Thursday, April 2, 2009

CT State K-1 Open Champion

Richie recently competed in the Connecticut State Scholastic Chess Championships and was fortunate enough to take the K-1 title. He scored 3.5/4.0 in the preliminaries and 3.0/4.0 in the finals. Due to the limited number of participants, however, he was playing in a combined K-3 group and ended up finishing with the highest score for Kindergarten or 1st graders. He won on a sort of technicality, however, because the actual highest 1st grade finisher (Julian Wang), was awarded the K-3 Open title which left Richie as the next highest finisher.

After it was all over, I guess it was worthwhile but I have to admit I had my doubts after the preliminary round. Unlike last year, which attracted probably over 200 players and was held at Yale University in a single day, this year's event was curiously split into two rounds. Only the top five resident finishers (and players rated higher than a pre-determined rating cutoff) were eligible for the finals. Also the finals were held in Storrs, CT which was quite a long way from home. I'm not sure if it was the tournament structure, or the effect of the recession, or what, but sadly the state championship only had about 60 players in all age groups. It was actually smaller than an ordinary weekend tournament in NY. The kindergarten and 1st grade sections had only six players (!) in the preliminaries which almost assured Richie of making the finals. Thankfully in the finals they combined his age group with older kids so at least he got to play a couple of rounds with opponents rated near his level.

He did have an enjoyable time, in part because a few of the players from his chess club (Alex Zarikos, Julian Wang) also did well.

As for his playing, I would have to say that it was a mixed result. He still appears to be unable to compete with 1000+ rated players. I'm curious to see what changes will occur in the next few months that will make him stronger than 1000 in practice. I already believe firmly that he is playing at a level at least on par with some of those kids but he doesn't seem to put it together during a tournament for some reason. His playing style is becoming more of an attacking, slash and burn style which is good against unrated opponents who offer little resistance, but some the soundness of his attacks is often more strictly tested by the slightly more seasoned 1000+ players.

In a warm up tournament in NYC, Richie had his first perfect score in a Reserve section tournament (for players rated over 800). In his play, I saw some more confident attacking skills coming into play like purposeful exchange sacrifices and creation of open lines with pawn moves. I would definitely characterize him right now as dangerous. Certain types of positions he can probably play like a 1200 player but clearly other types of games expose big holes in his knowledge base.

It will be interesting to see how he fares at the upcoming Supernationals.

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