Tuesday, March 30, 2010

WRHS Chess Club Website is Released!

Yipee! Our WRHS Chess Club now has their very own website!  This will be a great improvement as my family news and personal chess material is now on separate sites from the WRHS material.  Temporarily, all of my sites will be in dynamic flux and the new WRHS Chess Club site will be continually under construction until everything has been transferred.  Here is the new link:  www.wix.com/aporth/WRHS-Chess-Club

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Educator's guide to the Benefits of Chess

I re-aquinted myself with a website link to the benefits of playing chess.  This was one of the first sites I came across that reports some of the chess literature.  It even offers a nice summary of each of the studies they are reporting.  My top ten favorite reasons to play chess include:

  1. Chess develops a scientific way of thinking.
  2. Chess teaches independence.
  3. Chess promotes imagination and creativity.
  4. Chess enables you to meet very interesting people.
  5. Chess is a game for all ages (and is not a factor for opponents).
  6. Chess improves memory.
  7. Chess improves concentration and focus.
  8. Chess promotes sportsmanship.
  9. Chess provides global awareness.
  10. Chess is fun!

The number of kids playing tournament chess is going down in Idaho!

Report to ICA for the Idaho Scholastic State Championship
March 27, 2010

            During the open board meeting at the Idaho Closed, concerns about the low scholastic numbers were raised by numerous individuals.  The following graphs indicate trends for the years 2006 – 2010 for the Idaho Scholastic State Chess Championship. 
Figure 1.  Total numbers of kids for each section.  This graph shows that the majority of the kids attending the tournament are in the elementary years, primarily in grades 2-5.
Figure 2.  This graph shows the percentage of kids in elementary, middle, and high school years attending the tournament.  The most stable group appears to be the high school sections.  There is variability in the elementary and middle school percentages.  Between 70% and 80% of the tournament is comprised of elementary kids.  The fewest number of kids is in the high school sections (less than 10%).
Figure 3.  This graph shows the total number of kids attending the tournament.  It also shows a trend-line that was a linear correlation.  The trend-line indicates that overall scholastic numbers are declining.
Figure 4.  This graph shows the total number of elementary kids. This group shows greater variability in total numbers and a marked decrease in participation from 2006 to 2010 compared to middle or high school groupings.  The low R-square value indicates the variability and the high slope of the regression is greatest for elementary section. 
Figure 5.  This graph shows the total number of middle school kids.  This group is declining from 2006 to 2010.
Figure 6.  This graph shows the total number of kids in the High School Section.  This group is declining from 2006 to 2010.
Figure 7.  This graph shows the total number of kids in the Championship Section.  This group is declining from 2006 to 2010.
Figure 8.  This graph shows the average gain (above the x-axis) or loss (below the x-axis) for each grade transition.  The tournament in grows between K and 1st grade, 1st and 2nd grade, and 2nd to 3rdgrade.  From 3rd to 4th grade on to graduation, the tournament declines each year.  In fact, each grade transition loses 25%.  The largest loss to the tournament occurred in the 3rd to 4th grade year (+16 +(-3) = -19).  In actuality, there are only 5 students less in the 6th to 7th grade transition (-16 + (-11) = -5).

            As illustrated in the above figures, the Idaho State Scholastic Chess Championship is not growing, but declining in the number of players from 2006 to 2010.  Despite this, the middle school and high school sections are the most stable in terms of numbers in the tournament.  The elementary, middle school, and high school sections are all declining, however, at different rates.  The middle school and high school sections are declining the least fastest (you have to think about what “declining least fastest!” means).  Each year the tournament loses 25% of the previous players on average, beginning in 3rd grade.  Though the bulk of the tournament (>70 %) are from the elementary sections, the greatest rate of decline is in the elementary sections, specifically in the 3rd to 4th grade transition. 
            Further discussion is needed to decide what may be the causes of these declines, however discussion should be focused on retention of players in each section with emphasis on 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grades.

