Friday, March 25, 2011

MVCC Tomorrow

Tomorrow begins the Magic Valley Chess Championship. There are two sections, championship and challenger. Nick Bruck, Desmond Porth, Riley Clark and I are in the challenger section and will compete in the two-day, G/120, 5SS tourney. There are 6 in the championship section pre-registered and 10 in the challenger section. It will be fun!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Nick Bruck (1st place 12th grader with 4.0 pts.)

Great Job, Nick!
Nick seemed introspective and ready to do the business at hand.  I am proud of how serious he treated these games.  He got to bed early and was thoughtfully going over games in his head.  Nick is becoming a leader as well.  Occasionally, he would interject in practice games of his teammates to demonstrate a better move.  Nick is preparing for the National High School Championship at the end of April where he will be competing for an individual prize for his age, rating, and the WRHS team.  His performance in this tournament was outstanding and he nearly won the state championship.  He indicated to me afterwards, "We need to look at Fried Liver, again."   Here is his round 1 game up to where several moves weren't recorded.

Round 2:

Round 5:

Nick looks tired after earning 4.0 points

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

2011 State Scholastics Results

The Weekly Sun:  

Three Wood River Valley teams competed in the 32nd ICA Scholastic Championship and brought home several titles and this was the first time that the WRHS Chess Club has had elementary, middle school, and high school teams competing.  The competition took place at Riverglen Junior High School in Boise last Saturday and included nearly 300 other children from around the state.  There were 5 hour-long games in the K-8 sections and 5 two hour-long games in the championship section.

In the elementary sections, Darwin Porth, of Bellevue Elementary, scored 2.5 points in the kindergarten group, in a field with ten others to earn 4th place and a trophy.  In an odd result, six children scored 2.5 pts. and forced organizers to use tie-breakers to determine the champion.  Tie-breakers utilize mathematical algorithms that weight opponent's score to determine the difficulty of the games individuals win and then the placements are determined.  The Bellevue Bears also had a fifth grade team, consisting of 4 players.  Fifth grade had the largest number of players and it was tough to move up the ranks.   The scores were as follows:  Dylan Porth, 2.5 pts., Colten Weatherly, 2.0 pts., Victor Saldivia, 2.0 pts., and Spencer Neel.  Overall, their team earned 5th place.

In the middle school section, Desmond Porth , WRMS, lead his team to certain victory and 1st place team champions.  He also won third place 8th grade.  Jake Whitlock won 4th place 8th grade and a trophy, as well.  This is the first time that WRMS fielded a full team, with seven individuals competing.

The high schoolers produced some nail-biting moments with two players, Nick Bruck, 4.0 pts., and Andrew Uriarte,  4.0 pts., in strong contention for the championship. title  They played on the second and third boards in round five and needed two wins to win the state titles for themselves and for the team. As the games progressed into the 1 1/2 hour mark, Andrew finished before Nick with a decisive win.  Fifteen minutes or so later, Nick emerged without the final win and the WRHS three-time championship team earned 2nd place, with Boise High School earning 1st place.  Wood River High School ended the day with Nick Bruck obtaining the 12th grade title and Andrew Uriarte winning 2nd place.  There were no Wood River 10th or 11th graders competing.  In 9th grade, Chase Hutchinson won the 2nd place 9th grade title. "The overall placements do not show how close the final round was," says Coach Adam Porth, "essentially five players scored 4 points and tied for 2nd place overall, but tie-breakers are tear-jerkers and that drops players to lower placements."   

The Wood River High School Chess team is very happy with the results and will compete this weekend in the Magic Valley Chess Championships held in Twin Falls.  Their hope is to prepare for the National High School Championship held in Nashville, Tennessee at the end of April while simultaneously fund-raising for the prestigious event.  This will be the first time Idaho will have a full team represented and donations to achieve this are being solicited.  Please contact Adam Porth, 450-9048 to help out or find out about local chess-playing opportunities.  

Monday, March 21, 2011

At the 2011 State Scholastics

19 kids from our club compete at Idaho Scholastics
Caleb Abernathy, State Champion 2011 makes a try for the Idaho Scholastic Champion title
Darwin gets some last minute reminders from mom
Nearly 300 kids K-12th grade
Pairing Sheets

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Cheaper by the dozen-and-a-half

Superintendent Luna would be proud of the deal scored with two Blaine County School District teachers today! Lynnet and I managed two bus loads of 18 students from Kindergarten to 12th grade with no compensation excepting the satisfaction of teaching kids how to behave, interact with one another, manage their money and memories ("Put your wallet in your pocket!"  "Who's wallet is this?"), cooperate and develop consensus, look after one another, and to not drown each other in hotel pools.  It certainly was an earned day, though well below baby-sitting wages!

