Sunday, March 31, 2013

Kd7, It's a Bummer . . .Dude

It's a bummer, dude!

It's a bummer.  Analyzing a chess game from a tournament can be a bummer, especially if it was a critical game and you discover one bad move that wrecks it.   It was a bummer for my son, Desmond, after we analyzed his round 5 game.  We found a win and he would have been launched from 10th place up to 2nd place in the State Scholastic Chess Championship.  The important thing for him to remember is the potential to be an overall state champion.  With a little more practice, experience, and study he will achieve this.  Here is his game with some remarks:

ERRATA ALERT! (Thanks Jeff)  Notes: move 27 should read "Here is the fork in the road, Kd7 or Kb8?"

(Not that much of a Bummer!)

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Game Face's at State Championship

Idaho is a big state with a low population (pop. 1,595,728 & 19.0people/sq. mile) meaning that there are less opportunities to play tournament chess than elsewhere.   The ICA State Scholastic Chess Championship is practically the only venue to play a formal chess game for scholastic students and the size of the state precludes most from traveling far to play.  In addition, Idaho is also one of the leaders in poverty with 15.8% living in poverty with incomes well below national averages (Idaho averages $43,259/person). The cost of a chess tournament is a luxury that many people will choose not to participate in.  For example, the cost of registration ($30), travel ($100), hotels (average $90), USCF membership ($22), food and other incidentals, add up fast.  Consequently, nearly all the scholastic chess players are from the Boise area excepting a few individuals from other parts of the state like Savanna Naccarato from Sandpoint (way up north) and Jacob Nathan from Idaho Falls (far eastern part of the state).  Fortunately, my school district supports the chess team by supplying bus transportation and we use fundraisers to help with other fees.  Seven of our ten person team paid for their trip through fundraising, and they would not have attended otherwise.  (Game Faces at bottom  of post.)

Despite the difficulties, 274 students participated in the annual event and got their yearly fill of chess on March 16 during St. Patrick's weekend.  When my team all went up for the team award, I overheard one mother gasp and say "holy cow!"  I think she was surprised at how many out-of-towners we brought.  I think I can safely say that the WRHS Chess Team is the largest in attendance with ten participants in the 41 person Championship Section.  In all, we had 23 Blaine County School District players in the tournament in the K-12, 8th, 7th, 5th, 3rd, 2nd, K sections.  I hope we can increase that number next year.  This was one of the first times that we also had a contingent of parents including the Van Law's, Bakers, Stouffer's, and the Barckhotlz's.  Usually it is only me and my wife cheering and encouraging players and I appreciated the extra support (and sympathies!).
Jay Simonson, ICA President, welcomes everyone to the tournament.
One of the best TD staffs.
I was very pleased by the quality and pageantry of the event, and as the newly elected Vice President of the Idaho Chess Association, I felt that the location, awards, and the TD staff reflected that mission of the ICA.  It also boded well for the cost of the trip for the kids and made them all feel very special to participate.  The Boise School District charges an enormous fee to rent their facilities and does not recognize that chess is an academic pursuit despite our Department of Education State Superintendent and Board of Trustees support of First Move! in the Kindergarten - 3rd grade.  The ICA Scholastic
This was one of the best venues I have seen in Idaho.
Committee found the Vineyard which offered a comfortable playing room for the championship section (carpet, stage for board 101, paintings, adequate lighting and heating, and a large TD staff) and a large gymnasium for the elementary sections.  The playing rooms were even protected from noise by having double doors (like an airlock!) from the "playpen" (skittles room).  The championship room was virtually a silent room of concentration!  The other amenities included a nicely decorated parents waiting area with enough tables and chairs for all, a sun porch, and a top-notch PA
The "Playpen" (skittles room)
Experienced TDs that put kids first before chess.
system.  We could actually hear announcements!  Plus, for people like me, a Moxie Java just one block away.  In contrast to Girl's State, I heard no complaints from parents or players this time around.  I just hope the venue will allow us to return.
Scholastic State Champion, Nathan Jiang

(Keep going for Game Faces )

Pairing sheets were easier to get to this year for Anna Murphy
Wesley Brimstein 
Our successes reflected the quality of the event.  I was very pleased with the results given that virtually everyone on our team were beginners.  Five trophies and three medals were added to the past accomplishments of the WRHS Chess Club.  The WRHS Chess Club earned second place behind a rival chess club, Borah High School, and Megan Jones won  the 12th grade State Champion title.  We also earned other trophies and medals, however, the quality of the games and the enthusiasm of my players were my pleasures.

Megan is a thinker, an artist, a writer, and a renaissance woman.
Megan Jones (provisionally 1200) was the talk of the club.  Megan is a high school senior at WRHS and learned how to play chess last semester in the Integrating Chess and Critical Thinking class taught by me.  She swiftly moved up the ranks within the class and played primarily in informal classroom tournaments until her recent success at the ICA Scholastic Novice tournament for beginners where she scored 4.0 out of 5 points.  Megan is referred to as the secret Grand Master by her fellow chess players and she scored 4.0 of 5 points in the championship.  As Megan left the tournament room, fatigue and surprise graced her features as she told her teammates, "I won!"  Her only loss was to teammate, Desmond Porth who earned 2nd place 10th grader.