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Join the WRHS Chess Club fan page in facebook!  You can stay privy to all the goings-on and see fabulous photos, and much more.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

No more song

I took the Public Enemy song off the introduction to "The Chessnut" website.  Please go see all the new pictures I uploaded:  www.wix.com/aporth/chessnut

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Successful State Tournament

The ICA Scholastic Championship attracted 270 kids (mostly from the Boise area) was another wonderful experience for the kids from Wood River.  Games were tough as expected, but our goals were to be the top team and to take home some individual trophies.  We accomplished this and more!  Wood River High School is the number one team in the state of Idaho.  Until the kids actually begin studying and getting a bit more serious, the individual championship will be beyond our grasp.  Katie Abderhalden (8th grade)  of Boise was the tournament champion for the second year in a row with perfect 5.0.  There were only two other perfect tournament scores that occurred in the 3rd grade.  It seems that the players at this tournament are getting better and there are more kids of the same level.
Play online chess

Miles Hendrix gets some skittles games in with Erica Barkell, last year's co-champion
There were three teams competing in the championship section, Borah HS, Rigby HS, and Wood River HS.  Our team started out very slow with no Round 1 wins!  According to Garrett, Curly Ellis (2 pts.) should have had a win and Miles Hendrix (2 pts.) should have drawn, but inexperience in game endings affected the outcomes.  One has to be careful not to push the wrong pawn!  In Round 2, Taylor Walton (2 pts.) and Andrew Uriarte (3 pts.) earned our first victories against the two other teams.  Nick Bruck (2 1/2 pts.) earned a draw and Miles had to play one of our own and earned a win.  Round 3 produced naught as all Wood River competitors were paired against one another!  This was too bad to travel all this way and have a round of intramurals.  As expected, we were only 1 point ahead of the other teams entering round 4.  Curly  opened with the Scotch Gambit, but didn't get to see it through because he capitalized on an en prise blunder by his Rigby opponent.  In round 5, Nick and Tyler Jaramillo (2 pts.) each took another win from the other two teams and created a 2 point lead for our team and Wood River ended with the first place team trophy.  Great Job guys!  As it stands, we only lost 2 1/2 points to the other teams and we won the games we needed to win.
Nick battle Gregory Fong Non from Rigby
My team is irreverent sometimes!  Makes it all fun.

Curly works his magic in a lost game.
Individual results were difficult with the Abernathy's, Patterson's, Min's, and Jiang's prior tournament and year's of experience.  Remember, most of my high school players began playing chess in 9th or 10th grade.  My team still felt like they provided some good competition for those top competitors.  Andrew won 2nd place in 11th grade, and Juve Ruiz (2 pts.) was able to scoop 2nd place in 12th grade from Tyler due to head-to-head tiebreakers.
             Riley Neel thinks of a new opening           Lookout for h7 Jake!  Move Ng6 or Qh6

Riley's pawn structure gets a bit Katy-whompus

In the 7th - 9th grade section, Desmond Porth (2 pts.) and Riley Neel (2 pts.), both in 7th grade,  had a daunting task of playing more experienced players and struggled throughout the tournament.  Desmond got sick the day before the tournament, as did Dylan, Darwin, and Mrs. Porth (probably from our trip to Miracle Hot Springs earlier in the week!).  Playing with an ear ache is no fun.  However, in the 7th grade, all of the other teams were also only two-person teams and this catapulted Wood River Middle School into 2nd place.  That's pretty doggone good result for a 4 point total!
                                 Dylan wins 6th place                Jake comes close to a prize in round 5
Des plays as best he can while being sick.
The only elementary entrants included Darwin Porth (2 pts.) and Dylan Porth (4 pts.) from Bellevue Elementary.  Darwin is a pre-schooler that played in the Kindergarten section.  In round 1, Darwin was getting his tournament legs under him.  He spent more time looking around at the hundreds of chess-playing kids around him and did not concentrate on his game.  After losing to a boy that kept pawing his pieces, he became determined not to lose again and tried harder in the next rounds and earned a win and 2 draws.  In the end, he lost to tie-breakers and received 6th place.  Dylan began the tournament with a "winning" spirit and kept it up through the tournament.  She won all but one game and exuded pride in this accomplishment.  This great result also occurred with 7 other kids and Dylan ended with a trophy and 6th place.  This is her best result at the state competition and Darwin's debut.  The future holds great things for these kids.
Darwin plays in his first tournament at age 5

