‘Tis (or Dis) the Scholastic Season

There may be hundreds of ways to partition the body of chess players in two parts.  One differentiator that I find very relevant to this time of year is, well, time.  Not the time on your watch, but the time on your chess clock.  There are typically two schools of thought for time management in chess – those who play relatively quickly, and those who play relatively slowly.  It’s not rocket science, the two sides are easy to divide into.  Other more difficult partitions would be positional vs tactical players or maybe casual vs serious, but I digress.

I, for sure, am part of the latter school.  Over the years I have been cultured to play slowly and not to rush my moves, almost to point of “too slowly.”  In the end, it might have been the cause of my undoing this past weekend at the VA State Championships.  The tournament was six rounds held over two days, and since it was a scholastic tournament (i.e. K-12 & Collegiate), short time controls were given.  In addition, since the tournament requires people to sometimes to travel across all of Virginia, they had to wrap up relatively early on Sunday.  Thus, four rounds (!) were played on Saturday itself.  They were played around the clock from 9 in the morning to 9 at night; the first three games of the day were played at a lightning-fast (for me) 60 minutes for each player with a 5-second delay.  The last round on Saturday and the two rounds on Sunday were played at 90 minutes for each player with a 5-second delay.  The 60/90 split has been traditional for this tournament, so it’s nothing new.  However, with all the work I have from school, I didn’t have much of a chance to prepare this year.  As a result, I was going in without having played a G/60 game since last year’s rendition of the same tourney, and the shortest time control I had played since the K-12 Nationals in December of 2016.  Having not been able to practice with many blitz or quick games either, you could say I came into this tournament underprepared, especially for being the third seed.  Most things have stayed constant for this tournament over the years, but one aspect that has changed is the pairing format for the first few rounds.  I remember the tournament organizers choosing to do accelerated pairings (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swiss-system_tournament#Accelerated_pairings) in order to mix things up early for some years in the past, but they have also gone with the basic Swiss-system for some years as well.  This year, the normal Swiss-system was used, so I was fortunate to play much lower rated players in the first couple rounds.

In the first round, I was paired against a 1200.  Unlike the boards around me, my opponent took his time for his moves, despite being severely outmatched.  I do applaud him for his resilience and refusal to accept defeat early, but I did win nevertheless.  Some of the boards around me finished in 20 or 30 minutes into the round; with rating discrepancies like this, results like that are bound to occur.  In the second round, I was paired against a 1656.  Although I probably brought this game too close for comfort, I won in the late stages as the clock was ticking down for both of us.  In the third round, I faced my first truly “competitive” opponent at 1906, and the game was nothing short of crazy.  Early in the middlegame, I secured myself the initiative and eventually a piece for two pawns thanks to some tactics.  At one point, the evaluation reached as high as +3.5.  However, due to some careless moves that I played quickly, that advantage disintegrated in a few moves.  At one point, there was a string of 3 or 4 moves where the engine evaluation flipped between + and – for every move, partly because there was an idea that my opponent could have played that would have effectively ended the game (both of us happened to miss it, however).  When I had mere seconds on the clock, my opponent could have played a move that would have required me to bail out of my kingside operation and go for a perpetual check on the queenside where his king was castled.  But then, out of the blue, my opponent hung his queen!  Although I came out of there with a win, it was one of the weirdest games I had played to date.

So, I had navigated my way through the first three rounds undefeated and with a perfect 3-0 score.  The last game of the day was against a high 2000 rated player.  The game began with an opening I was unfamiliar with, so I wasn’t quite sure what my middlegame plans were.  As a result, I never got much going in my favor, and the game ended in a draw.  My fifth round game was quite the spectacle.  I was able to play one of the opening lines I know best, but my opponent (2050), one who I had played numerous times in the past with the same color, had prepared a forced drawing line that I couldn’t avoid.  In the sixth and final round, I was paired against another 2050.  In this game, I had some dynamic play early in the game, but by the time I was finally able to get a material advantage (a pawn), I was already playing quickly because of time trouble, and the game was reduced to an opposite-colored bishop endgame where my opponent was able to hold easily.

