Tuesday, May 14, 2024

No Charge for Awesomeness, year 25

          8th grade team at Olympic Park in Atlanta

 Back from a successful Middle School Nationals! We won:

Under 1400 by 2.5 points. Angelica Pityniski tied for first (2nd on tiebreaks), Leo got 9th and Charlie Rozenfeld tied for 15th (16th on tiebreaks). 

Under 1100 by half a point. Oga Pearson came 12th. 

We came 6th in open, 4th in U700 and 8th in U900. Solomon Boyd won the U700 section and Tilly Hinkle tied for 30th. Cole Erickson came 20th in U900. 

How do we win so often, you ask? Good question! A few reasons:

1. numbers. We brought 51 kids. We had 12 in U1400 and 15 in U1100. In an under section, where all the kids have a similar rating, if you bring enough, four will have a good tournament. It won't be the same four on any given weekend: Ben Tabnick was the lead scorer in the HS U1200 but got 2/7 this weekend. 

2. It's my whole job: I'm at 318 full time. I don't have private students. If kids love chess at 318, they can be in class with me 5x45=3 h 45 min/week, go to chess club 4x 2=8 hours a week, come to morning and lunch chess (4 hours/week), do their chess homework (1 hour/week), go to a chaperoned Saturday tournament where all of their games are gone over (4-8 hours/week). That's 21-26 hours of meaningful chess practice a week for free. Even if you are so rich you can't see straight, it's hard to arrange that many hours of paid chess lessons. 

3. high school kids: I got some money from a generous sponsor to pay for recent 318 graduates to go to Grade Nationals and HS Nationals in exchange for coaching Saturday tournaments. I cannot even tell you how helpful having four assistant coaches every weekend is. Every kid gets every game looked at.  Sometimes an older peer is a better teacher than a grumpy adult. One ninth grader even came with me to Atlanta and coached all weekend, every round three hours. 

People like to complain about how Columbia Grammar and Speyer have a lock on the open section these days because they recruit the high rated kids with scholarships, but that doesn't bother me! I'm far left in my politics, so I'm into chess as a tool for social/economic mobility. I write teacher recommendations for both schools with great enthusiasm. 

I just no longer measure my performance by the top section. We won't win again, and that's ok. I think being able to win two Under sections every year with random neighborhood kids is what a chess program should aspire to, because that's what a public school is about: offering great education to everyone in your classroom. I can take a random child who doesn't play chess, teach them in a class of 30, and they score 5/7 and feel on top of the world. 

I do object to the private schools all being a year older, which is wildly and grossly unfair. (I was asked to explain this. In general, a private school first grader is 9-12 months older than a public school 1st grader. This allows private schools an enormous advantage in chess, sports, and really any comparison between public and private schools. When these private schools give scholarships to rising fifth graders, they make them repeat fifth grade. For example, PS 59 won the 2021 NY State Elementary Championship. Columbia Grammar recruited two siblings from the team, but made them repeat fifth grade. They won the same section of the same tournament the following year, as fifth graders, again. )

I also object to Sunil combining his teams. He coaches at Hunter College Campus Schools. He calls them Hunter College Campus School, but that's because he wants to treat them as one team and use 6th graders on his middle school team. In fact, there is a k-6 school and a 7-12 school. They have different principals. They describe themselves as separate schools on their website. USCF Scholastic regs define a school as "A school is defined as an institution which is under one Head of School and serves one student body." The Hunter website describes their school as "The Hunter College Campus Schools consist of an elementary school (kindergarten to sixth grade) and a high school (seventh to twelfth grades) with enrollments of 336 and 1200 students, respectively. "

Small towns might have a middle and high school with the same name that feed into each other, but they can't play together and Hunter shouldn't be able to either. Sunil did the same thing a few years ago with a middle and high school from Bronxville:

"Members of the Under-1900 team include Bronxville High School junior Jack Kochansky, sophomore Conner Stoltz, freshmen Nicholas Bianco and Calvin Golimbu and Bronxville Middle School eighth-graders Alexander Kupersmith and Tyler Tanaka-Wong. Additionally, Tanaka-Wong placed seventh in the individual category in the Under-1900 division. Meanwhile, freshman Liam Angelone and eighth-grader Edmond Hannigan competed in the Under-1600 division, according to a spokesman."