What Bad Tournaments Make You Think

I’ve been to countless tournaments in the past few months, covering everything from the World Chess Championship to Chess in the Schools weekly tournaments. However, I haven’t played a rated tournament game in a long time. I played in the Eastern Class Championships in Sturbridge, Massachusetts this past weekend after not playing since Millionaire Chess (October 2016).

As you may or may not know from my bio or previous articles, I am the oddball of the authors because I consider myself to be an amateur chess player. I had been playing in U1400, U1600, and U1700 tournaments at the Marshall Chess Club for a few months and held up alright, usually with 1300s.

My correct class at the Eastern Class Championships would have been the Under 1200 section, but I decided to challenge myself in playing in the 1200-1399 section. At a rating of 1152, I figured the skill level would not vary as much and I wanted to play “up,” as many players do to become stronger.

I scored a whopping 1/5, which would not have made the tournament SO horrible… but the 1 point was from the 1 point free bye I got. I lost the rated house game that did not count for my tournament score.

After this horrific tournament, I was asked to write an article, to which I wondered, “What the heck do people want to know from my new 5 game losing streak?” Then I realized that everyone can probably relate to this experience so I wanted to model those Buzzfeed relatable lists…


7 Thoughts You Have After

Bad Tournaments

(I chose 7 because it is my lucky number)

1) “Wow, I suck at chess.”

Come on. Everyone’s said it many, many, many times to themselves before. It’s often a joke, a dark sort of self-deprecating humor. Even though it is not true, losing so many games lowers the morale to that thought first and foremost. I find this deprecating comment is so common, yet most likely extremely detrimental. It connotes giving up or even brushing off lack of prep, sleep, or even just luck as factors in the game.

 

2) “What if I just change my ____? This ____ is bad luck.”

Fill the blank with “pen,” “shirt,” “drink,” etc.

Ah, the classic blame game! I play it with my pens quite often, thinking if I just changed a miniscule part of my routine that has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of my play, I’ll have different luck. Chess player superstition everyone seems to have, I suppose. The only type of chess luck to have only happens OTB (Over The Board).

 

3) “Is it normal to lose this much?”

The first huge, despairing moment hits with this thought. You try to calculate if it’s statistically possible to lose so much. After all, you couldn’t have lost this many games in a tournament before, right? If Wesley So can go on large winning streaks, surely you can’t go on such large losing streaks…

 

4) “Why did I come play this tournament?”

This one relates to the luck in the 2nd point. If you hadn’t taken the gamble to play in this tournament, but maybe the next one, you could have done so much better. It is useless to follow this train of thought, as you never could have predicted such a disastrous result. Yet everyone does.

 

5) “Why did I waste so many years on this game?”

This is the next and perhaps close to the last stage of giving up. It suggests that every effort made to improve was not worth it and was a waste of time, that every game played in history was not necessary. It does not give much hope for the future.

 

6) “At least the ____ was good. But ______ sucked.”

Fill the blank with “food,” “drinks,” “company,” or “hotel”/”venue” (rare).

This thought is an attempt to stay positive, as there is usually at least one good aspect of a tournament. Often, I find that it is the company due to the “social” aspect I gain from chess, but that is not always the case. Sometimes it is only the food that can be delicious. Maybe it’s none, but it’s always fun to joke!

 

7) “I have to improve and do better next time.”

The inevitable conclusion: sometimes the only way to cheer up is to vow to improve. That is how you overcome the defeat, how you justify having lost so much. Every game is a lesson and losing is just part of the game. There will be good tournaments and terrible ones. Remember: it cannot get much worse, so it can only get better! 🙂

My First US Championships

Airport Misery

I had my fair share of airport struggles the weekend of the end of the U.S. Chess Championships. Although I may not have had as bad of an experience as the United Airlines man, I ended up miserable, defeated, and utterly enraged by the time I arrived in St. Louis. At some point, I was wondering if going on the trip was even worth it.

I had been planning to be in St. Louis on April 7th. It was a trip I had obsessed over for several months and would cover the last leg of the Championships and my spring break. However, my flight was cancelled due to weather conditions. I stayed on standby for 9 flights spanning 3 days, which were all overbooked flights.

I finally made it to the US Chess Championships on April 10th- to watch, of course, not to play!