This tournament proved to not be my best, and although there were some instances where I just had to play better moves over the board, it all came down to the short time controls.  After winning the first three, I only managed to draw the last three games.  Finishing with 4.5/6, it was half a point lower than what I was hoping for at the least for this tournament.  The results from this tournament were bittersweet, though.  Although my rating did drop a few points, it is practice for the many scholastic tournaments approaching around this time of year.  In fact, 2017 is the year of the SuperNationals, which are being held during the second weekend of May (12 – 14) at the Gaylord Opryland in Nashville, Tennessee.  During other years, however, tournaments such as the Junior High Championships and the Elementary Championships are also being held.  In a few weeks, the All-Girls Nationals are being held in Chicago, and that happens to be an annual event.

With the string of scholastic events already started, it is around this time that the portion of chess players that play slowly have to practice playing faster, especially if they wish to do well in these grueling competitions.  If not, your time might just be up.

 

 

The Importance of FIDE Ratings

“What’s your USCF?”

Ask any chess player in the United States, and they’ll respond without as much as a second thought.  So what?

Now take a trip to any country outside of the United States.  If you ask the same question to a chess player, you’ll most likely receive puzzled looks and responses along the lines of “What’s that?”  Another country, probably the same response.  The borders of the United States are most likely going to be the extent to which chess players would recognize “USCF.”  Any further, and chess players use other rating systems.  Sure, some countries might have their own local chess federations as well.  However, most use another rating system, at least for the larger tournaments.  This rating system is the Fédération internationale des échecs, better known as FIDE.  FIDE is sometimes called the World Chess Federation because it is just that.  FIDE is a global organization that connects and interacts with national chess federations and hosts international chess tournaments.  It is recognized by the IOC (International Olympic Committee) as the main overseeing body of international chess play.  Most top-level tournaments respect FIDE rules and regulations, almost without exception.

So why does this matter?  In short, it matters because the FIDE rating becomes the most important of all at high-level competition.  Almost every international tournament is FIDE rated.  In addition, most high-level open tournaments in the United States are FIDE-rated for the highest section(s).  Even the World Chess Championship, perhaps the most popular chess event, is FIDE rated.

Establishing a FIDE rating

If a chess player aspires to become the best of the best one day, he or she must pay attention to FIDE ratings as early as possible.  Moreover, he or she should attempt to play in as many FIDE-rated tournaments as possible in order to achieve their first rating.  Per rules, one must play 9 games against FIDE rated players, with three having to be in the same tournament, and at least 1 point (out of 3) must be scored against those three players.  It seems complicated, but it isn’t difficult if many FIDE-rated tournaments are being held.

After the first FIDE rating is achieved, the best approach is to try to stabilize and gradually increase it.  This, however, can sometimes be difficult and might trend in the opposite direction, as it did with me.  My first ever FIDE rating was 2018, a good 50-100 points above my USCF rating at the time, which was somewhere in the 1900s.  In this case, my FIDE rating was higher than my USCF rating, but for most people, it turns out to be the other way around.  Despite my attempts to keep my FIDE rating above 2000, it didn’t last long, as I lost games to players who were much higher-rated than me in USCF but around equal to me in FIDE.  As a result, these games would affect my FIDE much more than they would affect my USCF.  My FIDE rating hit an all-time low around at 1838 in March of 2016 after poor tournament play in general.  Since then, however, I have been able to claw my way back to a current rating of 2121 in a span of roughly 12 months.  A couple of different approaches have allowed me to accomplish that.  For one, I have begun to play much more frequently in the open section, which tends to be FIDE-rated nowadays (as previously mentioned).  Performing well in these open sections has definitely boosted my FIDE rating.  Secondly, the NVA Chess League has benefitted me greatly.  The NVA Chess League is a team league takes place over several months and is FIDE-rated.  However, the fact that each separate game is rated as its own event has helped me the most, since many more points are gained for each win.  Lastly, playing in international tournaments has helped when they come around since they add 9 FIDE-rated games apiece.  Although I haven’t played in any of the prestigious international tournaments such as the World Youth just yet, but I have had my share of North American Youth Chess Championships that I have attended.  Having played in four straight, they have also helped me get in more FIDE-rated games.

