Saturday, December 07, 2013

South Hobart go to the Chess Nationals

Marcus and I had a couple of days in Melbourne with the school chess team, at the National Schools Chess Championships. The team was Marcus, Fergus, Joe and Tom. The Ed Dept rules say that all interstate school excursions must be accompanied by a teacher, so the principal Cathy Franz decided to come with us. She reasoned that she could do a lot of her work remotely, unlike class teachers. Cathy actually paid her own way to Melbourne as well as personally donating to help cover the families' costs. Our former principal Greg Turner also donated.

Cathy picked up Marcus and I and then Fergus at 4.30am. Joe's dad Andrew dropped Joe and Tom off at the airport shortly after we arrived. All aboard with no problems. I sat with the Grade 4s Ferg & Tom, who played iPhone games. Cathy sat behind with the Grade 6s Joe and Marcus, who had a couple of games on the magnetic chess board as we crossed Bass Strait.

Last time I was at Tullamarine I waited half an hour for a cab, but we had no trouble getting a taxi van to Queens College, our home for the next 2 days. A nice fella named Ross intercepted us on our way in and showed us the ropes. Magnetic keys etc. Rooms were small but fine, with very high ceilings. The college is quite fetching, castellated buildings in classic Oxbridge style. Our rooms were just a short walk across the quad from the dining hall which was also the competition venue.

We had a bit of settling in time, then Day 1 of the tournament kicked off. The day panned out like this;
  • Marcus: win loss win win
  • Tom; loss loss loss win
  • Joe: loss win loss loss
  • Fergus: loss win loss win
Tom’s third game was one he should have had no trouble with - but he was very tired and a bit headachey. He had a panadol and came out very well in his 4th game. After winning his first game, Marcus was sent to the Nº 1 table to play the top seed, Kris Chan. He aimed to hang on for 20 moves and just managed it. (Marcus is rated about 940 and Kris about 1550).

Joe and Fergus (both mid 600s) lost a couple of games against high 800 rated players. Considering our early start to the day, it was great to finish off strongly with three wins from the four final round games. In all we scored 7 points from a possible 16 and were placed 17th of 23 schools at the end of the day. Our boys were all hoping to get at least one win in the tournament, and they had all achieved that by the end of Day 1.

Cathy paid for a wristband to have access to the "VIP Suite", where one-on-one coaching and seminars were offered. Marcus went through his games with a coach; later Joe took the wristband and listened in to some seminars on strategy and tactics.

We had penne bolognaise for dinner, floppy penne but good chunky sauce - needed black pepper though. Boys all seem happy with the food, apparently it is superior to that dished up on the recent Canberra trip. After dinner we just took a walk around the University area, then put everyone to bed by 8.30. The boys each had their own room; we considered pairing them up with mattresses on the floor but they were all content to be on their own. Neither Cathy or I heard a peep all night.

Day 2 of competition turned out to be very tough. Tom improved on his Day 1 effort, getting a win and a draw. The other boys only mustered two draws between them, for a return of 2.5 points from a possible 12. We slipped to finish 22nd - which was disappointing after such a good Day 1, but reflected our position as equal 5th in Tasmania. The boys were not downhearted and showed excellent sportsmanship.

We walked them down to Lygon Street for ice-cream, and a visit to Readings bookshop, which was our only off-campus excursion of the two days. On the way we talked about the differences between Carlton and South Hobart – I think the preference was for South Hobart. When we got back to Queens it was time to head to the airport. Although worn out, the team were well behaved and I was proud to be out in public with them.

It was a great experience for the boys and hopefully will have good spin-off effects on the rest of the school as well. Thanks to the parents, the School Association, staff and students and especially Greg Turner, Cathy Franz and school business officer Bev Thomas for supporting our trip.

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