Thursday, November 12, 2009

Ray Robson achieves Grandmaster title

With Ray Robson reaching Grandmaster status, I thought I'd revisit this chart showing the ratings histories of some of the top junior chess players in the country (and Richie). This list is just representative. There are many other very strong chess players in each age cohort, but these were the ones that I was interested in comparing. [Edit: I had to republish this chart because Richie was upset to discover that he wasn't blue like Ray Robson. So sorry Ray Robson, but you're now magenta...]

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

2009 Grade National Chess Championship Player List

Last year when we went to the SuperNationals I had a spreadsheet where I recorded the players in the K-1 section. I used it to keep track of the top handful of players names and most recent ratings on the USCF website. Due to the lag between the most recently used USCF supplement and the actual tournament date, current ratings will often be a better indicator of playing strength than the listed rating from the official tournament publications.

I have a small story which probably says too much about chess parents in general and me in particular. Before the first round I was chatting with another parent as our kids played some practice games. The subject of ratings came up and we talked a little about how impressive some of the top players were. Then he reached into his bag and surreptitiously handed me a piece of paper. Imagine my surprise as he said, "I've recorded all of the most recent ratings from the USCF website. You can use this to see how strong your kids opponents really are." As I imagined the two of us (and who knows how many others) clicking through the torturous USCF website and scribbling down the latest ratings in the wee hours of the night, I got to thinking that there was probably a better way to do this.

This year, to spare myself the trouble, I wrote a small program to do the work for me. Once I had the data and a way to refresh it easily, I needed a nice way to put it on the blog. I found this is a neat applet to publish data on the internet from Socrata.

And voila! I will be keeping this as up-to-date as possible until the tournament start.

2009 Grade National Chess Tournament, Dallas TX

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Heat map of number of entries by state.


Monday, November 9, 2009

Chess In The Schools

A couple of weeks ago, Richie and Alyssa played in their first Chess-In-The-Schools Tournament. For those who don't know, CIS hold free tournaments throughout the academic year at public schools in the NY City school districts. Amazingly, CIS is one of two separate free chess programs in NYC (along with The Right Move) which co-exist alongside several well-organized and popular paid alternatives (NYChessKids, National Scholastic Chess Foundation, Continental Chess Association and several private schools that hold their own regular tournaments. There's even the Marshall Chess Club for higher rated players).

If you are at all a follower of scholastic chess you'll be familiar with the exceptional performance of certain NY public school chess teams at national scholastic tournaments. Many of these schools serve lower-income and minority residential areas which demonstrates quite convincingly that chess is an equal opportunity mind sport. After visiting the infamous IS318 (home of chess instructor extraordinaire, Elizabeth Vicary), it's really quite obvious to me why these schools are able to consistently turn out nationally competitive teams. (Observant readers will be able to make Elizabeth out in the photo).

If ever a picture was worth a thousand words, the few I post here certainly would make a short novel. When the top chess players in the school are prominently lauded on a chess hall of fame, and the hallways are decked with championship banners and newspaper clippings of past conquests and students have access top enthusiastic and top flight chess coaching, it's no mystery at all why IS318 is a perennial top-runner in team competitions.
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