Andre Murphy vs. Megan Jones

Andre Murphy vs. Megan Jones
Megan is setting up a nasty fork.

Desmond (hooded on left) plays Kory with accelerated focus

Savanna Naccarato vs. Desmond Porth (Des is excited and nervous to play her!).

Desmond Porth (967) also surprised himself at the tournament.  In round 3, he beat Kory Puderbaugh (1331), whom he lost to last year in a tough battle.  In round 5, he found himself playing Savanna Naccarato (1337) for one of the top three spots in the state.  When he found me, he was excited about how well he played against a student that has a grand master tutor and was a Woman's State Champion in 2011.
Megan and Desmond
Desmond and Megan were instrumental in helping their team earn 2nd place against eight other schools.  The last round, called "the Money Round" was critical for with team results depending on the outcome of three games.  See earlier post on team play.

(Keep going for Game Faces )

The WRMS 7th grade team earned third place with only two players, Dylan Porth and Victor Saldivia.  Teams consisted of the top three boards from each school.  In addition, Dylan Porth earned a fourth place trophy, as well as eighth grader, Nathan Stouffer.
Kathy Baker and Lynnet Porth try to see the action from the parents area.
The second grade team included Darwin Porth, Luke Baker, and Owen Stouffer.  Their exciting ending resulted in another third place for Wood River.  Owen also won a medal for his 3.5 point score and brother Garrett Stouffer also earned a medal in 6th grade.  Zane Barckholtz won a medal in the 5th grade section and all of the players worked with each other to produce the outstanding results.

(Keep going for Game Faces )

Fun with Chess Pics
One of my favorite handshake pictures - "I don't have to shake your hand again!"
Liam Van Law has fun playing chess.
Colby Castle, our team Leprechaun, attends his first tournament for WRHS Chess Club.
The 7th grade prize winners.

The 8th grade prize winners.

Waiting for results, Kory/Tyler vs. Colby/Matt in Bughouse.

Game Faces
Darwin getting his game face on.
Wyatt Caccia Game Face.

Tyler Avila (left) Game Face.

Game Face of Anna Murphy.

Keegan Crowson Game Face.
Dylan Porth Game Face.

Matt Reidy Game Face.

Alex Baker Game Face.

Colby Castle Game Face (right).

Mom and Owen's game face
Wesley Brimstein Game Face 

Van Law Game Face

Another Van Law game face

Victor Saldivia Game Face
Zane Barckholtz Game Face

WRHS Chess Club Game Face (see Tyler's game face upper right)

Dylan and Desmond Porth will participate in the USCFSuper Nationals this next week in Nashville, Tennessee - the largest tournament in the world attracting nearly 5000 scholastic participants, 16 from Idaho.  On April 13, the 3rd Annual Elementary ChessChampionship for area students, Kindergarten through 5th grade, will be held at the high school and the top elementary school will be crowned.  Contact Adam Porth, to participate.  Stay tuned for more chess successes from Idaho.  
The bus ride home (Post-game face).

Monday, March 25, 2013

Holy Buckets!

The K-12 SuperNationals, April 4-7, has approximately 4383 players pre-registered and 1409 teams playing at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Hotel.  Hotel rates have jumped from $179/night to $229/night and all hotels within 10 mile radius are sold out!  It appears that 16 players from Idaho will be attending, all elementary except Desmond Porth (10th grade) and Carmen Pemsler (9th grade)!  This will be interesting . . .

Is there an "I" in team?

A traditional stop in Mountain Home.
"Individually we are one drop, together we are an ocean. . ."

The 2013 State Scholastic Chess Tournament was an introduction to tournament play for nearly all twenty three students from the Wood River Valley that participated.  The tournament uses the top three boards from a school as a team and we had a full high school team, a team of two 7th graders, and a full 2nd grade team.  Including team competition in addition to individuals in chess tournaments fosters a notion of being part of something larger than just yourself and provides camaraderie that I don't see when individuals enter tournaments alone or are thrown onto a team.  Some of those  individuals are observed alone with their parents, disconnected from their team, and don't flinch when paired with their peers.  Students really do show an interest in the results of other games and tend to encourage one another when truly on a team.  Where does the individual fit on a chess team? 
Bughouse at 11 pm.
The WRHS Chess Club has traditionally emphasized team play at the state scholastics with individual prizes of less import.  We have our sights on a trophy for the team so that everyone can say, "I won that."  Our team composition was a change from previous years, however.  My son was the only veteran and our players hardly new one another.  None of them "hangout" with each other, excepting Andre Murphy and Wesley Brimstein.  They rarely will play one another at our club meetings and tend to bring a friend to play with instead.  Their friends weren't interested in joining us and preferred the social atmosphere that is found at chess club.  What's more amazing is that  I taught nearly all of the high school students this school season how to play chess in either club or in the chess class that WRHS offers.