An Exciting Playoff

The Games

 Although I missed all the normal rounds, I did get to see a playoff, which was a good consolation prize for having chosen to actually fly to St. Louis after spending more than 20 hours at the airport.

The match format was 2 G/25 rapid games, then some mix of blitz and Armageddon if further play was required. The players tied for first were GMs Wesley So and Alexander Onischuk, who had both scored 7/11 in the tournament. With a huge unbeaten streak and much higher rating, Wesley was the favorite to win the playoff and therefore the championship.

So-Onischuk, 1-0

  1. c4 e6 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. e4 d5 4. cd5 ed5 5. e5 Ne4 6. Nf3 Bf5 7. Be2 Be7 8. O-O O-O 9. Qb3 Nc6 10. Nd5 Bc5 11. Ne3 Bg6 12. Qb7 Nd4 13. Nd4 Bd4 14. d3 Nc5 15. Qb5 Rb8 16. Qc4 Ne6 17. f4 Bb2 18. Rb1 Qd4 19. Rb2 Rb2 20. Bg4 Rb4 21. Qd4 Rd4 22. f5 Nf4 23. Nc2 Ra4 24. Bf4 h5 25. Bd1 Bh7 26. Ne3 Ra2 27. e6 fe6 28. Bb3 Re2 29. fe6 Re8 30. e7 Kh8 31. Bg5

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So it’s clear that So won the first game. Onischuk had to fight hard in order to have a chance at winning the championship. He needed a win.

Instead, he was only able to pull off a draw against the opponent more than 150 points higher rated.

Onischuk-So, ½-½

  1. Nf3 d5 2. g3 c6 3. Bg2 Bg4 4. O-O Nd7 5. d3 Ngf6 6. h3 Bh5 7. Nbd2 e5 8. e4 Be7 9. Qe1 O-O 10. Nh4 Re8 11. Ndf3 de4 12. de4 Nc5 13. g4 Bg6 14. Ng6 hg6 15. Ne5 Bd6 16. Nc4 Nce4 17. Nd6 Qd6 18. Qd1 Qc5 19. Be3 Qa5 20. c4 Rad8 21. Qc2 Nc5 22. Rfd1 Ne6 23. Qc3 Qc7 24. Qa3 b6 25. b4 g5 26. Qa4 c5 27. bc5 Nc5 28. Qc2 Ne6 29. a4 Nf4 30. Bf1 Rd1 31. Rd1 Ne4 32. a5 Nc5 33. ab6 ab6 34. Qf5 f6 35. h4 Re5 36. Bf4 gf4 37. Qf4 Qe7 38. Bg2 Re1 39. Re1 Qe1 40. Kh2 Qe7 41. Qb8 Kh7 42. Qb6 Qe5 43. Kg1 Qd4 44. Qb1 Nd3 45. Qc2 Kh8 46. Qe2 Ne5 47. Bd5 g5 48. h5 Kg7 49. Kg2 Kh6 50. Kg3 Qf4 51. Kh3 Qd4 52. Kg3 Qf4 53. Kg2 Qd4 54. Be6 Nd3 55. Kg1 Nf4 56. Qc2 Qa1 57. Kh2 Qe5 58. Bg8 Nh5 59. Kg2 Nf4 60. Kf3 Ng6 61. Qe4 Nh4 62. Ke3 Ng2 63. Kf3 Ne1 64. Ke3 Nc2

The Atmosphere

The first playoff game was the first game of the tournament I got to see. A small group of photographers, journalists, and fans crowded around the players. It was eerily silent like most chess tournaments are, but it felt bizarre because activity was so focused on one board. I was afraid to move around and take pictures because the shutter sound would have caused attention.

behind the scenes playoff

I ended up roaming the other areas of the club.

Downstairs, fans watched the commentary screens obsessively.

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I found the glass chess set trophies that list the past U.S. Champions and Women’s Champions. They were beautiful and made of crystal. I typically don’t like the transparent/translucent chess sets, but the sets pass my approval test!

champs trophies

 

The young players from the U.S. Women’s Championship, Carissa Yip, Jennifer Yu, Emily Nguyen, Maggie Feng, and Apurva Virkud, all joined me, marveling at the trophies with me. We joked around, chatted about the playoff, and the girls posed for several pictures for and with me.

