A reader left a comment today asking who I thought the favorites are in the upcoming Grade Nationals. For me, it’s always fun to think about this, so what started as a comment-response has become a full fledged post.
Let’s start at the bottom:
The big question in the lower grades is how much it being in Texas will hurt the Florida teams and to what extent the recession will hurt New York. Here’s the basic story: almost all team firsts are won by schools in New York, Texas, or Florida (2007: NY 6, TX 4, FL 1; 2008 NY 7, TX 1, FL: 2). The tournament itself is held in Texas in odd-numbered years and Florida in even-numbered years. Texas teams are much less likely to travel, so they rarely score in even years. Florida kids do travel, but the Florida teams with the best chances are in the lower grades, which are the hardest to get to travel, and so they have some significant handicap in odd years.
Also, a lot the conspiracy-theory-minded East Coasters think the Texas kids have inflated ratings. It's fun to look at the results every year and see if it's true.
I'm sure the recession has hurt people everyone, but I suspect the tournament will show its greatest impact fell on the New York contingent. New York teams tend to be one of two types: either inner city public schools, which have traditionally paid for some or all of their students expenses, but will be much less able to this year because of significant citywide budget cuts, or private schools, the parents of which may have been especially hard hit by Wall Street layoffs.
Oak Hall (FL) always does well in kindergarten and first grade. I don’t follow the elementary grades so closely, but Hunter and Horace Mann are usually the teams to beat in 2-5. The NY Chess in the Schools programs seem much weaker to me this year: I doubt they will score in the elementary grades, though I’d be thrilled to be wrong.
I’ll spare you the false modesty in junior high school: I think 318 will win 6th and 7th, and they have a good chance at 8th grade. I'm sorry if it's obnoxious to say so.
The fifth grade was insanely competitive last year (5 teams within a half point of first going into the last round), but 318’s sixth grade team has Justus Williams (2128), James Black (1830), and Isaac Barayev (1785). (Top three scores in each grade count for the team score.)
Seventh grade is the “weakest” team, but it still has Shawn Swindell (1798), Danny Feng (1693), Rashawn Williams (1713), Joel Ogunremi (1603), Jakob Kobaljo (1596), JP Garcia (1498), Randy Rivera (1437), Aleem Awan (1416), and I’m forgetting someone maybe. I’m interested to see who wins the seventh grade individual this year—David Adelberg just broke master and will be the favorite if he plays, but there’s also Jarat Pamatmat (2184) and last year’s winner, Michael Bodek (2030).
Hunter could maybe win 8th if Alex Ostrovskiy (2153) goes, I think they also have Yuta Kakutani, who’s 1950, and a 1200. But 318 has Alexis Paredes (1934), Jehron and Nigel Bryant (1973, 1772), Miguel Garcia (1916), Pobo Efekoro (1796), Azeez Alade (1756), Rawn Prowell (1740), and Myles Foster (1693). It’s possible Canyon Vista in Austin has a fantastic 8th grade team also: George Qi and some more kids who were 18-1900 two years ago. They might easily be the favorites, the more I think about it.
Gilbert HS from Arizona won 9th grade two years ago and 10th grade last year, so they should be favorites in 11th this year. Bellaire High from Texas similarly won 10th two years ago and 11th last year, so probably they take 12th this year. Abby Marshall has to be the favorite in 12th grade after winning 11th grade last year and the Denker Tournament of High School Champions this summer.
Hard to say more than that before the pre entry deadlines have past. Maybe I'll do an update then. Any thoughts?
update: advance entries from CanyonVista:
Gr8 8 1988 Chang, Derek 12926166 1111 TX TXACVS
Gr8 8 1992 Chen, Steven 12946130 0812 TX TXACVS
Gr8 8 1726 Wang, Andy 13002173 0310 TX TXACVS
Gr8 8 1717 Xie, Kevin 13002036 1111 TX TXACVS
Eighth grade should be an exciting section!