Thirty-Two Stories

by admin on May 28, 2019

Once every year I take off my chess player and chess coach hat and put on my chess organizer hat. This weekend I directed an unrated chess tournament for kids at the Aptos Public Library. As always, I got a huge amount of help from the library, which provides the venue and the publicity and the medals, among other things. Also, the Friends of the Santa Cruz Public Library provided money for refreshments, and Gjon Feinstein and Shan Crockett helped out with the actual running of the tournament. The result, I like to say, is the best free chess tournament that you can find!

This year, for the first time, I limited the number of entries to 32. In previous years I always ran it on a “come one, come all” basis, but last year we had 41 kids and it was just too many to handle. For the first time we ran behind schedule because I couldn’t keep up.

The limit worked really well. All thirty-two spots were taken with two weeks to go before the tournament. Thirty of the 32 kids who pre-registered actually came, which is undoubtedly the highest percentage ever. The remaining two spots went to kids from my (short) waiting list. And with 32 players, I was able to keep the event running smoothly and on schedule, and even had a little bit of time to enjoy watching the games.

As usual, I split the tournament into two sections: ages 9 and under, and ages 10 and over. Let me get right to the results:

9 and under

Gold: Ezekiel Marca (3)

Silver: Louis Mendel-Holt (2 1/2)

Bronze: Logan Greenson, Owen Donagher, Ryder Pimentel, Kaiden Wang (2)

Ezekiel’s result was a big surprise to me. He started coming to chess club a month or two ago, and it was clear to me that he already knew quite a bit about chess. But I had not perceived him as being a class above the others. Louis was ecstatic about his second place, and did a little dance when I announced his name. He drew in the first round, and then in the second round he won “by accident”: he played a check that turned out to be checkmate! The third-place winners were all incredibly young. I normally think of Ryder (age seven) as young, but he was an old-timer next to Kaiden (six) and Owen (five)!

When kids as young as five want to play in the chess club, and especially in the tournament, I always quiz their parents and allow them to play with a little bit of nervousness. The trouble with 5-year-olds is that they sometimes don’t grasp the concept of playing by rules and they also sometimes aren’t emotionally ready to deal with losing. (Heck, I know 50-year-olds who also can’t deal with losing … but that’s another story.)

Even though I had never met Owen, his mother assured me that he would be fine on those two points, and indeed he was! In spite of losing in the first round he kept a great, positive attitude and won his second and third games.

10 and over

Gold: Benjamin Walker-Edwards, Alex Jory, Alan Lee (3)

That’s right — three golds, no silver, no bronze. This one takes a little bit of explanation. In the past I have always held playoffs to break ties for first place. But we never had a three-way tie before. Even if we had a blitz playoff, it would take a lot of time because none of the games can be played simultaneously. The prize ceremony would be delayed by at least 30 minutes, and probably more like 40.

Also, just from the sporting point of view, I thought that Benjamin, Alex, and Alan all deserved gold medals. All three of them had very hard-fought wins in round three that lasted nearly an hour.

You might also wonder how a three-way tie developed. The situation was that we had four people going into the final round with 2 points. Ordinarily, I could have paired Alex against Noah Skrovan and Alan against Benjamin and gotten (most likely) two winners. But this time we also had two people with 1 1/2 points, Autumn Henderson and Atlee Halderman, and they had just played against each other. So I had to split up the people with 2 points and pair Alex (2) against Noah (2), Alan (2) against Atlee (1 1/2), and Benjamin (2) against Autumn (1 1/2). The result was three nifty games. Both of the last two games could have gone either way. Atlee was pressing an attack against Alan and probably had a slight advantage, but got careless and allowed a back-rank mate. Autumn had a very solid position without the least hint of danger, but then allowed a discovered attack on her queen that caused her position to crumble.

I decided not to award silver and bronze because the people with 2 points were tied for fourth and fifth, and they don’t make medals for fourth place. Sorry if that’s a little bit harsh!

In any tournament report there is a tendency to focus on the winners, but of course there were thirty-two different stories at this tournament, some of which I don’t even know. For me one of the most fun things is seeing the kids who have come to chess club for a year, sometimes two or three, and who are daring to play in their first tournament. One of them, Mario Lari, was not only playing his first tournament but also trying to keep score for the first time. (Keeping score was optional, but he saw some of the other kids do it.) In the first round he botched the score and stopped writing halfway through, but still presented the scoresheet to me proudly. Then in the second round he succeeded in keeping score for the whole game and he won. Again he came up to me after the round and showed me the scoresheet. I praised him and said, “You might want to keep that scoresheet,” because I thought he was giving it to me. “Oh yes, I’m definitely going to keep it!” he said. I hope he does! One of my few regrets in tournament chess is that I did not keep the scoresheet of my first victory ever in a rated game. Although this tournament was not rated, I still think it was a special occasion for Mario.

I’m going to close with a photograph of the winners in the 9 and under section, courtesy of the parents of Ryder Pimentel. From left to right: Louis Mendel-Hold, Logan Greenson, Ryder Pimental, Owen Donaher, Kaiden Wang, and Ezekiel Marca. The guy in the back is me, of course.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Rob May 30, 2019 at 10:35 am

It sounds like everyone was a winner.
Good story…good photo…
Well done.

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