 

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(L to R): Jennifer Yu & Emily Nguyen
me with the girls
(L to R): Me, Carissa Yip, Jennifer Yu, Emily Nguyen
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(L to R): Me & Carissa Yip

I also caught Lotus Key, Wesley So’s mother, reading while Wesley played his playoff games. I postulated that she was too nervous to watch Wesley’s games. As a mother, I would probably feel the same!

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Lotus Key

The girls and I ventured to Kingside Diner for a change of commentary scenery. We watched GMs Finegold and Hansen talk about the games while the girls commented on their commentary!

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The Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis

In general, though, I think the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis is the most beautiful place to play chess and I have definitely never played in quite a place like it. My local club is the historic Marshall Chess Club, but it is definitely nowhere near as luxurious.

I would definitely describe the club with that adjective: “luxurious.” One of the biggest aspects that I loved about it was simply how new and therefore clean it was. Perhaps it is simply more well maintained than other clubs and has a bigger staff to keep it running so smoothly! The chairs are soft and comfortable, the sets are clean and new-looking, and portraits of chess players hanging on the walls glisten. It was simply a nice space to be in and play chess in. I even enjoyed editing my photos and writing articles downstairs.

I also have to commend the club for how well it was able to handle and organize the tournament. I heard good testimonials from so many people who thought that it was one of the most organized tournaments they had ever been to.

For example, GM Yaro Zherebukh, who placed sixth in the U.S. Championship, said of the tournament, “It was organized on the highest and best level.”

I cannot stress enough how excited I am to go back to St. Louis as well as the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis specifically. I hope to be back for the U.S. Junior Closed, Match of the Millennials, Sinquefield Cup, and St. Louis Rapid tournaments—and hopefully this time actually make it in time to watch some games!

 

Who is GM Yaro Zherebukh?

Past Performances to Present

Ukrainian-born GM Yaro Zherebukh received much attention for winning the 2010 Cappelle-la-Grande Open ahead of 82 grandmasters and beating Pavel Eljanov and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov in the 2011 World Cup. He largely disappeared from the headlines since then, focusing on his education at Texas Tech University, although he also played on their chess team and switched federations to play for the US in 2015.

Now pursuing a Masters in Applied Financial Economics at Saint Louis University and playing on SLU Chess Team’s Board 2, he is in the right city to reach more acclaim— St. Louis. The chess capital in the country boasts the beautiful Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis  and supports many chess activities and initiatives. His recent move has given him the chance to enter the chess spotlight again, starting from the U.S. Chess Championship.

Before the Games Began

GM Zherebukh was selected as the wildcard for the U.S. Chess Championship, as he was just shy of qualification by rating. The selection may have surprised many including the grandmaster himself.

“I thought it was a lot more likely that they would pick some young talents. I guess it was a coin toss, though, so I started preparing for the tournament in advance before I even got the decision, just in case.”

With a rating of 2605, he was the second-to-last seed (out of 12) of the tournament and not expected to perform exceptionally. Nonetheless, IM Greg Shahade gave him a little bit of a benefit of the doubt in his US Chess article with predictions for the championship, predicting that he was probably going to place around 9th.

GM Zherebukh admits to having glanced at Greg’s predictions, which I’m sure many American chess players and fans did. He commented, “I did read his article before the tournament. 9th place was reasonable, but I was hoping for better, of course.”

After all, 9th place would have put him out of the running for the World Cup, one of the most important tournaments in the world. There was the looming pressure of potentially qualifying for the whole championship, as this was a FIDE zonal tournament. The top 8 players would advance to the World Cup and he wanted to be part of that select group.

“My main motivation was to qualify to the World Cup because I wanted to prove to myself that my only World Cup wasn’t just an accident. I wanted to prove to myself that I could play some chess.”

The Mid-Tournament Shocks

Going into the rest day, GM Zherebukh was doing quite well and satisfied, claiming, “I felt happy I drew the world’s #2 and it called for celebration. I got to have a nice dinner, relax for the first time in three weeks. I played in the STL invitational, Final Four, then US Championship back to back, so I felt happy that I would not have to do chess for at least one day.”

Little did he know, more success was on the way. The grandmaster ended up shocking viewers after the one day break and most likely gained many fans throughout the U.S. Chess Championship.

