Sunday, November 28, 2010

Dwyer played a Grandmaster!

Chess is sometimes a covert activity, and a quietly held secret by many people.  Some people are hesitant to play over-the-board games, unwilling to admit that they enjoy playing, afraid to ask about it, and have even poo-pooed tournaments without realizing what a tremendous activity it is.  I am continually surprised to find out from my students some of the activities they have participated in, including chess activities.  Typically, it is a unique and one-time experience that they share with me privately or in passing because they know how excited and enthusiastic I am about their experiences.  Chess has somehow become un-cool, but with me it changes chess for them.   I champion the game and make them proud to be involved in some way.  Chess is cool!
Julia Dwyer, Alexandra Kosteniuk, Kathrine Dwyer at simul with GM Alexandra Kosteniuk
One such student from my Anatomy and Physiology class allowed me to interview her about her one-time game of fame with Grandmaster Alexandra Kosteniuk on May 14, 2003.  Kathrine Dwyer, a Wood River High School Senior, was thirteen and was attending the Anglo-American School of Moscow.  She attended intermittently while visiting her father over a seven year period while he worked managing Russian operations for The Dannon Company, Inc.  Her step-mom is Russian and it was she that prompted Kathrine and her sister, Julia to enter a simul with Alexandra Kosteniuk.  Kathrine was unaware of what she was really participating in.  To her, she was going to "just play a game of chess."   In this particular event, she was about to play a Grandmaster.  Alexandra Kosteniuk played - simultaneously - 20 students from the school, including some of the faculty.
Alexandra Kosteniuk plays a simul in the Chicago Scholastics, 2003
(I used this picture without permission, so it may disappear soon)
Do you remember anything about the tournament?
I bought a souvenir book and the date says May 14th, 2003.  You see, she [Alexandra] signed it right here [pointing].  I remember the tables were in a big square and she moved around.  It took her like a minute to destroy everybody and she won every game.

No, but about two hours.  The last game was with my teacher.

"How I Became a Grandmaster at age 14", by Alexandra Kosteniuk
What was Alexandra like?
She was sketchy at first - she is very intimidating, almost like meeting a President.  She was very quiet and focused.  She was also polite and shook all our hands.  She seemed nerdy but attractive.  Her outfit was really weird, though.

What color were you?
I think we were all black.  I don't remember much of the game other than I had to think so hard on what my next move was.

Did your school teach you chess?
I just knew.  I have always known how to play chess and I don't know how I learned.  My school common room had sofa's and chessboards, though.

Were you involved in any other chess tournaments?
No.  I just play my brother now.  We have a chess table at my house.

What do you think of this experience now?
I didn't realize how cool it was until now.  This was an awesome experience.  I guess it really is a big deal.

Despite the fact that Kathrine is not planning on any future tournaments, it was clearly evident that her game with Alexandra Kosteniuk was one she will always fondly remember.  Talking to students about their experiences and challenges always surprises me.  For example,  Kathrine is also a cancer survivor, has always been an outstanding student, and lived in American Embassies.  She plans to live in Russia when she graduates, and I suspect she has an apartment already picked out.   Hopefully, she will get to play some more chess in Russia.  Chess is Cool!
Morgan Rust and Kathrine Dwyer 
Interview by Adam Porth  
Novemember 11, 2010

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