Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Stopping by an ACTA chess tournament

The weekend before Thanksgiving, Michael ran a scholastic chess tournament. It's a USCF rated affair which apparently runs every other week or so. Michael's organization ACTA runs the tournaments so he invited us to stop by. I thought it would be a great idea to show the kids what a tournament looks like and maybe get them excited to learn. I wasn't disappointed. The event was held at the Stamford Holiday Inn which is just 15 minutes from our house. We stopped by around 10:00 am and found the event to be lively as expected with something like 30 kids of all ages competing in different rooms. There were a lot of parents at various spots in the hotels waiting for their kids to finish or playing games with them. Interestingly there was only 1 kindergarden-aged contestant who had to be moved to the 1st grade pool.

The highlight of the visit, however was the awards ceremony for kindergarden and 1st grade I think. There some really nice lighted trophies on a display table and every child got a participation ribbon. Michael graciously gave Alyssa and Richie ribbons and medals even though they weren't officially entered in the event.

The trophies left a big impression on Richie especially and he's been asking to be taken to a tournament to play because "he wants a trophy." I plan to wait until an event in December or perhaps a later one in January that "guarantees" a trophy for him. I imagine that if he missed getting one he would be devastated. Perhaps I'm being too soft but I want to keep the good vibes going.

A cute anecdote: we asked Alyssa to play chess in a friendly game with one of the kids there. There was a boy there and we talked briefly with his mother. She asked him to play with her. He seemed reluctant at first since he appeared to have more pressing matters to attend to downstairs, but eventually relented and agreed to one quick game. Then Alyssa refused to play. This didn't surprise me too much as she can be shy at times and was probably nervous about "performing." We tried to tell her that the outcome didn't matter but she wouldn't budge.

Surprisingly, though, Richie volunteered in her place. The boy, Sean (I think) who is probably in 1st grade or maybe 2nd, said something funny to me like "don't worry, I'll go easy on him." I was glad to hear that as I wondered how Richie would react to losing, and breaking his "undefeated" streak (since I've always let him win our games in the end before the tears start rolling). Sean proceeded to purposely hang most of his pieces, even pointing out as he moved his queen en prise that Richie could take it if he wanted to. They played out and with a little help from me we maneuvered Richie into winning with a bank rank mate. Richie was thrilled with his "win" and left with a glowing smile on his face. And was it a tiny spark of genius or an accident when on one move he ignored my wife's recommendation to take a pawn with his bishop and instead snapped up a rook across the board?

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