Monday, October 19, 2009

Clicky clicky clicky - that's the sound of a chess tournament

Warning: this is an attempt at an objective report which veers off into hero worship and parental pride overdrive.

Today I attended my first chess tournament, accompanying Marcus and four schoolmates to the State Junior Championships in Launceston. Today was also the school swimming carnival, so many of the more experienced chess players were otherwise engaged with tumble-turns, negative splits and so on. Thus South Hobart fielded an inexperienced but keen team, with one Grade 6er, one Grade 3er and 3 Grade 2s.

We had to get on the road at 7am to make it by the 10.00 registration deadline. Liam from over the hill came with Marcus and I. We breezed in at 9.56 with the rest of our delegation already there and having kittens. (The venue was Launceston Church Grammar School, attended by my Dad in the fifties. I pictured him walking the hallowed halls with young knobbly knees and a straw boater).

The kids had a tough agenda - nine matches each with half an hour off for lunch. The tournament was held in the large hall. Each player was limited to 15 minutes, timed by a special chess clock at each board. After each move a player had to click their side of the clock. The clicking frenzy at the start of each round was amazing, as less thinking time is required for the fairly standard opening moves.

There were 180 players, playing at 90 numbered boards. After each game winners would meet a tougher opponent, and losers an easier opponent. Parents were asked to sit around the fringes and not cruise up and down around the boards. This was made difficult by the sheer number of stackable chairs that had been left in the hall. It probably seats about 800; - 180 chairs were in use, leaving many, many piles of chairs around the perimeter. Some of us hovered awkwardly for the whole day, others took the hint and went to explore the cosmopolitan joys of the Mowbray area.

Marcus started strongly, with two wins and two draws from his first five games. A draw is worth half a point, a win worth one. He had his heart set on getting 5 points. Angus, our elder statesman, also had 3 points from 5 games. I think at that stage we were 12th out of 16 schools.

After lunch Marcus only picked up one point from his last 4 games, finishing with 4. Angus finished strongly with 3 wins from the last 4 games for a total of 6 points. Lachie, Oscar and Liam scored 3, 2·5 and 0·5. In the end we were 14th. Liam played nine games, without a win, but was never disheartened or gave less than his best - I was really proud of all the boys.

Marcus was initially disappointed to fall short of his last tournament score. I pointed out that he was playing today at a higher level, against the best in the state, from all primary grades. Beating three of them was a fantastic effort. All nine opponents are rated above him. By the end of the day Marcus' rating was up 24 points to 715, which puts him in the top 20 seven year olds in the national Chess Kids database. Er ... once I put him in the database that is.

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