Graphic by Joseph Braun
[Editor’s Note: This interview was conducted on November 17th, the first available day after the Chess Championship.]
Interviewer: Joseph Braun
Interviewee: Benjamin Mincy
I’m with Ben Mincy, the organizer and winner, suspiciously, of the CSPA Chess Championship this past Friday [the 13th]. So, Ben, before we begin with the questions, is there anything you’d like to say?
Not really, let’s just get right into it.
Alright, so, the first question that’s really on all of our minds: was, or, perhaps more specifically, how, was the championship rigged?
So, it wasn’t rigged per se, the bracket was randomly generated online. I had my fellow organizer (and loser of the tournament) Carson Lucas there when I generated the bracket, and he agreed that it was very fair. I got a little bit mixed up when a participant dropped out but I got it back to where everyone was in the same general area of where they perform.
Alright, so, in your opinion, it was completely fair.
Yeah, in my opinion it was completely fair.
Alright, cool. So, were you surprised at all that you were the winner of the championship?
I was very surprised, there were a lot of things that had to fall in place for me to get that chance of victory. For one, I don’t think I would have beaten Jackson Schmitz twice in the finals, had he beaten Gabe [Warner] in the Winners Bracket. I think […] the stars aligned.
So, of the games you played, what would you say was the closest one, winning or losing?
I would have to say, my second match against Mitchel Vaske, it really should not have gone my way. He was the man who put me in the losers bracket to begin with, and he should have knocked me out of the tournament, but he made a mistake, and I capitalized, and the rest is history.
The rest is history. In terms of strategy, how would you describe yourself as a player?
At this low of a level, I would like to say that I like to play moves that I think my opponents haven’t seen before, it really gets them confused, and makes them spend a little more time than they really should on certain moves. When that strategy doesn’t work, I like to play moves I’m familiar with, real solid moves. I like to put pressure on the board, I like to play aggressively.
You mentioned playing moves that the opponent hadn’t [sic] seen before, so, keeping in mind that our readers might be unfamiliar with chess, could you describe some of these moves?
I mean, I really like to go for pins, being, like, attacking a piece and there’s another piece behind it to attack if it moves, holding down the piece that I’m initially attacking. I like those, and x-rays on the King, where you have a piece that usually attacks diagonally, that has a line of sight on the King in the middle, so when that opens up there’s space for a pretty big attack. So I just like to look for small little tactics like that. It doesn’t really give a physical edge on my opponent, but it does give me a mental edge.
So, what are your favorite opening moves?
When I play white, I like to play Queen’s Gambit; every time I played white in this tournament I did play Queen’s Gambit.
Could you describe what that is?
That would be moving the queen’s pawn forward two spaces in the first move, and when the opponent responds with their queen’s pawn moved forward twice, you move your queen-side bishop up twice.
What would you do if the opponent did not respond in kind, did not moving [sic] the queen’s pawn, maybe moving someone else?
Then I would just follow basic opening principles, which is, control the center, develop the pieces, and move your King to safety.
Did anyone surprise you with how well or poorly they played?
Once again, I have to say, Mitchel Vaske. I really didn’t factor him in, coming into the tournament, and he took me seriously by surprise. He knocked me out early, I think I was lucky enough to come back and win a victory over him to move on to play Jackson Schmitz and then Gabe Warner.
I think I remember watching Mitchel’s game with Carson Lucas, I was amazed by the sheer intensity, the sheer skill, of the game as it came to a close. You’re right, it was honestly awe-inspiring to just watch.
Mitchel’s a strong player.
In terms of organizing the championship, because there’s two aspects: you were the victor, but also the organizer of the event, what the process was like to plan an event like this, given the pandemic restrictions?
Oh, well, funny thing is, I’m sure everyone knows we have a lockdown coming this Wednesday [November 18th], when we asked administration, they had us set for this Friday, the 20th. I was like, ‘I don’t really know if I want to do that, we’ve already told everyone it’s [the 13th], and we were planning to do it privately if that was the case, to do it through the Genoa community center, but I really wanted to do it through the school because this is the environment everyone’s familiar and comfortable with. Had we done it this Friday [November 20th], we wouldn’t have been able to do it. Fortunately, Stewart came back to me and said that the 13th would work just fine.
Who surprised you in the tournament?
I’d say, Jackson Schmitz, I expected him to win in the winners bracket, I expected him to win pretty decisively. Gabe Warner came out of the woodwork, Jackson had never seen his playstyle before, and [Gabe] knocked him out pretty early.
Was there anything about the turnout that surprised you?
Actually, when one of the teachers here, Mr. Lagona, came back, because he was initially supposed to be in the tournament but he wasn’t there in the beginning, he came back, and was like ‘is there anywhere you could put me,’ so I put him in after Carson Lucas’s victory over… I believe it was…
Was it Joe Vance?
Yes, it was Joe Vance. Mr. Lagona actually beat Carson and moved on to play me in the losers bracket.
How did Lagona perform, in the championship, as a player?
I have to say, honestly, Mr. Lagona was a pretty tough match. He definitely wasn’t a walk in the park. I think my main advantage was that I could calculate the moves faster, which gave me a time advantage which was a big deal.
Before we end, is there anything else you would like to bring up?
Yes, actually. When I won, I was really excited, I was shaking actually for my last four matches, just from excitement, and nervousness. One of the first things I did after I won was to call my Mom and told her that I won, since she requested the results of the tournament after it was finished.
Alright then, I think that will do. Thank you, Mr. Mincy, it was a pleasure to speak to you today.