Mixed levels and multiple teams help the younger and the older kids
My interests of course are to champion each player and encourage them to play their best games, but on a more selfish note, I want to build a team ethic and provide each player with a sense of belonging to a larger organization so that they continue to play and, years down the road, reminisce and remember, "that was so much fun playing with all those guys."  Most of the kids on our team have never participated as part of a team, either.  Even more selfishly, I want to bring back a team trophy, not for me, but for the community to recognize the value of chess in the lives of students.
Bughouse is a high schooler's favorite chess variant
As a science guy, I base predictions on probabilities and most likely outcomes, but when it comes to chess, I frequently am surprised at the results.  This year I predicted that we would be third place again despite my hope for a better score.  A struggle for any chess program in public schools is to legitimize the academic nature of chess and this is no different in our valley.  Chess is as valuable as debate, basketball, art, music, or any other activites. Over the years our chess program has slowly gained ground because of my efforts to emphasize the team concept, the positive aspects of chess, and to publicize successes and results in the school and in the community.  To me, the team trophy offers more than a decoration or an evaluation of the chess program or my abilities as a coach, it represents the value of chess and to the growth of students able to collectively and collaboratively earn something that they could not do as an individual.  To be cliche, "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts."
Our team definitely demonstrated the symbiotic relationships of the team idea.  Each individual supported each other before and after the matches.  They discussed better choices, took interest in outcomes, consoled losses, and cheered for individual successes.  They also asked me how the outcome of their game would affect the team standings.
The Skittles room is a collaboration room
Anna Murphy (11th grade), Dylan Porth (7th grade), Megan Jones (12th grade)
As each round progressed I watched our team move from 5th place up to third by round 3.  In Round 4 we were in first place by 1 point ahead of Borah High School.  The fifth round would decide our fate.  Three of my players were paired with Borah students and our first trophy in three years at this event would be decided.  Wesley Brimstein, Wyatt Caccia, and Megan Jones were paired with Borah students and their outcomes would be decisive and critical to our placement.  I figured that we would need a win from Desmond and at least a draw in one of the critical games.  If Desmond lost his match, then a win and a draw from Megan, Wyatt, or Wesley would secure first place. I decided to have a pre-game discussion to review pairings and put some pressure on the players that never experienced such pressure before.  "Pay attention to your opponents school name,  the pressure is on if you are playing Borah, Boise High, or Meridian Technical."

Wyatt came off the boards first with a furled forhead and his lips taut.  "I forgot what I was doing and gave away a win!" he lamented.  "No worries,"  I said, "this tournament is hard and you have a whole year to improve your game and win next year.  We're beginners here and you can now see our potential."  Next, Wesley quietly left the tournament room with a loss.  Everyone was on edge and asking outcome possibilities.  I left for a latte.  Desmond found me and described a great game, but lost in the end to Savanna Naccarato, a GM tutored player from Sandpoint, Idaho.  How can my team compete with that kind of education?  I've only been involved in chess for the past 5 years and learn something new, myself, every tournament and nearly every game.

Megan lead WRHS with a 4.0 point tournament
The elementary kids in our group began wondering what would happen and began asking me when it would finish.  I went for another latte.  Where's Megan?  After nearly two and a half hours she sauntered over to our bughouse table with a shell-shocked expression.  She had played the longest game of her life so far and flatly said, "I won."  Her mind was visibly a-buzz with many thoughts, including the fact that she earned 4.0 points, lead our team as the top board, and probably won first place for 12th grade.  Megan was going to be my student aide during 7th period and I convinced her to earn a elective credit by taking chess during that time instead.  "But, I don't know anything about chess?" she indicated before changing her schedule last fall.  She won 1st place 12th grade and we won second place with 9.0 points behind Borah High School (10.0 pts.) and narrowly beat Boise High School and Merridian Technical Charter school.  More stories about State Scholastics forthcoming.

Megan Jones 1st place 12th grade and Desmond Porth 2nd place 10th grade.
 Chess Team ideas:
  • have a team jersey.
  • have players teach to other players.
  • have players analyze and go over games with other players.
  • decrease player dependence on the coach.
  • have players take about each round and strategize next round.
  • have players consider possible outcomes.
  • keep the mystery of the results and players on the edge of their seats.
  • have all players help with equipment.
  • have all players cleanup the area.
  • have all players help the Td's cleanup the venue afterwards.
  • have older players help younger players.
  • lot's of group photos and try to get photos with kids not normally together.
  • ask specific players to encourage others in need of help.
  • ask players to go see their team mates boards or to estimate who's ahead.
  • ask players to talk to their team mates about particular opponent's.
  • indicate the importance of each player's game whether they are the top boards or not.
The individuals do matter in chess matches that have team competition.

Blog Archive