In 1992, Louie Tokarz, the founder, main force and guiding light of ASL in the Chicago Metropolitan Area, the Windy City Wargamers, organized a one-day three round ASL tournament. There were 8 players who made it to the Katz Corner School in Sauk Village, Illinois. It was held on April 10, 1992, a beautiful spring day. I attended, along with my standard poodle Hershey, and astounded myself by winning my first match and losing in the second round to Rob Banozic, the tournament winner.
The tournament expanded the next year, 1993, to two days and four rounds with Rich Summers as the champion. Rich repeated in 1994 becoming the first of only four players who have managed repeat wins, Steve Pleva, Rob Banozic and Bret Hildebran are the others. 1994 was the first time in a new location, the Best Western Inn, Burr Ridge, Illinois.
The OPEN would stay in Burr Ridge until 2003 reaching a high point in attendance in 1998 when 98 players faced off with Steve Pleva as the winner (he had previously won in 1996 and would get his back to back wins the next year).
What makes back-to-back wins difficult at the OPEN is that the previous year’s top finishers are paired against each other (4 or more wins) in their places from the prior year. Thus the prior winner is playing in the first and all subsequent rounds (if he keeps on winning) only with top seeded winners. The top players are seeded before the balance of players are seeded. As a player wins and keeps on winning, the computer matches winners against winners using a point scoring system and seeding order to insure that the strongest winners are always matched against each other.
Louie turned over his tournament director (TD) duties to Meryl Rutz who ran the OPEN from 1999 to 2001, the year of the great scoring computer disaster. Forensic examination of Meryl’s computer was never done but in retrospect, it was probably an upgraded computer with a newer version of Microsoft Access that did not interface with the scoring program that was probably the issue.
In 2002, the OPEN moved to a new location, Best Western, Elk Grove Village, Illinois and I took over as the new TD. By 2002, the growth around the country of many other regional tournaments and the expanding usage of VASL reduced the total attendance to 60 with Bret Hildebran as the winner. Bret would go on to win a total of 6 times through 2018 with back-to-back-to-back wins in 2016, 2017 & 2018.
The OPEN has always sought (sometimes of necessity) comfortable gaming locations. Moving from Elk Grove Village, IL in 2005 to Hoffman Estates, IL; to Oak Brook in 2010; to the most recent location in Chicago, IL in 2016.
The OPEN was originally named The ASL Open in Chicago since there was also a Texas tournament also named the ASL OPEN. When the Texas tournament stopped after 1994, Louie asked and the Texas organizers did not object to assumption of the name ASL OPEN.
Today the OPEN now the eASL OPEN is played on VASL and is seven rounds of the highest caliber ASL tournament play. The seeding at the upper end pits the strongest players against each other. Less experienced players are paired and as they keep winning they are matched against similarly successful players making their road to success always a match against a competitor with a similar record and starting seed.
In my 22 years as TD, I have yet to have a complaint from a player new to the tournament scene. The universal comment is always that they had a blast, learned a lot and will attend again.