We went up Launceston last Monday for the State chess finals.Our team was Marcus, Tom, Fergus, Joe and Izzy. None of the other parents could make it, so Elf came along to share the driving and supervising/encouraging duties. And that meant Michael had to come along too, and he fell into his accustomed low-key support role combined with some puppety bouncing around. The school paid for us to hire a people-mover for the day, which was really good of them.
We started brilliantly. Our captain Marcus won his first 4 games, and everyone had some points after round 4 (one point for a win, half for a draw). Our newest player Izzy had 2 wins, and some of the boys started to get nervous they might miss out on medals. Team score is based on your 4 highest scorers, and if the team places, only those 4 get the medals - always a tricky situation. The team as a whole were doing so well that medal allocation seemed like a problem we may well be dealing with by the end of the day.
Marcus was still unbeaten after 6 games and in equal 3rd. His 6th game was a superb win against a quality player rated well above Marcus. Marcus knew the other boy sometimes ran into time problems (each player has a 15 minute limit) and so he just kept setting up awkward situations where his opponent had to spend time deciding what to do. One rushed poor decision put him into an unwinnable position, and he resigned.
Meanwhile Joe who had a slow start was winning and not worrying so much about medals. Izzy plateau'd after her early success then won, and won again. Fergus had 5 points after 7 rounds and looked like a million dollars. Tom won his first 2 then lost 4 on the trot, and was starting to think about missing medals again.
At one point the team were equal-3rd. In the run home Marcus lost two in a row. He felt they were opponents he should have beaten, but he didn't make mistakes - he was just outplayed. Joe ended up winning his last five straight! Tom bounced back and won his last three. The sky had seemed the limit for Fergus but he lost his last 2 matches. The scores we finished with were Marcus and Joe 6.5, Fergus 5, Tom 5 and Izzy 4.
We were a little disappointed to have slipped in the placings - at some stage I think each of us had started to dream of getting a podium finish. As we sat and waited for the tallying to be completed, Marcus was a little emotional. Michael made us very proud by comforting him, and said quietly to Elf "I think when you are very good at something it must be hard when you don't do so well".
We finished in equal 5th, but 6th on countback. As the top 5 qualify for an invitation to the National Interschool Finals, I thought we had just missed out. Some of the kids thought it was announced that we had qualified, but when nothing came in the email during the subsequent week I told everyone that I didn't think so. And in fact I was a bit relieved because I (and I'm sure some other parents) didn't fancy finding money for flights and accommodation at short notice.
Then to my surprise, an email came yesterday, 8 days after the finals, with some details about the Nationals - which are in just 4 short weeks. I got in touch to clarify, and it turned out that if teams are equal 5th, they are all invited and countback is ignored. So we were in! I dutifully emailed the school and said I was prepared to go with the team, but we had better get fundraising pronto if we are going to get a team over there. I imagined parents thinking, like me, that it's lovely to earn an invitation but it's just money we don't have to spare.
Lo and behold the school, the school association and our sensational ex-principal have all today said they are so delighted the school chess team has achieved this, that they are going to contribute what's required to get us over there. There may have been school sports teams travel interstate before during our 8 year-long involvement, but I can't actually remember any. This is quite a big deal, and I am blown away that everyone is recognising that.