As arguably the most surprising occurrence of the tournament, GM Yaro Zherebukh defeated GM Fabiano Caruana in the 7th round, which was the game that catapulted Yaro to tying for first place (temporarily). It was quite a dominating performance, and many admired the style of his win.

Zherebukh-Caruana, 1-0

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Scoresheet from the game!
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 d6 8. c3 O-O 9. h3 Nb8 10. d4 Nbd7 11. Nbd2 Bb7 12. Bc2 Re8 13. Nf1 Bf8 14. Ng3 g6 15. a4 c5 16. d5 c4 17. Bg5 h6 18. Be3 Nc5 19. Qd2 h5 20. Bg5 Bg7 21. Rf1 Qc7 22. Bh6 Bh8 23. Ng5 Nh7 24. Nh7 Kh7 25. Be3 Qe7 26. f4 ef4 27. Bf4 Kg8 28. Rf3 Bg7 29. Raf1 Nd7 30. Bh6 Bh6 31. Qh6 Qf8 32. Qd2 Ne5 33. Rf6 Rad8 34. Qg5 Qg7 35. Bd1 Bc8 36. Qh4 Kf8 37. Qf4 Qg8 38. Kh1 Re7 39. Bh5 ba4 40. Bd1 Qg7 41. Ba4 Qh7 42. Qg5 a5 43. Kg1 Qh8 44. R1f4 Qg7 45. Rh4 Nd3 46. Rh6 Ne5 47. Rf4 Bd7 48. Qh4 Kg8 49. Qe7 Re8 50. Qg5 Ba4 51. Rf6

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GM Zherebukh poses below his portrait at the club
After his stunning win, GM Zherebukh was tied for first place, remaining atop players like GMs Hikaru Nakamura and Ray Robson, some of the country’s Olympiad team members. I’m not sure anyone expected him to win the tournament from the beginning and even at that point, though. Of course, it was never his aim in the first place.

A Bitter Burnout, But an Overall Success

After his fabulous win against Fabi, GM Zherebukh started to falter, losing against GMs Akobian and Nakamura. Still, he held other opponents to draws.

“I just got burned out,” said Zherebukh on his last few games. “Still, it was the best tournament I’ve ever played and probably the strongest.”

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6th place!
I mean, who wouldn’t be satisfied with a win against GM Fabiano Caruana, a 14 point rating gain, 6th place, and a $10,000 prize as the 11th seed out of 12? He will no doubt have some fans watching his performance in the World Cup in September to see if he can pull off similar shocking feats. No matter the case, his triumphs at the 2017 U.S. Chess Championships will be discussed admiringly for years to come.

 

CHESSanity: A Unique Class Tournament

*A quick update on my plans to cover the US Championships: My flight was canceled and I have no idea when I will make it to St. Louis. Chess^Summit still puts its support behind one of our writers, Jennifer Yu, for the tournament. However, we may be unable to report d8irectly from the US Champs in St. Louis*


Photos courtesy of Winston Wang

We have all grown up ascending through class sections in tournaments: U1000, U1200, U1400, U1600, U1800, U2000, U2200, and finally, Open. I recently discovered a newly imagined tournament section structure. The rating restrictions were 2100+ scholastic, 2200+ adults, 2050 girls- basically anyone who would typically play an U2000-Open section. Obviously, this tournament proved to be relatively exclusive with the strong rating necessary in order to play.

CHESSanity, a non-profit founded by National Masters Warren and Wesley Wang, hosted this tournament, its first Weekend Open on April 1st and 2nd. Held in Edison, NJ, it was accessible to many strong Tri-State Area and Northeastern players. The premise behind the creation was that there were not many “strong”, “quality” tournaments in the area and 2000+ rated players often find themselves playing lower rateds in their section, which can be problematic toward development and strong games to learn from. I found this concept to be intriguing and most likely never popularly done before.

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NM Warren Wang

To organize and afford the tournament, NM Wesley Wang had to give up playing in the World Youth and the Pan American Youth tournaments. These are two of the most important tournaments for many young American players and his sacrifice, therefore, was not lost on the chess community. IM John Burke, for example, pledged his support by agreeing to play all the tournaments and six players committed to the first 5 tournaments- Wesley Wang, Christopher Yu-Shuo Shen, Eddy Tian, Alan Zhang, Winston Ni, and Evelyn Zhu. 28 players played in the tournament (including 1 GM and 3 IMs). I consider this to be a resounding success- sometimes I don’t even see that many players at the Marshall Chess Club’s weekend tournaments!