The cutest games in the tournaments - The Kindergarten section

In all, 5 trophies - 1st, three 2nds, and a 6th place for our eleven kids.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Garrett shows WRHS his stuff

Well, just as I hit publish on the last post, Garrett pops in for a visit with my team.  When I go over to "the boys room", Andrew greets me with a Carls, Jr. Burger the size of his face . . .entering his face.  As he wipes the ketchup from his lip, Andrew says "he's here?"  My team idolizes Garrett.  Some of them want to be Garrett.  "How many girl friends does he have?" "His girlfriends are always soooo hot!"  "He moves so fast!"  "How many games has he played?"  "What else does Garrett do?"  "Is he good at math?"  Of course I contribute to the enigmatic personality whenever I can.  Chess is hip and chess is cool.  I think the kids would say nowadays, "Chess is sic".

As the kids crowd around Garrett, he proceeds to guide them through the Scotch Gambit.

Play chess online

Friday, March 19, 2010

Night before the State Tournament

Pre-registrations look a bit dismal with only 237 entrants.  Maybe there will be 200 more entries today and tomorrow that are not listed.  In the 7th grade, Desmond and Riley will be competing with 12 other 7th graders.  Jake will take on 23 entries in 6th grade.  There are lot's of 4th graders for Dylan and only 6 Kindergarteners for Darwin.  The K-12 championship has about 16 entrants and only 3 teams - Rigby, Borah, and Wood River.  The competition will be tough, however, with John Nahlen (> 1600), Abderhaldens, Abernathy, Patterson, Duy Nguyen, Jiang, and Ye.  I hope my guys can get a couple wins from these experienced tournament-goers.

This was one of my most peaceful drives to a tournament.  The soft lighted mountains with snow melting away into spring revealed many elk, fox, and deer tracks.  What's more, the bus was so quiet, I was afraid I would fall asleep on the ridiculously straight road.  Where in the United States will you be able to drive to a tournament and take a right at the blinking light, a right at the highway, and a right to exit?  Three turns total in three hours of driving! I had to laugh when I showed up at the designated time and only my kids, Jake and me were ready to go at 2:30.  Andrew and Taylor showed up shortly thereafter and a phone call from Nick and Tyler indicated that they forgot something at their house and would be late.  Where's Curly?  Andrew called him and woke him from his afternoon slumber to find out where he was.  "Uh, what day is it?"  With a quick phone call to his parents to get permission to go, we were off.
We met Miles at the hotel and then went to dinner at Guido's Pizzeria.  My plans for a team photo on the Capitol steps was vetoed and nobody brought any extra money for the IMAX, so they galavanted around the downtown area and then returned to the hotel for last minute games.  I think they still remember how to play? Garrett's date must've been a good one since he never came for a quick, trap lesson.  But heck, we're on spring break, right?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

WRHS Chess Club goes to State

The Scholastic Idaho State Championship is this Saturday and our team is prepared.  Practice will be on Tuesday, WRHS, Rm. C214, 3:30 pm.  We were also invited to Ketchum on Wednesday to work with Jeff Baggett and Norman Friedman, 6 pm, Atkinson's Park.

We will be leaving at 2:00 pm from WRHS and heading to Boise this Friday.  The cost is $30 for travel and hotel.  Registration for the tournament is free.  We are staying at the Marriott Courtyard in downtown Boise (222 S. Broadway, Boise, 331-2700).  Bring some extra money for the IMAX Theatre ($15).  We will go see Avatar in 3d!  We will also visit the capital building.  Pojos might be an option for Saturday night din-din.

