Aptos Library chess tournament

by admin on May 15, 2010

Every May, to end the school year, I run a small chess tournament for kids at the Aptos public library. I enjoy it because it’s a chance for the kids who come to my weekly chess club to show how they can do in a more “serious” setting. Also, we usually get a significant number of participants who play chess in other places, especially students of Gjon Feinstein. And sometimes we get complete newcomers who just happened to have heard about the tournament somewhere — because Nancy Call, the children’s librarian, tries extra hard to get the word out. It’s great to see this mix of familiar faces and new faces.

Even though it is a very humble tournament, there’s one thing about it that cannot be beat — it’s free! Again, that is possible because of the library’s support. Almost every year we get at least one parent who comes in expecting to have to pay an entry fee, and is shocked to find out that they don’t have to pay a cent! How many other kids’ events — baseball, soccer, you name it — can make that claim?

This year we had 21 participants, 8 in the 10-and-older category and 13 in the 9-and-under category. The winners were:

10 and older

1. Karen Chan
2. William Scott
3. Ian Chiu

9 and under

1. Matthew Randolph
2. Rhys Wilson
3. Jesslyn Zink
3. Alex Stender
3. Jordan Willis
3. Thai Stanoff

That’s right, we had a four-way tie for third place! I didn’t see any need to have a playoff, for two reasons. First, I wasn’t sure that we would have time for one; and second, especially in the younger age group, I don’t think there is really any need to. When you’re six years old and you tie for third, you don’t care too much about how many people you tied with!

In the older age group, I was really glad to see Karen win. She has come to my tournaments four years in a row (I think), more than anyone else except Ian Chiu. Three years ago she was out of her league, but this year she went 3-0! William Scott, Ian Chiu, and Rowen Hunter tied for second and had a round-robin playoff of 5-minute games. William came back from a lost piece to draw game 1 by a stalemate (believe me, there are lots of stalemates in kids’ chess tournaments). Then he beat Ian in game two, and Ian beat Rowen in the third game.

Some of the highlights of the tournaments, for me:

Rhys, whom I had never met before, came in to register and told me his name. His mother said, “Spelled R-h-y-s,” just as I was starting to write “R-e-e-s-e.” He proudly told me that it was Welsh. I told him that I like Welsh names, with all their double-l’s and y’s, and I’ll be darned if he didn’t start saying something in Welsh. At least it sounded like that to me.

One kid who shall remain nameless is a big talker. I announced before the first round that the players should not talk during games, but that didn’t stop him from providing an almost non-stop commentary during his first game. I must have told him to be quiet about 20 times. By the third game, though, he had finally gotten the idea. He won his opponent’s queen early in the game and was practically hopping up and down with glee, but he didn’t say anything. However, every time I walked by the board, he would pick up the queen and wave it at me with a big smile on his face, as if to say: “Look what I have!” (He eventually won the game.)

We had two sister acts: Mo and Jesslyn Zink, and Thai and Quynh Stanoff. Mo and Jesslyn were newbies at last year’s tournament. They apparently enjoyed it enough that they started coming to the club, and they have been regulars ever since. Thai and Quynh were regulars last year, but have had other commitments this year, so I had not seen them for months. In each case, one sister won a prize this year and one didn’t. But I hope they all had fun …

Inevitably, some kids don’t win and go home disappointed. (Actually, everybody who competes gets a certificate.) Hunter McConnell and Jeremy Anderson are two regulars in the club who didn’t do as well as they had hoped, but I hope that they will use this as motivation to do better. Jeremy told me in wonderment that he didn’t even know what happened in the last game. (He walked into a checkmate on f7). I reminded him of what I’ve said many times in chess club — that f7 (respectively f2) is your weakest square in the opening, and you have to keep it guarded. Maybe this was a “teachable moment” for him.

Our newbies this year included two brothers, Kevin and Alex Smith, who must be twins. They had not heard about the chess club before, but seemed interested in coming. They had heard about the tournament from an announcement that Nancy sent to their school. Hooray! The publicity worked! They both lost in the first round, and then they both drew by stalemate in the second round (against different opponents). The stalemates were amazingly similar — both of them had the pattern of White queen on g3, White king on g7, Black king on h5 (though the actual squares were not necessarily the same). What was interesting was that one of the brothers — Alex, I think — was a queen ahead, and the other was a queen behind. Yet they both seemed happy!

Matthew Randolph, who had the only 3-0 score in the younger section, is not only a budding player but a budding tournament director! He was fascinated by the way I did the pairings, using a different index card for each player, and he wanted to know why in the last round I paired some people with different scores (a 2 against a 1½, etc.). (It was unavoidable because we had three people with 2-0 scores going into the round.) He also was announcing the prize winners to the other kids (incorrectly, as it turned out) even before I had added up all the totals.

One of the most pleasant surprises was Jordan, who tied for third in the younger section. He has always seemed kind of shy and not really close pals with any of the other kids. Maybe this prize will boost his confidence. I was very pleased that in the last round he remembered how to checkmate with two rooks, something we discussed in chess club within the last month. In fact, I think that four of the six games in the last round were decided by two-rook checkmates or rook-and-queen checkmates, with Jordan’s being the least obvious one. It’s great to see signs that someone has actually been paying attention to my lessons!

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Dolores Wiemers January 17, 2017 at 4:54 pm

Hello Dana-

Are you the chess club teacher/instructor for the afternoon chess club at the Aptos Branch Library?

If so, I’d love to talk with you about the chess club. I’m one of the programming librarians here and we have people who are interested in learning and playing chess. One of your students comes here regularly and she says she is interested in participating on any level, teaching or playing. We have a nice big meeting room with lots of windows, a small kitchen and an a/v system.
My phone number is 768-3419. Thanks for considering!

Dolores Wiemers
Reference & Adult Programming


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