The longest continuously running US Chess rated scholastic championships is the Greater New York Scholastic Championships. It is the only scholastic event that is both an American Classic and a Heritage event! This year was the Golden Anniversary as the event was originated by Bill Goichberg in 1966 and was not held in 2004! Bill and the Continental Chess Association passed on the tournament to Steve Immitt and Alan Benjamin in 1986 with Steve combining all four events (High School, Junior High, Elementary and Primary) in 1995. In 2005 the Kasparov Chess Foundation came to rescue due to financial constraints of the event and has been the sole sponsor and owner ever since. Sophia Rohde, of the Little House of Chess and Steve Immitt of Chess Center of New York have performed the organizational duties. This year was the largest event in the 50 year history at over 1200 players which rivals or even surpasses many USCF Scholastics!
Former World Champion Garry Kasparov, KCF’s Chairman, visited Golden Anniversary event both days. The legendary champion toured team rooms chatting with players, coaches, parents and signed books, boards, score books, and even some fashionable chess shoes!
Garry also had time to chat with another invited guest US Women’s Champion, GM Irina Krush. They both found time to stop by the Women in Chess booth and gave encouragement and advice to young up and coming girls.
I have been serving as the floor chief for this tournament for the past three years. Every year I have had a small child come to me and ask for my autograph thinking I was Garry Kasparov! I don’t think there is much resemblance and there is certainly no resemblance in my games!
This year I was chatting with Kasparov Chess Foundation Executive Director Michael Khodarkovsky and a small child and his parent asked for Michael’s autograph thinking he was Garry! At least that one was MUCH closer!
One other entertaining episode ws retold Kimberly McVay, member of the US Chess Women’s Committee who was running the Women in Chess booth: Michael joined me at the booth and one girl approached him and asked to sign her scorebook. Michael said – I’m not Garry Kasparov. I know the girl replied. “Do you know my name?” Michael asked smiling, “Yes, you are Michael Khodarkovsky” – she smiled back to him. The dialogue continued: “What is your name?” – “Erica”, “I will gladly sign your scorebook” – said Michael and graciously wrote encouragement words to Erica.
This tournament does not yet have a World Champion among its alumni, but we are getting close! Hikaru Nakamura is a past Champion and Fabiano Carauna has played four times when he was a child (though surprisingly he never won it)! Because this year was the Golden Anniversary, we invited GMs and IMs who have won the tournament in each of the past decades to be honored at the opening ceremony. Unfortunately, GM Nakamura was unable to attend due to his tournament schedule, but we did have several representatives. We wanted to have a representative present from each decade. One of the honorees was IM Danny Kopec who played in the first even in 1966! Here are the GMs/IMs who were representing all past players:
1960s IM Danny Kopec
1970s GM Joel Benjamin & GM Michael Rohde
1980s GM Joel Benjamin
1990s GM Irina Krush
2000s GM Alexandr Lenderman & GM Robert Hess,
2010s IM Alexander Ostrovskiy
Due to the sheer size of the tournament, it is held in multiple sections with Championship Sections being conducted with six games over two days at G/60 and “Under” sections being conducted with 5 games in one day either Saturday or Sunday at G/30. This year the Kindergarten, Primary and one Junior High Under sections were Saturday and the Elementary and High School Under sections were on Sunday. Younger players would be eligible for a section on Saturday and an Under section on Sunday. Many took advantage of this and played 5 games each day!
Late Sunday afternoon, I was approached by a parent and asked if anybody had ever entered two separate tournaments and gone 10-0. Given my limited history (and even more limited memory), I didn’t immediately know the answer. However, at least one player has accomplished this feat: Hikaru Nakamura won the Primary Championship and the Elementary Varsity in 1997 both with 5-0 scores!
This year a young child who wants to be like Nakamura, or more accurately (Magnus Carlsen – sorry Hikaru) nearly equaled the feat. Seven year old second grader Henry Greengrass was a Primary Under 1000 Co-Champion on Saturday at 5-0. His score also led his team, PS 166 to the team title. As a champion and team champion, he won 16 months of free entries into CCA tournaments!
On Sunday, Henry nearly did it again. He started 4-0 and was on board 1 of the Elementary Under 1000 section. Had he won the last round it is possible he would have had four firsts (two team and two individual). Unfortunately, he lost the last round (as did some teammates) and though he still won an individual trophy and helped his team win a team trophy, he didn’t sweep the event! Hikaru’s record is safe for now, but young Henry has many more tries!
Henry has only been playing chess two years. I asked him what he wants to be when he grows up and of course he said a GM and a chess player! His favorite player is Magus Carlsen because he said Magnus plays good games. Even though Henry has been playing a short time, he said he gains experience playing in Washington Square Park (think Searching for Bobby Fischer). I asked Henry if he was taking the money from the hustlers, but he said he is not. Somehow I think they better be careful!
Any tournament report of course must cover the top section champion. This year the tournament’s highest rated player took him clear first. Tenth grader from Ethan Li from Melville High School scored 5 1/2 out of 6 in the two day High School Championship section. His only draw was to second seeded James Black in the last round. The game ended in a draw on move 28, but the times used by the players may have been a bit surprising. On move 13, both players had only used two minutes each! By the end of the game, Li used 30 minutes and Black 14 minutes. While it is G/60, I thought that a bit surprising.
While the last game may have been somewhat anti-climactic, the penultimate round was not. Going into the round, there were two perfect scores, Li and 3rd seeded Alisher Podavonov from Brooklyn Tech. Li won an interesting game. The position was relatively equal for the first 30 moves, but with both players running a bit short of time, Li found a way to win.
