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ISCA and THACC Taking Chess to Those in Prison
By Roger Norris

Nov 26, 2016. Hi all, a few months ago, ISCA and THACC (Terre Haute Adult Chess Club) received a request from the Federal Prison in Terre Haute to help build a chess club and tournament program in the Maximum security wing of the prison.  The requestor was Ms. Amy Adams, who leads the recreation program at the prison and she also is heavily involved in education programs for the prisoners.  She is all about providing education and programs that allow for rehabilitation.

ISCA's membership director Roger Norris lives in Terre Haute and is a member of THACC.  He worked with THACC's leader Steve Steppe (former officer in ISCA) and met with Amy about how to structure tournaments.  In September, background checks were completed on Steve and Roger and they entered the facility to meet with those interested in playing and learning more about chess.  To enter the prison, we are allowed to take a single key to our vehicle and our drivers license as ID and the clothes on our back.  The key and license are left at the main security check.  We go through a security device and then through a series of gates to go the recreation area.  It is deep behind the prison walls.  We go through approximately 8 locked gates to get to the rec area.  We pass through 'the yard' and the outdoor rec fields (soccer, football, handball) to get to the rec area.

The rec area consists of a class room, a large open room with ping pong, pool and chess/checker tables, a basketball court, an art room (the art here is amazingly good, some incredible talent), a music room, a ceramics room and a leather working room.  The initial meeting was in the ceramics room.  In attendance were Steve, Roger, Amy and a guard along with 33 inmates.  This is a maximum security prison, so the inmates have committed some rough crimes.  Steve presented the rules by which we would run a round robin tournament within the housing wings in the prison.  Each housing unit would have an inmate with some chess experience as a tutor and then players with various experience levels who would compete for the chance to play in the final four championship tournament in November with Steve and Roger directing.  The basics were presented and then questions were called for...many questions were answered and Steve and Roger knew from the questions, there was some real talent in the room...the questions were beyond the basics and how do we keep the tournament fair.  Steve and Roger played a demo quick game to show folks how the games would work with a clock governing time.

Fairness is important to the inmates.  There is racial diversity in the prison.  We had Blacks, Hispanics, Whites, and Native Americans in the group.  Due to gang memberships and just long personal histories, some of the racial groups truly hate each other.  So, keeping the tournament rules as fair as possible is critical.

In November, Steve and Roger returned to find that the structure set up by Steve had not been exactly executed as planned to get to four wing champs playing each other.  We had two tournaments with 10 tutors and 12 players (players was what Amy suggested we call the inmates) who wanted to play or had qualified to play in the tournament instead of four players.  Steve created a two Swiss tournaments by hand, one for the tutors and one for the players.  Roger acted as floor TD.  Steve ran pairings.  Each section had a clear, undefeated winner.  We had to spend some time explaining how the Swiss system worked.  We had a group of men who were extremely appreciative of folks who played and lived "on the street" spending time with them.

We observed folks of racial groups who have been trained to hate each other matching wits in a strategy game, shaking hands and congratulating each other on games well played.  One of the inmates had created a beautiful ceramic chess set that was just stunning for the tournament.  We had questions about USCF ratings for those in prison and for good resources that they can use within the rules of the prison so they can improve.  The tournament day was a very good day.  We had other inmates sitting in the main rec room observing, so it looks like the number of players may grow.  One of the tutors had taken Steve's basic table for a 4-5 round, round robin tournament and expanded it to accommodate the 24 players from his wing who wished to play.  He did this by hand, as internet access and pairing software are not available.  Steve checked it and said he had done it correctly with color balance.  Pretty amazing to do that by hand...very bright man.  In the event that we did not show up, he had a plan in place to run the two tournaments (tutors and players) as well.

On December 10th, the THACC will go into the rec area and play games with the tutors and players.  We have 8 people through security checks ready to go in.  We are working on the structure of play, but the plan at present is to play quick chess games and let the tutors and players try to beat the folks from the street.  When a game is complete, the next tutor or player will rotate in and try to beat the guys from the street.


Indiana State Championships - October 21-23, 2016

By Gerry Roberts, President

November 3, 2016.
Boasting a field of 78 players and a guaranteed prize fund of $3000, the 75th Indiana State Championships were held at the luxurious Wyndham hotel in Indianapolis late last month.  Among the participants were the reigning state champion (Andy Porter), several former winners (Lester Van Meter, Jim Mills, John Cole, Bernard Parham, Garrett Smith, and Mike Herron), and a prodigy fresh off his first draw against a Grandmaster (Christopher Yuo-Shuo Shen).  Throughout the event, boards 1 and 2 of the Open section were streamed live via YouTube, so some memorable moments captured on film are included below. 

There were a smattering of upset draws and wins in the first couple rounds, but none which resonated quite as loudly as what would come in round 3.  Despite some early shenanigans by Drew Hollinberger, the tenor of the Saturday night games turned serious in a hurry.  On board 2, an offbeat Scandinavian left Garrett Smith temporarily rattled, but he managed to maintain the balance en route to a picturesque stalemate almost exactly three hours later.  Meanwhile, on board 1, top-seeded John Cole had masterly manuevered his rook into the bowels of Mike Herron's position in an endgame, only to be turned on the defensive in time pressure a mere five moves later.  After an ensuing blunder, Cole had to extend his hand in resignation to the new tournament co-leader (the other being Jay Carr).

After a tense draw between Herron and Carr in round 4, as many as 9 players had a chance to win the title going into the final round if neither Herron nor Carr won their games.  More than four hours into the round, the result was every bit as uncertain.  Carr had succumbed to Cole, but Herron was battling Lester Van Meter in mutual time pressure on the top board in the only game remaining.  A loss by Mike would secure a four-way tie atop the leaderboard, but an ill-advised ...Be6 by Van Meter was quickly punished with the loss of a piece, and the result was clear: Mike Herron would be the 2016 Indiana State Chess Champion!  

In the Reserve Section, Joseph Zandstra - a student of Bernard Parham - had a perfect 5-0 tournament, upsetting three higher-rated players in the process.  He was not the only undefeated player, however, as Bloomington's Daniel Rickert managed to go 4.5-0.5 en route to a clear second place finish.  Ratings-wise, the biggest beneficiary of the section was Braydon Povinelli (3-2, +137 points), who has now gained 347 points in the past three months.

Before the final round of the tournament, the annual membership meeting of ISCA was held.  At the meeting, vice president and tournament director Mat Leach suggested moving the state championships to the spring to avoid potential scheduling conflicts with football games and other autumn activities.  The ensuing vote decided to shelve the conversation until the next edition of the state championships.  Two-term president Craig Hines announced that he would not be seeking a third term despite his tremendous success.  Gerry Roberts was nominated to be the new president, with Deadwood Chess Club founder Bob Banta tapped to fill the vacant director-at-large position.

To see the complete crosstable for the event, go to
Mike Herron (2116) vs. John Cole (2406)
Indiana State Championship