What makes the tournament even more notable is that it will soon be FIDE rated. FIDE tournaments are often hard to find in the United States, so many players are forced to travel abroad in order to rack up those FIDE points. Because this tournament can boast such a standing, I have no doubt that strong players will be attracted to the future tournaments.

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There will be more tournaments coming up, namely the second installment on June 3rd and 4th. The hope is that there will be enough enrollment to start organizing every month from September 2017 forward. You can find out more about CHESSanity and their Weekend Opens at www.chessanity.org.

Behind the Scenes of a Final Four Team

With no great surprise, Webster University placed first at this year’s President’s Cup aka the “Final Four” Collegiate Chess Championship for the fifth year in a row. Facing stiff competition from longtime rivals Texas Tech and University of Texas at Dallas and the newly formed Saint Louis University, Webster managed a clear victory.

The final results:
1. Webster University: 8
2. Texas Tech University: 6½
3. Saint Louis University: 5
4. University of Texas at Dallas: 4½

Games, details, and more can be found on Chess24.

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Webster Team in the final round | Photo by Vanessa Sun

Congrats to Webster’s Final Four chess team- GMs Le Quang Liem, Ray Robson, Alex Shimanov, Vasif Durarbayli, Illia Nzyhnyk, and Priyadharshan Kannappan!

team vs webster
SLU Team vs. Webster | Photo by Vanessa Sun

Despite some ties to the Webster team, it was another team that received my affections this past weekend. Throughout the tournament, I was personally rooting for the SLU Chess Team, the newcomers and first year qualifiers- this school year was the team’s first year of formation, first year at PanAms and the Final Four. With GM Alejandro Ramirez as the coach, there were many high hopes for the team composed this past year of 3 grandmasters, 1 international master, and an alternate.

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SLU Team’s Coach, GM Alejandro Ramirez | Photo by Vanessa Sun

The SLU team:

1. GM Darius Swiercz

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GM Darius Swiercz | Photo by Vanessa Sun

2. GM Yaro Zherebukh (who is soon playing in the US Championship so look out for that!)

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GM Yaro Zherebukh | Photo by Vanessa Sun

3. GM Francesco Rambaldi

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GM Francesco Rambaldi | Photo by Vanessa Sun

4. IM Cemil Can Ali Marandi

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IM Cemil Can Ali Marandi | Photo by Vanessa Sun

5. Nozima Aripova

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SLU Team Alternate: Nozima Aripova | Photo by Vanessa Sun

Alas, it was not meant to be as the first and second boards maintained their performances but the third and fourth boards were unable to gain momentum and fell prey to mistakes. It was an unusually tough weekend for the SLU team, but there is no doubt that they will continue to train harder, learn more, and grow as a team.

The team dynamics were to me, the most interesting aspects to observe outside of the chess. Ordinarily, no one outside of a chess team knows what goes on inside of the team’s preparations and lifestyle during a tournament such as the Final Four, but getting to experience that as both chess journalist and friend (to many of the players) gave me a taste of the struggles and inner workings of the team.

Homework.

This is so relatable to any young chess player, to be honest. Everyone had to do it. Having to balance school and chess is such an integral part to being both a student and a chess player, and homework definitely adds an extra stressor to the tournament. I saw math problems being solved, heard midterm grades discussed, and as I was covering the event, even had to do homework myself! I guess the action is not so limited to the team players, but also to young journalists watching the event.

 

Each team member has such a different personality.

I think it took a little getting used to each member of the team’s attitudes, habits, and characteristics. One person might have the loudest voice, but his roommate could be relatively quiet much of the time. One person could wear sweatpants to a game, but another could wear more professional looking blue pants. It’s clear that underlying everything, chess brings all different types of people together, and these seem to actually come out more when a team is composed.

 

Inside jokes.

I can’t reveal the inside jokes of the team, but it was interesting getting to know just how close chess team members can get by having so many inside jokes together. It shows that chess teams are just like those of other sports, and that each chess team is unique and has experiences that no one else will understand. I wondered all weekend if other teams had as many inside jokes and if that was even true of all teams.

