In Which I Resemble a Tournament Director

by admin on May 27, 2017

As fans of my blog know, on one day each year I do an impersonation of a tournament director. Today was the day!

The 2017 Aptos Library Kids’ Chess Tournament was (in my opinion) a big success, with 33 participants, our second-largest total ever. One year we had 37. (Really, 36 is the most we can handle because we don’t have enough tables or sets for a larger crowd.) No tears were shed — a very important criterion for success in a kids’ tournament. Also, I saw some really high-quality games.

First, let me announce the winners. We had two sections: ages 10 and under, and ages 11 and up.

10-and-under section:

1. Alan Lee

2. Logan Greenson

3-8. Peyton Adams, Brian Bulfin, Willow Ehrhart, Aiden Greenson, Isaac Seymour, Noah Skrovan

Alan and Logan finished in a tie at 3-0, and Alan won the playoff for first place. As you can see, we had a six-way tie for third place at 2-1. I chose not to have a playoff to break the tie. This was a no-brainer, because a playoff among six people would have taken much too long, and also I was not confident that all of the players involved knew how to use a chess clock. (The regular games in the tournament were untimed, but in playoff games I use a clock because time is of the essence.) However, my decision to award bronze medals to all six players had some consequences later.

There was a common theme in both age groups: two of the prize winners were brothers, and in both cases the younger brother beat the older brother. Logan, age 6, finished ahead of Aiden, age 8, in all likelihood because Aiden ran into the Alan Lee buzzsaw in round three, while Logan didn’t have to face him until the playoff.

Sometimes great things happen even on the lower boards. This year, for the first time ever, we had a 5-year-old contestant, John Lyon. He was overmatched and a little bit overwhelmed in the first two rounds. After round two, he told me that he was leaving because his mother “had a long drive ahead.” I talked to his mother and told her that I strongly encourage all players to play all three games. Nevertheless, I said, I understood that this was a bit much for him and considering his age, I thought it was very impressive that he even gave it a try and played two games. Well, guess what? Five minutes later she came to me and told me that he wasn’t withdrawing after all! I don’t know what changed their minds. Was it reverse psychology? Whatever the reason, he toughed it out and he won his game in the final round! Hooray!

11-and-over Section

1. Darrell Wang

2. Andrew Wang

3. Jonathan Zhou

Wow, what a tough section. Darrell, age 12, came in ahead of his brother Andrew, age 13, because Andrew was held to a draw by Jonathan Zhou and Darrell didn’t have to play Jonathan. Darrell was the only player to go 3-0, while Andrew and Jonathan tied at 2½-½.

Here I faced an interesting situation. With a tie for second, I could have elected to let Andrew and Jonathan both win silver medals, and then give bronze medals to the five players who tied with 2-1 scores. But there was one problem with this scenario: I didn’t have enough bronze medals! Remember that I had already given out six bronzes in the 10-and-under section. I only had four bronzes left for five players.

So instead I asked Andrew and Jonathan to play off for the silver medal. I think that this was the right decision in several ways. First, their playoff game was one of the best games of the day, with Andrew pulling out a hard-won victory. He certainly deserved clear second place. Second, in my opinion the point of having three medals is that you will reward the three players who distance themselves from the field. In the younger section, only two players did that, so I had to divide third place up. But in the older section, Darrell, Andrew and Jonathan were clearly the cream of the crop. It was right for them, and only them, to be rewarded.

Nevertheless, I did have to explain to a couple of players and their parents why 2-1 wasn’t good enough for a medal in the older section, when it was good enough in the younger section. I explained this cheerfully, because I felt that I had made the right decision.

Let me acknowledge the five players who scored 2-1 and would perhaps have won bronze in a world where bronze medals grow on trees: Luke Balke, Ezra Hamilton, Gael Gilchrist, Shaashvat Shetty, and Atlee Halderman. Four of these players (everyone except Shaashvat) are chess club regulars, and I would have dearly loved to have them be rewarded. But ’twas not to be. Shaashvat and Luke played probably the most exciting game of the afternoon except for Wang-Zhou I and Wang-Zhou II. Luke got in a terrible mess in the opening, looked as if he was losing a piece, but somehow escaped and even emerged a pawn up. But just when it looked as if he was out of the woods, Shaashvat set up an amazing smothered mate! Luke’s king was on d8, surrounded by pawns on d7 and c7 and a bishop on c8. Shaashvat had a rook on e1 controlling the flight squares and a rook on d1 seemingly not  doing much — until from out of the blue, Shaashvat played Nc6 checkmate! Of course, the rook on d1 was pinning Luke’s d7 pawn, so he couldn’t take the knight.

As always, I’d like to thank the library, who support this tournament and make it possible. I don’t thing that there are many other tournaments that have NO entry fee, refreshments for all, and medals. I’d like to thank Heather Pereira, the head librarian, Sandy Imperio (the elf who set up all the tables and chairs before I even got there, so I didn’t have to) and the provider of refreshments, Tish Wolf. (Also, thanks to the Friends of the Aptos Public Library, who paid for the refreshments and medals.)

For me, although the experience of directing is always too hectic to really enjoy the chess, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’m glad to give the players a nice goal to shoot for at the end of the academic year, and I’m especially glad when the players I’ve gotten to know well are happy with their performance. Now, until next May, I will gladly take off my Superman cape and go back to just playing chess.


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