Two other games of note are James Black’s win over Tyrone Davis in round 5 and Isaac Bareyev’s win over John Chen from Stuyvesant. Black and Davis finished tied for 3rd as did Bareyev. Chen finished in the top 10 finishing in a tie for 8th.
Often the best scholastic players bypass scholastic tournaments because they are too good and it is not worth their time. The Greater NY Scholastics have found a way to incentivize top players. The top four individuals and top two teams receive free entries to select CCA tournaments for up to a year! Of course a player wining a top individual prize can be on a team and can win more than a year. This prize can be worth thousands of dollars in free entries!
Another player of note is 3rd grader Nico Chasin. As an expert, he could have easily won the Primary Championship section. He probably could have won the Elementary Championship section. However, he wanted to play in a more competitive section. He played in the Junior High School section (without his team). Though he was seeded 4th, he “only” won 5th place, he didn’t win CCA entries. He started 4-0 and only lost to the first and fourth seeds. Playing two sections up was a conscious decision on his part because he wanted to test himself against better players rather than go for the short term prizes. One has to admire the “purist” attitude!
. Unfortunately, we were not able to start the rounds on time. The first day we ended the event two hours late and the second day we were one hour late. For the inconveniences experienced by the players we sincerely apologize and because we were continually asked why (given we have a pretty good track record of starting on time), I feel we owe a brief explanation. One of the biggest reasons is that this tournament set a modern record for attendance. This year we had over 1200 players versus 973 last year. Over 300 extra players with the same amount of staff and same size tournament venue caused us numerous challenges. Moving forward, we may have to plan for a much larger tournament even though this tournament has “only” drawn 1000 players for most of the last decade. We thank the players, parents, and coaches for their understanding and appreciate their support.
Now on to a bit more happy news. In any scholastic tournament, I am continually amazed by all the unique incidents that happen especially with young inexperienced children. This tournament is no different. In fact given its sheer size, this tournament I’m sure we have more stories. I’d like to share a few – though I’m sure many more occurred. This is almost a Ripley’s believe it or not though I can assure you they are all true. Names have been withheld to protect the children. 🙂
The first funny story occurred in the championship room which is unusual since this is usually the most experienced players. Nonetheless during a round a young child came into the room dribbling a basketball. Section chief, National Tournament Director, Harold Stenzel was not amused and immediately put a stop to this behavior. You might even say that Stenzel went ball – istic!
Toward the end of the round, TDs start watching the last games in order to get the rounds going. In the Under 1000 and Under 50 and Under 400 sections, you just never know what you will see. Fortunately, we now have rules which can help us. Many players may not know there is a 75 move rule and a 5 fold repetition rule that allows a TD to declare a draw after 75 moves without a pawn move or a capture an after 5 repetitions even if the players do not claim a draw. These rules are invaluable! I watched a K+Q versus lone king. The player with the queen did not know how to checkmate and just chased the king around the board. After 75 moves, we could stop this. Similarly we had a 5 fold repetition on which the young child had no plan!
Not all games end with these rules though. I saw a K+R versus K+R. I told a TD to start counting. Shortly after that (not enough time for 75 moves), I saw the game was over. I said, so they agreed t a draw. No, one player got checkmated. In fairness this happened to me once 35 years ago in a scholastic tournament. We got to K+R versus K=R an I offered a draw. My opponent declined and lost! Another game from this year went to K, R, N. versus K+R. I told a director to count, but it was not necessary – one player hung a rook!
However, the most unusual case was a castling situation. I was called to the board. White castled with his king from d1 to f1 and his rook from H1 to e1. Both players agreed the king and queen were set up incorrectly and the king had not moved. So now the question is can the king still castle (blitz rules). Six NTDs could not agree. I eventually was about to rule that the king could not castle (this is not a blitz game). I was originally annoyed because I told all directors to make sure starting positions were correct. I thought maybe a director missed it because black had he pieces set up correctly. Then just as I was about to make the ruling, I determined that the K+ Q were set up correctly and the K moved to d1. I pointed this out to the players and they both said Oh you are right!
Mixed doubles prizes are now becoming quite popular. We only offered them in the High School Sections this year. The winning mixed doubles was Ella Papanek and Anthony Asseviro . Ella and Anthony both tied for second in the High School Under 1900 section. One interesting thing is that the best players (particularly in the high school sections) tend to be good in many aspects of their lives and tend to be trying to balance academics and chess. This tournament was no different and often players used their time between rounds to catch up on their academic work rather than chess.
National Tournament Director (NTD) Steve Immitt was the chief tournament director. NTD David Hater served as floor chief. Section chiefs were NTDs Harold Stenzel and Susan Breeding. Sophia Rohde assisted with site coordination. Danny Rohde served as assistant organizer and event coordinators. Nils Grotnes performed the webmaster duties. Other staff members included pairing chiefs Jabari Mcgreen, Hector Rodriguez and Polly Wright. Other staff included: Brother John Mcmanus, Hal Sprechman, Ron Young, Pito Rodriguez, Steve Flores, Valicia Palha, Maya McGreen, Mariah McGreen, Kofi Mcgreen, Beena McGreen, Mel Romero, Oscar Garcia, Jim Mullanaphy, Danny Mason, Harry Heublum, Jack Heublum, Nicholas Oblak, Karsten McVay, and Dr Lisa Griesman. The tournament could not have succeeded without them!
Full tournament details can be found at www.gnyscc.com.