Here is our chess team:

  1. Tyler Jaramillo, 12th grade
  2. Taylor Walton, 12th grade
  3. Juve Ruiz, 12th grade
  4. Nick Bruck, 11th grade, captain
  5. Andrew Uriarte, 11th grade
  6. Chris Ellis, 11th grade
  7. Miles Hendrix, 11th grade
  8. Desmond Porth, 7th grade
  9. Riley Neel, 7th grade
  10. Dylan Porth, 4th grade
  11. Darwin Porth, Kindergarten

Friday, March 12, 2010

Idaho Chess Icon

Dick Vandenberg is the ICA Scholastic Trustee and has been involved with chess his entire life.  He also runs a chess club with nearly 70 elementary kids from Washington Elementary in Boise.  His kids are tough competitors and Dylan has yet to beat one of his best in the Girls Championships.  A nice article in the Idaho Statesman describes more:  http://www.idahostatesman.com/2010/03/11/1113120/kids-chess-controlled-chaos.html

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


The economy must be getting bad for chess players of my caliber.  There were only 4 players in my challenger section and I brought one of them.  The other two came from one family, the Patterson's.  We played a round robin between us as Kevin and Katie were both sick and wanted to get home soon.  That was more than ok as I have so much work to complete to get ready for a new trimester.  We finished our three game tournament in one day.

We had fun, however.  I beat Kevin and Katie, but just could not muster a fight against one of my students, Andrew Uriarte.  Andrew won our section and next year has a birth into the Championship section.  I won second place.

Championship Section:
1st =   Barry Eacker - Twin Falls    3.5/4
2nd =  James McGarvey - Boise    3.0/4
3rd =   Jeff Baggett - Ketchum      3.0/4
Book = Aleksandr Vereshchagin - Twin Falls "Both Sides of the Chessboard" - Robert Byrne / 1974
                                                                          (Donated by Glen Buckendorf from his private library)
Challenger Section:

1st =   Andrew Uriarte - Bellevue      2.5/3
2nd = Adam Porth - Bellevue            2.0/3
3rd = Katie Rae Patterson - Boise     1.0/3
Book = Kevin "Da Board Member" Patterson  "Play for Mate" - Cafferty/Hooper / 1977
                                                                           (Donated by Glen Buckendorf from his private library)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Chess on Applications

I came across an little quote from an article about UC Berkeley enrollments. For the seniors that are filling out scholarship and college applications, chess does have an important place on your applications!

"The admitted class for fall 2008 also excels beyond academics. It includes a world champion in youth division sailing, a student who wrote a symphony during high school, a back-up dancer for a pop star on a U.S. concert tour, a national chess tournament champion, an international Irish dance competition winner, several Olympic and Junior Olympic medalists and a set of quadruplets."

Remember freshman, stay broad and diverse in your interests during high school.  Your future applications need to distinguish you amongst a large group of kids that want a similar but limited thing.  Chess may help colleges find that uniqueness you possess.  (Check out College Board)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Chess Odor

I love tournaments.  As I look forward to the MVCC this weekend in the Obenchain Building, I begin experiencing olfactory memories.  Tournaments are always looking for cheap or affordable venues which frequently end up in cramped rooms with very little ventilation or air circulation.  To add to the stagnation, flow is further reduced when doors are closed and windows are kept shut to reduce distractions to the players.

For me, smells are frequently distracting in positive and negative ways.  In fact, my wife buys me jasmine or gardenia candles because they calm me during high stress days at school.  Odors certainly affect emotions and thoughts, and definitely my chess game.

Every time I light an incense stick at home or in my classroom, I am reminded of Barry trying to "air" out the Obenchain room in between rounds.  Or, how we lit incense and it diffused throughout the whole SUB at Idaho State University during the Eastern Open.  It made the atmosphere tolerable and indeed, I won all 5 rounds.