In the end, however, playing in FIDE-rated tournaments is the easiest and most efficient way to improve FIDE ratings.  The earlier someone improves their FIDE rating, the better, too, because FIDE uses a higher K-factor (scalar) in calculating ratings of minors (U18).  This means that ratings fluctuate more with younger ages.  Although this could potentially cause more severe drops, the possibility of higher gains also exists.  It’s important to note that USCF ratings are equally important at first; until one’s USCF rating is high enough to be able to compete in FIDE-rated sections and/or tournaments, progress can’t be made in FIDE ratings in the first place.  It’s just that, eventually, once someone reaches the levels of 2300 or 2400+, FIDE ratings become that more important.  As always, thanks for reading and see you next time!

2204

At long last….it’s finally happened.  This past weekend at the Baltimore Open, I performed well enough to cross the ever-so-difficult 2200 barrier and achieve my goal.  My rating jumped from 2189 to 2204, a good 15 points.  And, surprisingly enough, I was able to accomplish this feat with only playing three games in the tournament.  Before I share the game that propelled me over the barrier, some background.  I was first exposed to chess at 10 years old, which was extremely late when taking into account the ages at which people start playing now.  After the long climb, I finally crossed 2000 in October of 2014.  Although it was almost two and a half years ago, it seems just like yesterday.  After crossing 2000, I was stuck the mid-2000s for a long time until I had one very good World Open in July of 2015, where I scored an undefeated 6/9 in the U2200 section. This performance skyrocketed me from 2058 to 2128.  Since that tournament, tournaments have been a constant up and down for me.  I would piece together a few good performances before losing that progress in a single tournament and/or an NVA or DCCL match.  However, recently, I was able to catch some momentum and was able to ride the wind to the very top.  And, believe it or not, I haven’t even been playing much; with the amount of school work I have, I’ve only been able to play in approximately two events per month, with one or sometimes even both being the one-game NVA or DCCL matches.  Following that pattern, I haven’t been able to study much at home either.  However, as Jennifer Yu mentioned in her recent article here, playing chess is the most helpful way to improve at the game, and for me, that’s proved to be enormously relevant.

The whole thing has been a bit ironic since Beilin’s recently wrote (here) about our chances of crossing 2200 at USATE this upcoming weekend!  Well, Beilin, now that I’ve crossed the NM roadblock, you can, too!  Hopefully, this development can act as extra motivation for the rest of the Chess^Summit team to reach their goals as well.

The Baltimore Open was a five-round, three-day tournament that lasted from Friday, Feb 10th to Sunday, Feb 12th.  Due to a prior commitment that I had for Friday night, I took the half-point bye for the first round.  Although at that time I wished I could have played all five rounds, I knew that going into the second round with a half point would allow me the chance to play a fairly challenging opponent next round.  For the second round the following morning, I was paired against Aravind Kumar, a strong 2300 player from NJ that frequently travels for open tournaments in the Northern Virginia area.  He, too, had taken a first-round bye, although the reason was most likely for travel.  Despite putting up a valiant effort that morning, I came out with a loss.  With two rounds already in the books and having lost a game already, I knew the rest of the tournament would have to play out almost perfectly, if not perfectly, in order to keep the goal of reaching 2200 in the tournament within reason.  For the third round, I was paired against a mid-2000 rated girl by the name of Evelyn Zhu.  I remembered that I had played her before in the past year or two, so I was able to prepare a line and win that game without many problems.  The two ratings from that day happened to be approximately equidistant from my rating at the time, so the two results basically canceled out.  As a result, the outcomes of the next game(s) would play a very significant role in the final rating after the tournament.  On Sunday morning, after eating a breakfast of danishes and bagels (standard complimentary breakfast), I was paired against Nikhil Kumar, a 2399 middle schooler who had recently shot up to his current rating after stringing together several outstanding performances.  I knew I had to prepare and play well to have a chance at this game.