 

Eating and Eating together.

The SLU team members ate together as a team. Maybe this helped increase the bond between the players- is there something strengthening in the act of eating together? Either way, no one ever seemed to eat alone as a general rule. There was always plenty to eat and plenty to discuss over the food. Many of the team members tried new foods as well- namely Poke and some Georgian food (which was new to me).

 

The Respect/Friendliness Toward Other Teams

I enjoyed chatting with the Texas Tech alternates, WCM Claudia Munoz and WIM Iryna Andrenko, and Nozima seemed very friendly with the two as well. Greetings were said as familiar faces were recognized. In general, amidst the competitive spirit, there was clear sportsmanship and no strong animosity toward other teams. Each team at the very least respected members of other teams and that reflects a lot about chess, which can yield vicious battles OTB but also create lasting friendships.

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Iryna playing against Nozima | Photo by Vanessa Sun

All-Girls Tournaments: The Solution to Gender Issues in Chess?

I have never taken part in an all-girls chess tournament, but I have always wanted to go to one. I only discovered the All-Girls Nationals my last year of being a scholastic player, but I could not make it. I knew in my heart I’d never get the opportunity to play in an all-girls tournament, but I realized I could live vicariously through all the girls I met at those tournaments.

This weekend, I got that opportunity by going to the First New York State Girls Team and Individual Chess Championships, which was held at The Hewitt School on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. 200 or so girls had the chance to experience what I never did, and I was proud of that. It meant that these girls were making friendships and growing as chess players. There was a friendliness that seemed to override the feeling of competition. At many chess tournaments, there is the tension of impending battles over the board, but what I observed in the atmosphere this weekend was more of a camaraderie.

For some, this tournament was not only the first all-girls tournament, but their first ever tournament. There were prizes specially for unrated players. The general sections were:

K-12 Championship
K-12 Under 1200
K-6 Championship
K-6 Under 900
K-3 Championship
K-3 Under 600
K-1 Championship

Amy Sun, the top seed for the K-6 Elementary Championships, used this in preparation of future tournaments. This was her “first all-girls tournament but she wanted some extra preparation for the All-Girls Nationals,” said her parents. They claimed she had no preference between the ordinary tournaments and an all girls one, however. In fact, Erica Li, tenth place in the K-12 Championship, and Juliette Shang, ninth place in the K-12 Championship, told me that they also saw no difference between the mixed and the all-girls ones. WFM Carissa Yip commented to me personally (she was not at the tournament but had some good thoughts to provide me) that although all-girls tournaments definitely do encourage more girls to play chess, she also didn’t see much difference.

 

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WFM Carissa Yip at the US Amateur Team East 2017 | Photo credits: Vanessa Sun.

I feel that there may not be much of a difference to the more experienced kids, but the girls just starting out in scholastic chess may benefit from all-girls tournaments the most. After talking to excited kids and parents alike, I decided that at the very least, girls could go to these sorts of tournaments and think that there are other girls just like them who play chess and also think it’s a cool game. It is really obvious in every Goichberg tournament that there is a huge gender disparity, and girls can feel less alone as they understand that there is a community for them.

The one big side event the tournament boasted was GM Irina Krush’s lecture. As a former US Women’s Champion, Irina was a perfect choice to inspire the girls. Of the tournament, she said that she liked this one in particular because “it just gets 200 girls together and makes it easier for them to make friends.“

 

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GM Irina Krush | Photo credits: Vanessa Sun
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Irina signing items for the host school | Photo credits: Vanessa Sun
It was clear that underlying the competition was the USCF pushing their initiative to support these female future champions. Right when you walked in, there were flyers for the All-Girls National tournament. There was the US Chess banner for the USCF Women’s Committee, which I had seen at several other tournaments. Surveys were conducted by Kimberly McVay, a member of the USCF Women’s Committee, asking various questions about female involvement in chess. The USCF is currently collecting data in order to understand what exactly they should target in terms of improving conditions for females in chess. Ideally, the USCF’s big goal would be for females to make up 50% of the player population. Currently, they are miles away from their mark, which is evident in every tournament we all compete in.

