Monday, February 28, 2011

NY State Championship, Michelle Obama, rook endings, an idea for a charter school, books, under sections, nationals

    I’m on the train coming home from the NY State (Scholastic) Championship in Saratoga Springs. Only half of us made the train, comically: we met an hour beforehand in the hotel lobby, but every cab company said it would be a couple hours (because it’s raining?!).  James Black’s dad talked a newspaper delivery van into taking as many of us as could squeeze in amongst the bundles of papers. The train was already in the station when we arrived, and we ran like lunatics to catch it. (Un?)fortunately for Galvin and the five kids who couldn't fit, the remaining train today is sold out and the bus is $45 one way (x 6), so they are staying in Saratoga another night.

            Justus Williams tied for first with Ben Gershenov in the high school section, and won on tiebreaks! Unfortunately, he doesn’t qualify for the Denker because you have to be in grades 9-12 and he’s only in 7th. IS 318 won the high school and junior high team championships.
            The kids played remarkably well: I didn’t fully realize this until Matan pointed out they weren’t hanging pieces in ridiculous ways like they did at Grade Nationals. One sixth grader, Kevin, spent 20 minutes (in a G/60) in the position after 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. e3. I’d just taught him the slav the night before, and I’d mentioned we would learn the semi-slav next (since 4...dxc4 doesn’t make much sense in that position—white can just play 5. Bxc4). So Kevin spends 20 minutes thinking about this position, trying to figure out the semi-slav at the board, and it just melts my heart: this kid was 600 2 months ago, is now 1450, and clearly is already a very serious player.
Kevin on move 4

Maya McGreen had a terrific tournament also, beating Lilia Poteat (1930) and another 1800, and gaining 100 rating points for a new high of 1623.
James Black writes in his chess journal.


            I basically don’t do endgames with my kids, mostly because I believe you hardly get (nontrivial) endgames until you are 2000 or so, especially in the G/30 that my kids normally are playing. However, I have one kid, Randy, who goes into rook endings all the time and wins 95% of them. He’s really a specialist/ magician. I think I’ve learned more about technique in rook endings from him than from anyone or any book.
             I had an idea for a charter school. It came to me at Amateur Team East, when I was yelling at my students for holding the North American Wrestling/Pillow-Fighting/Screaming Team Championships in room 539. I thought, ok, they can’t help it, they’re children who have been sitting still all day, so I took them to the exercise room. And then I thought: if I had a charter school, I would have mandatory forced runs for the first 90 minutes of school, and then when they are so exhausted they don’t even want to talk or fool around, then we have class. Also, they will not be obese.
            How bizarre are the attacks on Michelle Obama for promoting healthy eating? It’s amazing: I’m starting to think even if her cause was cancer research, republicans would be saying “why is the government interfering in our lives?”  My favorite was Rush Limbaugh’s comment, “Our First Lady does not project the image of women that you might see on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue or of a woman Alex Rodriguez might date every six months or what have you." The first lady isn’t slutty enough?!
            I’m reading a couple of interesting books: The Next Decade: Where We’ve Been and Where We’re Going (George Friedman) (I also enjoyed his earlier book, The Next Hundred Years), and The Emperor of All Maladies (Siddhartha Mukherjee), a very enjoyable history of cancer.
            Nationals are coming up. I think we are taking a small contingent (8-10) to girls nationals (Chicago April 9-10). Then we will take 58-59 to junior high nationals. I have no decent teams in any under sections this year, but I don’t care at all. We used to win those sections all the time a few years ago, because Chess in the Schools used to send in their tournament results really really late. But when you think about it, winning an Under section just means you have the most under-rated kids in the country. congratulations. Maybe they are under-rated because they got a lot better between the cutoff for the rating supplement and the tournament because you are an amazing amazing teacher, or maybe they are under-rated because someone artificially kept their ratings low, but who really cares? Winning an under section is a nice personal accomplishment, I'm not taking away from that, it's a impressive feat to go 7-0 or 6-1 or whatever, I'm just saying it's of absolutely no national significance.
            We’ll split the open section kids: put the top ones in the K-9 and the rest in the K-8 and see if they can win both. I'm proud to say we have 41 kids over 1250. Aside from obvious benefits of depth (someone can’t help but have an exceptionally lucky tournament), it also means I can do a lot more opening prep before rounds than most coaches.
            We’ll also go to high school nationals, just the top 10 kids or so, and if I can convince Galvin that we have a decent shot of winning elementary, we might go to the k-6. My life dream is to win the elementary, junior high, and high school, all in the same year. I understand this makes me an egomaniac.


Anonymous said...

It is only normal to want to win
every tournament your team enters.
If you are the greatest middle school in the country, and you clearly are, then why wouldn't you
want to win every tournament? Wouldn't the NY Yankees want to win
the World Series every year? I
coach a team that usually wins all
of our local tournaments. Our motivation isn't to win so much as set the record for most points. We don't necessarily compete against other schools, but against our own history. We also play up
and compete in high school tournaments. We never win the high
school tournaments, but we are above average there too. I'm sure
it is probably more satisfying for your players to win a high school
tournament than another middle school tournament. The most
challenging tournament for you would likely be an IS 318 in-house tournament. It might be called the
strongest middle school tournament
in the nation. Bottom-line: You
should never have to apologize to
anyone when you win, as long as your players and coaches display good sportsmanship.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Rush was alluding to the fact that the first lady looks like a man in drag. Although I agree that isn't relevant, since it is possible to be a healthy transvestite.

SC said...

I really enjoy reading your blog and have one puzzle for you - If IS 318 is ever in a bind for $270 (6 x $45) who should i call?

Anonymous said...

Just curious, why Justus played James in last round, as well as Ben played Michael B. Usually teammates do not play each other in scholastic competitions.

Elizabeth Vicary said...

thank you!
To donate money to the IS 318 chess team, you could send a check payable to IS 318 to
Elizabeth Vicary
IS 318 Chess Club
101 Walton St
Brooklyn, NY 11206.

We will send you a receipt that you can use for tax purposes.

If you wanted to donate money for special situations (train emergencies, kids who can't pay their family contribution to nationals (it's usually $100), etc), I have an email list that I'd be really happy to add you to. Just send me an email at

Steve Immit decided (after some thought) to do the pairings this way because many of the top scorers had already played, and there was no satisfactory pairing solution. His logic made sense to me, and he's an excellent TD, so I had no problem with it.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 9:49AM
What is a man is drag? You must be a homosexual and these must be your lesbian and homosexual terms ?

Anonymous said...

You kids are lucky, do they realize how much cost chess related expenses (training + tournaments) for chess playing kid?

Anonymous said...

How could you win High School Championship against Bronx Science (1 Senior Master, 2 National Masters) or Hunter (2 FIDE Masters with IM Norms, 4 Experts)?

Elizabeth Vicary said...

I know, right? Honestly, why do they even hold the tournament? They could just give the trpohies out to the highest rated people and save everyone the time and trouble.

Leon Akpalu said...

@ "How could you win High School Championship..."

I guess it all comes down to having the most under-rated kids again!

Philip Sells said...

I liked hearing about Kevin's concentration in the opening.