We arrived at the Marriott Courtyard with hungry high schoolers and pool-eager elementary/middle schoolers and decided to let the high schoolers go to the Mongolian BBQ, nearly ten blocks away.  Meanwhile, the hotel pool had the Wood River children flooding the room with their energy and bodies.  It was as if the scene was a pixelated YouTube video that the pre-teens were starring in.  With the ruckus in the pool room, I snuck  away to set up a chess board and arrange to feed the roiling masses of kids.  I ordered Pie-Hole Pizza - to be delivered.

By nine o'clock the high schoolers were back and as lethargic as a herd of cows meandering through the lobby - full and wanting to go to bed though not wanting to admit it.  The middle schoolers ravaged a pizza and a half, and the elementary kids tiredly forced the nutrients in.

Max sat down at my chess board to play while Dylan pointed out better moves.  Both were eager to analyze the game with me guiding and questioning them about the proposed moves.  Pizza in hands they tried to find what the next move should be, obfuscated by such obviousness, they chose every possible square except the one that would have netted a knight and a rook and allowed for a check to move the king and prevent castling.  "Qe4+? Bd6? Qxf7? Qd6?"  What is white's next move?  "Ohh!" Dylan suddenly says.  She gots it.
What is white's next move?


Victor and Colten engaged in chess a` la Ghostbusters in the lobby booth next to me.  Under the watchful eyes of the maitre d',  Victor proceeded to become distracted as a ghost was slimming Dan Akaroyd and provided Colten with some valuable checkmate practice.  Colten is a highly competitive chess player and looks like a lion ready to pounce when he plays chess.  I hope he sticks with it through his high school years as he really will be a beast!

Miles and his family showed up to use one of the team rooms before their trip and gain some camaraderie that he will be missing in the morning at the tournament.  I gave him a chess board to take to Hawaii so he could get some bikini chess-playing pictures for his albums.

Nick busts into the lobby, rubs his belly and exclaims, "umm, steak!"  He ate at Perkins instead of the BBQ.  Quietly he sauntered off to his room and placed the "do not disturb" sign on the door handle.  He definitely is ruminating about the tournament.
Riley and Real, our two middle school girls, are determined to provoke the middle school boys into action.  The boys were in bed before anyone else. After the Greco-Roman wrestling in the pool, who wouldn't be tired?  As the door maintained its closed position, Riley and Real planted themselves right in the doorway to the boys room and played an innocent game of chess.  "What? Us? We're just playing a game of chess?"

By 10:00, everyone was tucked in and seemingly quiet.  Victor and Colten began a laugh attack just before they fell asleep at 11:00.  Though there was little talk of or practice for tomorrow, I know that they are thinking about the tournament.  I am happy that they are having fun and becoming a large family of chess players.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

State Scholastic Championship Participants and Preparations

Excitement has been brewing at our club, school, and chess players for the Idaho Scholastic Championship to begin on Saturday morning at Riverglen Junior High School in Boise.  I have been working as diligently (as time will allow me) at school with our high school participants and have also been taking time to help out our up-and-coming chess players.
Our up-and-coming elementary squad
Nick is by far the strongest and most practiced player in our program.  Our other participants have been shadows, in and out of club meetings and I hope they do well.  This is a crappy week to have a championship as we ended a trimester last week, took finals, and began new classes this week.  The tournament date is also the first day of spring break for our district.  I lost our number three player, Miles Hendrix, to a trip to Hawaii.  Hmm? 18-years old and faced with the decision, chess or bikinis?  I know what I'd choose . . . playing chess with bikinis!
This picture is for Miles, who chose Hawaii over chess.
I hope he bumps into Alexandra Kosteniuk on the beach and gets a few lessons!  (Have a great and safe trip.)
The seniors have also been distracted with senior projects which have become a big deal at our school.  We actually shut school down for senior presentations and hold a formal cake-and-punch mixer afterwards.  The students are not actually graded on the presentation, but victimized by narrow time constraints.  "Fail" for not making time (15-18 minutes).  Personally, I find that ridiculous but the students are given a second chance to present at a later date to "make time."  I told Nick to play a 1-minute blitz game for the panelists and that will give him the 40 more seconds he needed to avoid having to present again.
Nick's Senior Project:  Wood River Elementary School Championship
Max and Alex are occasional visitors to my room at lunch for some games and challenges and the middle schoolers have progressed each meeting.  Shane has been absent for nearly a month, but always seems to manage 3 points or so.  Andrew has been sick this week.  Curly finally committed to going just a few hours ago.

I have noticed that all of our players have strong openings and do well in the first 15 or so moves, and fair well in equalized end games, but struggle with combinations during the middle game.  Strategies and tactics are solid but calculations difficult.  We will strive to improve this during the coming year.  