An interesting new change to the USCF website, though, was the addition of more top 100 lists. This was received rather positively by a woman on the Top 100 list for Women Over 50, Maret Thorpe- so much so that she wrote an article on this very topicI was also personally thrilled to see myself on these lists and found it encouraging to want to move up in my personal rankings.

A possible idea proposed by the K-12 Champion of the tournament, Sophie Morris-Suzuki, was that there could be more camps or programs for just girls. Citing Chess Girls DC and Chess Girls NY as examples, Sophie feels that although there are a few camps/programs that are all-girls, they are often for beginners or younger kids. One such example is the United States Chess School , which holds invitational chess camps for the most promising young players in the United States and has held all-girls camps before. She, and I feel that many older players may feel the same, desires more camps for older players. It would certainly help encourage continual involvement in chess beyond the middle school years. She also suggests that there be an increase in women’s tournaments because too much of the gender equality efforts are focused on young girls.


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 Sophie Morris-Suzuki

K-12 Champion

Photo credits: Vanessa Sun


It is clear that there is no one solution, but it cannot be denied that the chess community has been failing to actively support female chess players adequately for a long time. Girls and women still face many obstacles in achieving more recognition and success in chess. With these tournaments and new changes, we seem to be improving every day and every year. I myself had the opportunity to connect with both parents and some scholastic players because of this past weekend. Girls tournaments such as the First NYS All-Girls Championship provide a weekend of fun for the female chess players and is no doubt quite the place to feel empowered, supported, encouraged, and to make friendships.


 

Standings from the First NYS All-Girls Team and Individual Championships:

Individual:

K-1 Championship                Stephanie Weinberg won Clear First

K-3 Under 600                     Lia Skarabot and Chloe Stark each won all 5 games; Lia won the speed playoff for First over Chloe


K-3 Championship               Lilian Wang won on (secondary)  tiebreaks over Maya Figelman

K-6 Under 900                     Ella Mettke won Clear First

K-6 Championship               Julia Miyasaka won Clear First (6-0)   

 K-12 Under 1200                 Larisa Bresken Won Clear First

K-12 Championship              Sophie Morris-Suzuki won Clear First

 

Teams:

K-1 Championship: Lower Lab School PS 77

K-3 Under 600: Chelsea Prep PS 33

K-3 Championship: Chelsea Prep PS 33

K-6 Under 900:

K-6 Championship: The Dalton School

K-12 Under 1200: East Side Community High School

K-12 Championship: IS 318

You can see the full results at:

www.chessgirls.win

IS 318 won top team in the K-12 Championship section | Photo credits: Alex Ostrovsky

This tournament was made possible because of contributors, The Hewitt School, the New York State Chess association,  Little House of Chess, and The Chess Center of New York.

5 Things I Missed Out on as a Non-Scholastic Chess Player

I had never been to a huge scholastic tournament before this past weekend when I went to the Greater New York Scholastic Chess Championships, or the “City Championships”, as my friend called it. I only played chess competitively in a few small scholastic tournaments and Goichberg tournaments. I never had a school chess team, never competed with a team of friends or with other children, even though I longed for it- and still somewhat do. I’ve recently been living vicariously through watching kids and covering tournaments instead of actually playing in them.

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Now that I have at least poked around a scholastic tournament a bit, there are a few things I feel that I have missed out on because I didn’t grow up playing in tournaments every weekend or have close chess friends. They are things that sometimes make the scholastic chess experience so fun and life-changing.

 

FIVE THINGS I MISSED OUT ON (in no particular order):

1) Having time

This one’s obvious: having the time to improve or just play when school (or work if you’re older) isn’t eating away your energy and effort. This one doesn’t require much explanation.

 

2) Close chess friends (although that has been somewhat remedied in the past year)

dsc00449What I mean, though, is friends I sparred with over the board every week or every few tournaments, friends that I confided in about more than chess. Or at least chess friends that actually lived nearby. What I don’t mean is the people you say hi to and see at every few tournaments, have dinner or catch up with, and don’t talk to much until you see each other again. While those friends are nice and I have plenty of those, I mean the ones you see often, the ones that go to the same after school programs or clubs. In the same way that kids make friends exclusively through baseball or ballet, I wish I had made those kinds of connections through chess.