Kumar – Kobla, Baltimore Open 2017

Of course, every game that I have played in my chess career has led me to this point, but I will forever remember this game as the game that propelled me over 2200.  The fact that I was able to accomplish this feat with so many different variables proves how just about anyone can accomplish the same if they work hard and are motivated.  This especially goes for the rest of the Chess^Summit team.  Now that I have crossed the threshold, I am hoping that the others follow suit very soon!  And, as always, thanks for reading and see you next time!

USATE – A Preview

For those of who may not be familiar, the U.S. Amateur Team East Chess Tournament, USATE for short, is a team tournament.  Yes, you read that right.  It’s an annual event that takes place during Presidents’ Day Weekend in Parsippany, New Jersey.  The event is six rounds long with two rounds on each day of the weekend.  Although it only happens once a year, the experience and fun that can be taken from it are worthwhile, especially because of the plentiful amount of differences from typical open tournaments.  Essentially, it’s a mini-Olympiad for all of us who aren’t quite at the super-grandmaster level yet.  The Olympiad is generally considered the strongest team tournament in the world; teams are based on resident country.  The USATE’s requirements for registration are not too lengthy:

  1. A team of four players + one alternate (optional)
  2. A team name
  3. Average January supplement rating between four highest players must be below 2200
  4. No more than two grandmasters per team

Unlike the Olympiad, we don’t have teams coming from all over the world, so they can’t be grouped by that trait.  Instead, teams are limited in strength by rating.  This limit, however, has some loopholes in it that allow for different styles of team composition.  Albeit there being multiple different styles of team composition, none have clearly proven to be significantly more advantageous than any others – in the end, it comes down to who plays well and who doesn’t, which is how chess should be played.  Let’s take a look at these compositions:

  1. Balanced

With approximately the same rating across all four players of the team, this composition aims to have an equal chance to win games on any of the four boards, and the team has no real weaknesses.  If the team as a whole plays well, it will win.  If it plays relatively poorly, it won’t do as well.  For first time entrants, this type of composition is recommended.  This is because, while there aren’t any clear advantages to this composition, there are certainly no disadvantages.  Once these players are multi-year veterans at the tournament, they can begin to branch out into other team compositions.  An example of this team composition would be:  2010, 2000, 1990, 1980.

  1. Heavy

This team composition takes advantage of the fact that there is no limit to how high rated players can be.  This composition typically entails three very high rated players plus one very low-rated player to balance out the difference and keep the team below 2200 average.  There are both advantages and disadvantages to this setup.  The obvious advantage is that three high rated players are very likely to do well, especially the players on board 3 and sometimes even 2, since opposing teams will rarely have relatively competitive players (unless, of course, the other team uses the same team composition; in this case, the match would be a great battle).  The disadvantage, however, is that the fourth board player is almost always guaranteed to lose since the team as a whole will most likely continue to play strong teams.  This places the burden on the high rated players to win almost every game if possible since drawing matches negates this advantage; it will actually work against the team’s tiebreaks because of the relatively low board points.  For teams like this, however, the hope is that the fourth board player doesn’t mind this course of fortune since they have a decent chance of winning prizes.  An example of this composition would be:  2600, 2500, 2400, 1275. (Important note:  one of these high rated players cannot be a grandmaster, but any other title is fine).  This point about winning prizes leads me to my next composition.