Hotel ballrooms or meeting rooms tend to have chemical or cleaner smells that will sometimes tingle your sinuses when the air does turn on.  Some places even have that familiar cherry, bathroom smell that comes from a can.  I can smell it all while I struggle to focus on the game.

Universities and old schools offer their own odors.  The odor of age, old carpet, aging infrastructure, and parchment. Tournaments in these places remind me of old book smell.  Sometimes a waft of mold or mildew pierces my sinuses.  Consequently, asthmatics, such as myself are constantly coughing in these tournaments.  I have been offered cough drops more than once and my opponent sometimes covers their mouth, thinking I have H1N1 virus or some other contagious disease.

Over-the-board tournaments also allow opponents to smell one another, unlike my on-line games.  Imagine about 50 people of varying age and hygeine sitting in a closed up room for twelve hours a day for two or three days.   The room becomes rank with the smell of adrenalin, stress hormones, old socks, dirty pants, and soiled physiques.  Who has time to shower?

On more than one occasion while moving my bishop or rook, I suddenly remembered my grandparents and my childhood visits to their house.   My opponent is much older than me, of course.  While playing one older gentleman in a friendly club match, I had to cover my nose and occasionally stuck my lower face in my shirt in thought because of the smells emanating from him.  He must have eaten sardines or kippered snacks for dinner, and he certainly hasn't showered recently!  Old people don't shower as much as the younger crowd, but I will when I get that old.

At a tournament in Boise, my younger opponent sat for a significant time pondering a move.  Suddenly, his flatulence stirred him into a move.  The reverberation off the plastic chair was enough of a distraction while I contained my laughter as an adult should.  What was worse was the smell that I endured while pondering my own move . . . something akin to cabbage and a wet dog.

I have seven cats at home and they will be mad at me if I don't get to their litter box as often as I should.  I don't know how they do it, but they will pee in my shoes without me catching them.  So I have no clue whom the culprit actually is.   Cat pee has a unique smell that cat owners come to know very well.  At the Idaho Closed a few weekends ago I was playing Caleb Kircher and I suddenly became aware of that familiar smell when my feet began sweating.  Not your usual litter box pee, more of a sweet but acrid odor.  I hope Caleb didn't think it was me, even though it was.

Being a school teacher, I frequently get to play students in the mornings before school.  At least two kids exhale deeply after they move.  So I suddenly am in cloud of unbrushed, morning breath.  Egads!  Try and think of your next move smelling somebody's expiratory reserve volume.

When I enter the chill and air freshner atmosphere of the Obenchain Building this weekend, I will try to maintain my focus as the air becomes more familiar . . . warm, stagnant, and foul with determination.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Chess Club Tuesday

This Thursday there will be no chess club due to the early out.

Mate in 2, 3,4, & 5 Problem contest Results:  Congratulations to Taylor Walton.  He finished 20 problems - unfortunately for Juve whom finished 24 problems, but came too late.  Taylor wins a magnetic chess travel wallet.

Sixteen students came tonight, which surprised me as tomorrow and Thursday are final exams at the high school.  Maybe everyone needed a break from studying?

It was a fun night of chess with a few games played while I popped popcorn and then started a Guess the Grandmaster Move game.  I try to select games that have tactical moves that the kids should be able to find if they look a bit further.  Each student receives a point for guessing the right move for white or black.  Becca did a great job keeping track of the competitive game.  Tyler "Jalepeno" Jaramillo stood guard and monitored Andrew and Desmond's moves.  Nick and Tyler were concerned about cheating.  Andrew and Desmond were back and forth and the leaders throughout the game.  In the end, Andrew won the candybar amid grumbles and rumbles.

This Sicilian Theme Match was played between Judit Polgar and Gregory Kaidanov at Hilton Head on February 23, 2010.

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