I think chess friends in any respect are an essential part to the chess experience, as they are the ones who support you, help you grow as a person and as a chess player. I often feel that I have missed out on growing up with chess friends, although I’m glad for the many I have now.

 

3) Parents being so excited when I won a game

This one requires a story:

Today I watched a kid come out of the playing room. His mom said “You won?!” He said yes and his mom swept him up into a hug and kissed him. It was clear she was so happy for him, probably because he most likely won some sort of prize, but it was obvious that she was so proud of him.

I don’t mean to say that parents aren’t supportive. Alice wrote a great article on how important it is to have supportive chess parents that you can refer to about parental support. I mean this thing on my list in the way that parents brag to their friends about their children’s achievements over tea. I mean this in that I never got into chess at an age where I was young enough to be fussed over, shown such outward support and pride. I mean this in the way that parents don’t obsess over their eighteen or thirty year old child’s victory in the way they did when they were six. I never got that, which may arguably be a good thing, but it’s all a matter of perception, and I feel that it might be something I missed out on.

My friend pointed out that this parent’s actions may not have been best for the child because it breeds the thought that winning is so important, but the way I’ve spun it is so that the kid knows how proud his parents were of him not only for his success, but also in general for showing up that day and fighting it out over the board.

 

4) Trophies!

dsc00793Okay, this is meant to be a bit of a funny one, but obviously I don’t get trophies anymore (I have a few from when I was K-12 nonetheless). They only give out money at non-scholastic tournaments (sometimes plaques and other prizes). Of course, I’m not complaining about getting money, but I saw many kids running around in glee with their trophies and I rarely got that experience!

 

5) A school teamdsc00805

I’ve never been part of a school team before. It is sort of related to the chess friends idea, but I never got to participate in team activities, to play as a team and win as a team. I wish my school or more schools where I grew up had these opportunities to play together with classmates, but I guess I got unlucky. The cheering as kids received a big trophy represented growth and success together. The achievement could be celebrated with others and that is a feeling that cannot be replicated when chess is often so individualized

BONUS: World Youth (and any other cool invitational, scholastic tournament like Denker,
Barber, Susan Polgar’s Girls Invitational, etc.)- This sort of relates to #5 on the list because in a way, the delegation is a “team” of sorts.

This one kind of isn’t the typical scholastic experience, as World Youth is special.

I only found out about World Youth last year when I was seventeen. Too old for a beginner to rise up. I knew it was something I’d never get to experience and many of my chess friends have.

dsc00860And let’s be real, the jackets stand out at every tournament. Who doesn’t want one of those jackets? Every time you go to a Goichberg tournament, there’s a kid with one of them! I want a jacket. I know never getting a World Youth jacket. Every kid secretly wants one. You know you want one. But anyway, every time someone who really knows anything about getting to top level chess in this country sees the jacket, he/she knows the exclusivity and symbolism of the jackets alone. They say I represented my country. They say I’ve reached a level that most people don’t reach.

Everyone who has one has the right to flaunt it. Every kid has earned it!


If you had the chance to experience these things I never got to, reminisce on those memories a bit. For scholastic players reading this, enjoy it. Cherish these things, record them in your mind (and maybe on your phone too). You are likely to never forget it, whether you are able to go to World Youth or are just able to participate in a national championship.

If you did not grow up in such a vibrant chess scene, I hope this article I’ve written expresses how you feel, just a bit. But clearly, you are not alone in missing these things. If chess has proven anything in the past, it is that it’s never too late to start playing, to make your own chess friends. The game is for people of all ages. Remember that whenever you realize what you missed out on. There’s always more opportunities, new things to appreciate.

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Sometimes maybe you’re not meant to have those experiences. I for one, cannot believe how much my life has changed in the past year through my chess adventures. I met so many chess players and made new chess friends. I went to my first World Championship. I took up a little bit of chess journalism and chess photography and yesterday, someone told me he enjoyed my articles. Today I got to shake Garry Kasparov’s hand and tell him my name. I didn’t have the traditional chess experience I will always long for, but I always have something to look forward to in the future. I am not going to stop making chess memories because I did not get something in the past. I want to write articles about the Grand Chess Tour, World Youth at some point, the 2018 Olympiad in Batumi, and more. No matter what happened or didn’t happen in the past, there are always going to be things to look forward to in the chess world- new friends, new experiences, and new adventures.