  1. Calculated

This team composition is based on the prize system of the tournament.  There are 13 total “under” prizes, beginning with 1000 and going all the way up to 2200.  The prizes go to the team with the most points that had an average rating less than the associated prize level.  For example, a team rated 2190 would only be eligible for the U2200 prize, while a team rated 1895 would be eligible for every prize from U1900 and higher.  This team’s purpose is to have four players whose ratings average out to just below a prize level.  Often, this type of method is combined with one of the others to offer the team the greatest chances to win a prize.  This method is used so often that it typically leads to pretty spectacular pre-tournament standings.  It is not uncommon to find 5-6 (or more!) teams with an average of 2199 occupying the top spots.  This plan can be found in the lower prize sections too, with a higher density of teams located in the 80s and 90s of a section than, say, the 20s or 30s.  The advantage of having a team with this setup is that you have one of the “strongest” teams that are eligible for a certain prize.  I use the quotes because, in the end, it once again comes down to who plays well and who doesn’t; however, in theory, a team like this would be expected to fare better than a team rated 30 points below it.  There are no disadvantages to this type of composition, which is why it is widely used in team constructing.  The key to constructing this team is to have a sum of ratings less than or equal to 8796.  An example of this team composition would be: 2310, 2230, 2140, 2115.  These ratings add up to 8795, which would yield an average of 2198.75, rounding up to 2199.

  1. Generic

For those who play just to have fun and be with friends, all these ratings and averages won’t matter as much.  If that’s the case, just take a few of your friends or people you know and go have fun!  There’s nothing more to be said!

The tournament also offers other prizes and events to make the experience even better.  Every year, there is a contest for best team name created, with the winner being chosen by the people at the tournament.  Typically, the team names model events or things with significant bearing and/or popularity from the previous year.  My team name from last year was “Bb8?? R2d2 wins easily!” It involved the new Star Wars droid, BB8, and the older, but more famous, R2D2.  “Bb8” and “R[2]d2” also happen to be chess moves!  Although this name didn’t win any of the top prizes, it really shows the creativity required to achieve that recognition.  In addition, strong grandmasters from the tournament give free lectures during their free time, and they are very instructive.

With all this said, I hope that you consider participating in this tournament!  It’s only a few weeks away, so the time to act is now.  I guarantee you, this tournament will be one of the more fun events you’ve participated in the past year, if not for your entire career so far.  I know I plan on playing there, so I hope I get to see some of you there!  And, as always, thanks for reading and see you next time!

Progress

After reflection on my recent tournament results, I’ve noticed a very positive trend.  For the first time, I feel like I have been regularly competitive with much higher rated players.  By “much higher rated,” I mean 200-250+ rating points higher than my own.  In my last two tournaments especially, I’ve scored 1.5/3 against these players.  Although it’s a very small sample size, I’ve still been able to notice a clear improvement in my play against them, against slightly higher rated players, against pretty much everyone.

It used to be that I would be able to “hang in there” until the point where my opponent would finally see something that I miss and capitalize, or that would not happen and I would be rewarded.  Very rarely would I have the chance to be ahead in the game and capitalize on their mistakes.  Recently, I’ve been able to consistently been able to compete at the same level as my higher rated opponents, and that success has been crucial to my overall tournament success; consequently, my rating has been steadily increasing for the last few months.  Albeit, I’ve still found myself making mistakes in time pressure, but I’m confident that these are fixable.  After my most recent tournament, the Chesapeake Open, I found myself at 2197, a mere three points away from reaching my goal from the beginning.  I will share some of my games from this tournament in the hope that you will be able to get something out of my recent success and possibly apply it to your own games.

Kobla – Palani, Chesapeake Open, 2017

That game was short and real sweet.  Although I was quite satisfied with that result after the game, I knew that luck contributed a decent portion of it.  This wasn’t the first time I was paired against my opponent.  I had played him approximately a year ago, with the same colors.  As seen in the variation from 12, it was the exact same opening and played out in almost the exact same way.  In the first game, I had missed a win, but the game must have been traumatizing to play as Black.  With that logic, I assumed that I would be faced with a different opening on this occasion.  Yet, the game notation says otherwise; either he decided to give it a shot once more, or just completely forgot about our previous encounter.  In either case, I was lucky to have the game play out in the fashion that it did.  I was still able to create these threats and play perfect or near-perfect moves from beginning to end against a much higher rated player.

