Winning the Exchange

by admin on May 25, 2013

This year’s Aptos Library chess tournament for kids was the biggest and most successful ever! I organize and direct this tournament every year in May. Usually we get around 16 to 20 players (last year we had only 14), but this year 37 people participated! It was awesome. We had to use every set that the library owns, plus one of mine and one of Gjon’s.

I wish I knew what our secret was for getting such a huge attendance this year. Better publicity? The library has a new branch manager who seemed really committed to getting the word out. I’d say his efforts paid off. A better date? Usually in the past I have avoided the Memorial Day weekend, but this year it was the only weekend I had available. I thought we might have a low turnout because people would have other plans for the holiday. But apparently their plans were to play chess!

For me personally, the huge crowd meant that I didn’t get a moment’s rest. With twice as many players, everything takes twice as long — working out pairings, keeping track of results, even writing names on the certificates (every player who completes three rounds gets a certificate). All that time adds up. Fortunately Shan Crockett, my regular chess club assistant, was able to take care of things like setting up a table for the food and most of the cleanup. There’s no way I could have done those things. Heck, the only food I got was one cracker. I was busy, busy, busy!

Before I go on to the results, I want to thank the library for its amazing support. I’ve mentioned the publicity. Also, in these budget-challenged times, the library nevertheless paid for enough snacks to feed a small army. When I say “small,” I mean in height, but not in appetite! Those kids devoured the food until there was hardly a crumb left. Finally, the library paid for the medals.

So here were the medal-winners:

Age 9 and Under

1. Kevin Wang
2. Andrew Wang
3. Aaron Chan
3. Kristof Varav
3. Alan Lee
3. Quinn Bourret
3. Darrell Wang

Kevin and Andrew Wang (who, by the way, are not related to each other) tied for first with 3-0 scores, and Kevin won the playoff game. The next five tied for third with 2-1 scores. It would have taken forever to run a five-way playoff, so I chose to leave the ties unbroken. I think that especially for the younger kids there’s no point in breaking the ties, if you have enough medals to go around.

Fortunately we did have enough. We had six bronze medals (five for the younger section, and one for the older section).

Age 10 and Up

1. Linnea Nelson
2. Joshua Mitchener
3. Xarius Joseph

Well, there was absolutely no surprise about who finished first. Linnea hardly had to break a sweat, but this tournament did give her a chance to try out some new openings (the Gruenfeld). I think that she deserved a chance to finish off her high school years with a flourish. She won last year too, but I don’t think she was so completely dominant yet.

Joshua Mitchener tied with Linnea at 3-0 and then lost to her in the playoff. I was thrilled and amazed by Xarius, who finished alone in third at 2½-½. Okay, he had a little bit of luck because he never had to play against Linnea (thanks in part to a second-round draw). But I was impressed that he won two games with ease, and he was completely winning the drawn game as well but he allowed a stalemate. (Obviously we still need to work on that…) Xarius went through a phase of a few months where he lost interest in chess, but now he seems to be back and better than ever!

In the older section there was a six-way tie for fourth at 2-1. I feel a little bad that none of these kids won a prize. Particularly Ben Walker-Edwards got a little bit of a raw deal because he had a 2-0 score going into the last round but had to play Linnea, a game he had absolutely no chance of winning. That probably kept him from winning a prize.

The certificates turned out to be a really good idea this year. Sometimes, in years past, I’ve felt the kids perceived them as a little bit of a booby prize — like, you didn’t win a medal so here’s a crummy certificate instead. But this year the kids were asking for them.

I think it sends an important message when everybody gets to play three games and everybody who perseveres and plays all three, even if they lose all of them, gets rewarded for it. I can tell you that there was one kid who was getting ready to burst into tears after he lost his last round game, and then I handed him his certificate and suddenly the tears went away!

My only regret about having such a huge number of players is that I didn’t get as much chance to interact with the kids personally as I would have liked. But at least the certificate-for-tears trade, which in chess terms I would call “winning the exchange,” was one moment that I will remember for a long time.

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