As I am a high school teacher, I have a tough time reaching our other participants and families, however I was pleasantly surprised when 5th grader, Spencer, visited our home tonight to practice with Dylan.  This gave me a great opportunity to work with him one-on-one.  I showed him the Scotch, Philidor's Defense, and how to avoid the Scholar's Mate.  I also shared some of the various, but safe lines.

Overall, I am proud of our program's growth.  This will be the first year that I have been able to field a full middle school and elementary team and I am positive that the results will be very good.   

Wood River High School Team
1.      Nick Bruck, 12th
2.      Max Mihalic, 9th
3.      Shane Bruess, 12th
4.      Chris Ellis, 12th
5.      Andrew Uriarte, 12th
6.      Alex Bates, 12th
7.      Chase Hutchinson, 9th

Wood River Middle School Team
8.      Desmond Porth, 8th grade
9.      Jake Whitlock, 8th
10.  Quinn Gilman, 8th
11.  Kyle Mungall, 8th
12.  Riley Clark, 8th
13.  Real Weatherly, 8th
14.  Riley Neel, 8th

Bellevue Elementary School Team
15.  Colten Weatherly, 5th grade
16. Victor Saldivia, 5th
17.  Darwin Porth, K
18.  Dylan Porth, 5th
19.  Spencer Neel, 5th

Wish these folks luck in their competition on Saturday!  

Friday, March 11, 2011

Chess960 Results (a bit late)

“Chess960 is healthy and good for your chess. If you get into it and not just move the pieces to achieve known positions it really improves your chess vision.”
-- GM Levon Aronian

Walton Taylor (10)
Ellis Curly (3)
Uriatre Andrew (8)
Frye Hunter (4)
Porth Desmond (6)
Porth Adam (5)
Bates Alex (1)
Clark Riley (2)
Porth Dylan (7)
Weatherly Real (12)
Weatherly Colten (11)

Sorry about the long delay in posting the results of the February 9 tournament, but it has been a busy month with the Idaho Closed, the first Wood River Elementary School Championship, the Girl's Scholastic Championship, the Spring Warm-up, and preparing for the High School National Championship and the Idaho Scholastic Championship, among other things like work and family.  I also presented to the School Board our Nationals trip request and finally obtained appropriate permissions to run an elective credit secondary level chess class at Wood River High School.  More posts to follow about some of those projects.

Chess960 is a variant of classic chess with only a few differences.  One distinction is that the back rank of both sides is randomized with the caveat that the king is somewhere between the two rooks.  Castling lands the rook and king on the same squares that they would normally land on in classic chess.  Chess960 was formerly called Fischer Random Chess and was tauted as "real" chess by Bobby Fischer.  I have noted that numerous chess players have adopted this variant and tenaciously play it (Why Chess960?, Chess960@home, Chess960 (FRC), Chess960 Jungle).

Our Chess960 night was a fabulous success, with Taylor Walton winning with a perfect tournament score.  Curly Ellis and Andrew Uriarte, both 12th graders, followed with 2nd and 3rd place, respectively.  I seemed to struggle thinking about following opening principles and not paying attention to elementary tactics like pins, skewers, and forks.  I lost my queen in two games!  I strained to find familiar patterns and spent much of my time thinking about the value of Chess960.  I discovered that Chess960 teaches strategic thinking as you search through the maze of unique positions.  Interestingly, castling early may not be a benefit and one needs to carefully consider certain sacrifices.  With pieces not in their familiar positions, elementary tactics become stronger and more difficult to plan.  Consequently, your vision of the board is challenged and tested.

The tournament was smooth and contained the enthusiasm that the youths brought.  I projected the positions using "Chess960 Position Selector" from DGT Innovators on the classroom screen and let the students set the positions.  I used my laptop to display the pairings and run WinTD.  For a small tournament, this worked elegantly.  Something to note for the future, record the initial setup number on scoresheets, because they are useless without the starting position!

I am convinced that the students that participated took away valuable lessons and they enthusiastically welcomed the novelty of Chess960.  We are planning to engage in this underrated chess variant as a tool to improve our classic chess skills and will crown a high school Chess960 Champion each year.  Taylor Walton graduated last year and will not be eligible for the high school plaque. So, the champion for 2011 is Chris "Curly" Ellis with four points.
Chris playing in Ogden 2010

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A New Opening

Los Angeles Times Headline:

In Wisconsin, GOP gambit pushes anti-union bill forward

Senate Republicans omit financial provisions from legislation to curb public workers' collective bargaining rights, skirting a requirement that a quorum be present.

Too much material to capture
The GOP Gambit is more of a middle game tactic than an actual opening but we will have to see how the proletariat responds to this as Wisconsin heads into the endgame!  Will the pawns overpower the major pieces in this pseudo-chess game?

What's a gambit?
gambit (from ancient Italian gambetto, meaning tripping) is a chess opening in which a player, most often white, sacrifices material, usually a pawn, with the hope of achieving a resulting advantageous position (from Wikipedia).

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