My success hasn’t been solely based on opening knowledge.  My improvement in endgame play has also been a key factor in some of my games.

Kobla – Karell, Chesapeake Open, 2016

The inaccurate play early in the game let to an endgame fairly quickly.  After Black’s Bf4 on move 12, I entertained the idea of sacrificing the bishop with hxg6, but in the end, I decided that it wasn’t worth the risk and I felt fairly confident in my ability to create some weaknesses in a position with so many pieces still left on the board.  In the end, that’s what happened.

Although these two games were not the only ones in which I had significant chances, there are still things I have to fix that will help me improve to be an even better player.  Disregarding that, however, I’ve found myself playing well recently and I hope that I can continue this success until I cross the sacred 2200 barrier.  Who knows, perhaps I will be able to accomplish this feat before I return for my next article!  But, until then, see you and good luck in your games!

Inspiring Starts and Disappointing Ends

Before I begin, I want to take this opportunity to wish the Chess^Summit community Happy New Year!

The Eastern Open was an open tournament held December 27 – 30, in between the Christmas and New Year’s weekends, at the Doubletree in Bethesda, MD.  While it was held across a string of typical work days, Winter Break gave kids an opportunity to play in a tournament held at such a point in the week where they typically wouldn’t be able to; I was one of them.  Entering the tournament with a published rating of 2180, I had the chance of choosing whether to play in the U2200 or the Open section yet again.  Knowing that the tournament was 7 rounds and that it was easier to gain rating in a higher section, I enrolled in Open.

Finding myself in the middle of the pack prior to round 1, I was sure to either play one of the top seeds or one of the lowest seeds.  As some higher rated players were registering on-site, a pairing against a top seed seemed more and more inevitable.  That judgment proved correct, as I was eventually paired against the very strong IM Tegshuren Enkhbat.  You can play through the game in the following hyperlink to the game viewer, and my comments will appear there as well.

Kobla – Enkhbat, Eastern Open, 2016

I was definitely satisfied with my round 1 performance after the first night.  I just had to go in tomorrow and try to repeat or even one-up this performance the next day.  Unfortunately, the game did not go well, and I was slowly outplayed by Akshita Gorti, a strong 2300 player known to many in this area.  Finding myself in a 0.5/2 hole, I knew I had to win the next round to keep up with the competition.  I was pitted against tournament organizer Tom Beckman.  Once again, you can view the game and its associated notes in the following hyperlink.

Kobla – Beckman, Eastern Open, 2016

Disregarding the few points in the game where I could have improved upon my text moves, I still came out of that game feeling quite happy with my play.

Going into the third day with 1.5/3, I had some options as to the way I could play my next few games.  I was paired against veteran Allan Savage.  That game was drawn fairly quickly after only 14 moves.  The position was approximately equal, and while I could have played on in an attempt to win, I took the draw offer with the reasoning that it was a draw with the black pieces against a higher rated player; I would have ample time to rest and prepare for the next round.  Lastly, on my trek to 2200, every point counts, so there was no hurt in playing it safe.  For round 5, I was paired against Christopher Shen in what was going to be the most interesting game I would play the entire tournament.

Kobla – Shen, Eastern Open, 2016

Wow.  It was a fun and nail-biting game to play.  Although I didn’t end up finding the winning move in that one position, these are still the games I live to play.  With 2.5/5 points going into the sixth round on the fourth and final day of the tournament, I did not have luck on my side.  I was paired against the ever-improving Michael Bennett and was thoroughly ground down in a 5.5-hour game.  Right from the start, I had no idea what to do in terms of plan or position.  Out of the opening, I was taken into a position where all I could do was sit and defend an oncoming attack that finally broke through mere moves before time control.  To make matters worse, I had little to no time to eat and prepare for my last round game.  All I need was a game as white against a lower-rated player to right the ship once again.  In the end, neither of those hopes came to light, as I was paired against the higher-rated Trung Nguyen with black.  In that game, too, I was being ground down before he had to leave with his parents for an event, so I was saved by a draw offer.  Sometime in the future, I’ll have to return that half point, but that’s for later.

