted our first simultaneous exhibition, featuring National Master Jon Crumiller (read more about Jon here: Simul with NM Jon Crumiller). Before we dive in, I’d like to touch on Jon’s patience and almost mutant-like stamina as showcased in “Meeting Room A” of the San Marcos Public Library. Research suggests that elite chess players burn over one hundred calories per hour, at one board, in a seated position (Does Chess Burn Calories?). Jon faced off against twenty-four players at once, taking one sip of water and resting his legs a total of zero seconds over the course of six hours. (I’ll let you count the calories.) In short, it was no small thing, and, keeping in mind that Jon gave the simul as a gift to the club, we appreciate it deeply.
Man, it was buzzing. Brief description of the layout: the tables and boards (our signature matching sets, all purchased thanks to donations) formed a sideways U-shape, with the challengers seated along the outer rim and Jon standing inside. Our (brand new!) chess dot com banner/QR code stood proudly in the far corner. There was a nametag taped to each table and a designated spectator section at the top of the U, with drinks and snacks by the entrance. Anyone could see that the event had been curated with attention and care, which was especially nice because the organizers in question (shoutout to Jeremy, Enzo, Adam, Jack, Mateo, and anyone else I’m forgetting), like Jon, did it all for free.
I walked in a few minutes before the start of the event, took my seat, and greeted Jack and Hunter, my board neighbors. We were giddy, almost guilty in our excitement. You sensed that you were witnessing something too good to be true. You looked around the room and saw all sorts of people – people from all demographics, all walks of life – gathered in this one place to enjoy this one thing, together. Not only that, but you saw those same people – most of whom would have probably never met outside of the club – talking, smiling, connecting. At this moment in time, I do not think that the value of community can be overstated. When I looked around that room, I felt I was a part of something special.
By the time Jon had made his first rotation around the U (shaking hands and addressing each of his opponents by name before playing 1. e4), the spectator section was at capacity, and the spectators were not just parents. All sorts of people had wandered in to get a load of the scene: kids, adults, hipsters, professors, skaters, punkers, lovers, jokers – people who, presumably, knew very little about chess. But you didn’t need to be a chess enthusiast to appreciate the moments. You didn’t need to know about en passant to have your heart warmed by Leilani’s extended hand and draw offer (“Would you like a draw?”) and Jon’s polite-as-can-be reply (“No thank you!”).
You didn’t need to be up to date on the latest Najdorf theory to empathize with Adam in his archetypal “Oh sh*t” moment as he fell to Bf7+, a devastating blow dislodging both his king and his spirit. And even a checkers player would have been entertained by Gavin’s theatrics (gasps and facepalms, and one mysterious laughing fit) precipitated by Jon’s moves on not only his board, but every board in his vicinity. There were countless other highlights, on and off the board – Young Diego’s spartan-like performance comes to mind, delivered after a mere two months’ experience, as does Zach’s beautiful defensive resource in Bc2!, a deflection tactic disconnecting white’s queen on b3 from the deadly bishop on c4, the chess equivalent of a bicycle kick clearance – most of which I’m either unaware of or unable to adequately recreate.
Jon won twenty games, drew two, and lost two – a very impressive result given the circumstances. I was lucky enough (and I use the word lucky for good reason – more on this in a moment) to earn a win over him, and I’d like to take a second to share my game here. Of course, there is a giant asterisk next to the win (refer to first paragraph), but I would be lying if I said the win left me feeling anything less than ecstatic. I hung the notation sheet up in my bedroom that night and called my mom first thing in the morning. (I am thirty.) Let’s get into the game.