Annual Aptos Library Tournament

by admin on May 15, 2011

Yesterday I directed my annual tournament at the Aptos Public Library. This year we had a surprisingly low turnout: 14 players in all, 8 in the 10-and-older section and 6 in the 9-and-younger. Part of the reason was that I was unlucky with the date. Several of the regulars in the chess club said that they had baseball games, and two of them had a birthday party. Maybe if I had chosen the date a week earlier or a week later I might have gotten as many as 20. However, it’s possible that I should consider running the tournament in April, when there might not be as many kids playing in baseball leagues. Maybe I should also try to think of other ways to promote it. I think that most kids learn about it either through coming to the club, coming to the library and seeing the signs, or through word of mouth.

For the players, a low turnout implies a good chance to win prizes! In fact, eight of the 14 kids won medals. The others all get certificates of participation, so that no one had to go home empty-handed. Here were the medal winners:


  1. Hunter Bauman
  2. Anton Jackson
  3. Milo Rudman and Xarius Joseph


  1. Karen Chan
  2. Ian Chiu
  3. Tim Joung and Thai Van Stanoff

Also, in the 9-and-younger group I gave special sportsmanship prizes to the two players who did not get a medal. Both of them were playing their first tournament ever. Ari Koontz, age 6, was the youngest player and was brave enough to sign up for the tournament even though he has only been coming to the chess club for less than a month. Frank Hurley, age 8, has been coming to the chess club for at least a year. Still, he was reluctant to sign up because he didn’t think he was good enough yet.

Fittingly, Ari and Frank played the longest and wildest game of the tournament. First Ari was a queen ahead, then Frank was two queens ahead, and finally in the battle of attrition Ari ended up with a king and queen against Frank’s lone king. At that point Ari admitted to me that he did not know how to win, and so I called the game a draw. Both players showed great tenacity and fighting spirit, and they deserved their sportsmanship prizes.

Of the other prize-winning players, Xarius Joseph was a pleasant surprise. He started coming to the chess club a little more than a month ago, after taking a chess class at his school. I love his enthusiasm. It’s as if he has just discovered this great new game, and it keeps getting better and better. You mean there are actually chess clubs? And you can actually play in tournaments, and win medals? For me as a chess teacher, it is neat to see the game through the eyes of somebody who is just finding out about it for the first time.

In the older section, Karen Chan’s victory was not a surprise but I was glad to see it. She does not come to my club regularly — she goes to the class at the downtown library taught by Gjon Feinstein. However, she has come to my tournaments every year for probably about five years. At first she was completely outclassed, but with patience and time she has become the person to beat.

Here, just for fun, is a position from the epic game between Frank and Ari. Frank is Black, and it’s his move:

I’m showing this position not to be critical of anybody, but to show the ups and downs of teaching kids, and to show how hard it is to predict what they will do. Here I was really hoping that Frank would see the move 1. … Qxh4 mate. We’ve talked about how to mate with two queens (or queen and rook, or two rooks) by “walking the dog,” and this is kind of like a walking-the-dog position. I would even have been glad to see 1. … Qf7+, with a mate next move on g8 or g6. That is what Gjon Feinstein calls an “in your face” checkmate, and I’ve talked a lot about that, too.

Unfortunately, what Frank played was an unsuccessful version of both the walking-the-dog and the in-your-face mates: 1. … Qf8 2. h5 Qh8+ 3. Kxh8. Darn it! I’ve been trying to teach the kids that putting your queen right next to the king is the best way to checkmate… IF the queen is protected. But I guess that all-important IF didn’t quite sink in.


Anyway, I want to thank all of those kids for participating, and in some cases for taking a bold step into the unknown, which your first tournament always is. I also want to thank Nancy Call, the children’s librarian, who bought the prizes and who has been such a tireless supporter of the Chess Club for so many years.

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