At the end, after seven grueling games lasting four days with little sleep, I was rewarded with a single rating point.  At least I still peaked my rating and got one point closer to achieving Master, though.  Although I missed a nice win in my fifth round game, it was probably offset by the lucky draw I escaped with in the last round.  All in all, I played fairly well in my first tournament since the Northern Virginia Open almost two months prior.  2017 is the year I hope to achieve Master.  January and February offer a few more tournaments to play in, including the Chesapeake Open, the US Amateur Team East, and a few others.  I was hoping to attain the title of Master before the end of 2016, but at least I significantly progressed towards the goal towards the end of the year.

Thanks for taking the time to read my articles over the past months.  2016 was an exciting year for me in being able to partake in the Chess^Summit program, and I hope to provide further value in my articles in 2017 as well.  As always, good luck in your future games and see you next time!

National Scholastic Tournaments: Cost vs. Benefits

With the annual K-12 National Scholastic Chess Championships ending less than a week ago, I felt that it was a relevant time to write about national tournaments in general.  The National Scholastic Chess Championships have been around for a long time.  In its younger days, these tournaments were full of strong players and were a must-attend.  However, in more recent years, the overall strength of these tournaments has decreased.  Why that has been the case?  I can’t know for sure.  Travel costs haven’t increased; if anything, they’ve been decreasing.  The number of players in the US has been on the rise every year.  In that case, what is the reason for the decrease in interest in these tournaments?  Perhaps it has to do with age.  Every section tends to have fewer players as the grade level increases.  That could be due to the fact that high school workload is exponentially greater than that of an elementary schooler; in addition, these tournaments require missing a day of school.  Another possible reason to abstain from playing in these tournaments is rating.  This is especially apparent in the higher rated players.  The circumstances of the tournament make it a very probable that high rated players will lose rating by the end; these include the relatively high number of rounds per day, short time controls, and facing opponents who only play in scholastic tournaments.  Now, I’ll admit, I have lost rating in most of these tournaments, with the exception of a few.  Despite the change in rating, though, I was still able to receive place trophies for the performances.  Though I understand why these reasons might deter kids and/or parents from participating in these tournaments, I have a strong belief that the benefits of these tournaments outweigh the costs.  There is much experience to be gained from playing in these scholastic tournaments, especially of one’s goal is to play in national open tournaments at a later point in time.  Schedules would be awfully similar, with multiple rounds per day, and traveling being tiring as always.  These tournaments also provide kids with the ability to spend a weekend away from work and being able to play the game they love.  They are able to meet kids from around the country and just have a good time altogether.  I’ve made a point to attend every single K-12 tournament since I began playing chess almost seven years ago.  This past tournament, however, I had to miss, but it was not for any of the aforementioned reasons.  The tournament had to be inconveniently scheduled the week following my week-long marine science field trip to the Bahamas.  Missing an entire week of school proved to be too much to handle, and the workload would have been unmanageable if I missed yet another day of school, especially since I had two tests from two AP classes on that Friday.  However, I am 110% sure that I would have gone if the field trip and the tests were scheduled earlier or before the actual timing.  Since I missed this one, though, I do not plan on missing the next national tournament May of 2017, which happens to be the Supernationals.  These national tournaments typically boast a much stronger field due to their rarity – it’s a quadrennial event.  If you have not played in a national tournament yet or have not played recently, I highly suggest you try to make this trip out to Nashville.  Similarly, if you are an adult and are unable to play yourself, try to convince as many kids as possible to play.  It will truly be an unforgettable experience and worth the costs.  Although it’s still approximately six months away, the sooner you begin to plan for the trip, the better.  So, I hope to see as many of you as possible over there!  And, as always, see you next time!