Tuesday, March 12, 2019

PHEW. WE PULLED IT OFF! WINNERS AGAIN.


In 2012, Weibel sent to the National Elementary School Championships the strongest team we have ever had. Considering our team average rating was hundreds of points above any other team in the K-6 Championship Division, I thought we were a shoo-in to win our second national title.  After the first two days our team just seemed to be falling apart-lose after lose.  On the last day after the next to the last round, I saw no way we could win.  I, candidly was exhausted and depressed.  I went back to my room and went to sleep figuring I would wake up to the inevitable lose since Weibel was known for never pulling out victories in the final round of play.  Instead I woke up to Weibel winning the first place trophy and tying for the Championship title.  All our players won their final games and the two teams ahead of us lost their final games. Phew!

Well, this weekend at the CalChess State Scholastic State Championships at the Santa Clara Convention Center,  I had another phew awakening.  A week before Weibel’s team average in the K-6 Championships, that is Kindergarten through Sixth Grade, was stronger than our perennial rival, Mission San Jose Elementary School.  In chess competition in the National and State competitions sections are designated open all players starting with Kindergarten and often determined closed by ratings, although you can sometimes pay extra to move a lower rated player into a higher rated or open division.  For example, if it is a K-3 Championship only those players in Kindergarten to Third Grade can play in it.  This is to allow teams the ability to bring in to the competition their top players.  Of course, if a top player who happened to be in Kindergarten was moved into the K-3 s/he might be forgoing the chance to win the Kindergarten section. So a coach might decide that for the sake of winning a team title s/he would deny the player, with of course, I hope, the parent and player’s consent.

The opposition coach made one of what I am sure he felt was one his usual brilliant strategic moves.  He moved all his strong players into K-6, bringing his team’s average to a few hundred points above ours.  Mission has a player in second grade, for example, with a rating of over 1700. Yup, unreal! He was now legally playing in the K-6 rather than the K-3.

I thought about following his move and moving non-sixth grade students with high ratings into the K-6 Championship.  This made even more sense when I realized that Weibel now had no competition in K-5 with Mission not fielding a team in that section.  However, Nikko Le, who is in fifth grade and rated over 1800 had never won a State Championship.  I told his Dad that I thought we could win K-5 without Nikko as there was no competition. I added, that, I felt our strong team of sixth graders, plus one fifth grader, who had early on moved into the K-6 without my asking,  might fall to Mission, I strongly supported Nikko playing in K-5 for the Championship. I felt that the spirit of this year’s outstanding sixth graders might just pull out a victory,

Day 1, Saturday, was, for the most part a disaster, in all sections, not just the K-6 Championships. The other sections competing on Saturday were the Kindergarten, the K-3 Junior Varsity,  the K-3 Beginners and the K-3 Rookie.  The K-6 Junior Varsity, K-6 Beginners and K-6 Rookies sections competed on Sunday.  Weibel also had players in the K-3, K-5 and K-6 Championships that took two days. Horner students still coming to Weibel made up the team in the K-8 Championship.

Even the K-5 Championships where, we had no competition, was not faring well.  I was especially surprised at the poor results our girls were having after their great showing at the Girls States one week earlier.  I did understand that, however, as it is difficult to maintain the intense energy for two weeks.

Our Kindergarten players provided, in my mind, the one positive outcome for the day.  They took a second as a team. This was a truly pleasant surprise as four of the six players had been brought up from the Club to the Team a few weeks before. This wonderful group of kids lost to Harker.  They had a player who had previously won the Kindergarten Nationals with a rating high above anyone else in the division.  Yes, she won the section but the rest of their players did not do as well as our kinders.  Kudos to Adrika Kashyap, Jasper Chung, Arush Shankar, Hayden Pratt, Shourya Navada and Amyra Bhatia.  I did not include in the above discussion another competitor for Weibel Siddhant Vivek. While he attends Weibel he is neither in the Team or on the Club. 

No attending Weibel Team player won a trophy in the K-3 Rookie.  Twenty trophies were awarded in each section plus those tied at the 20th place.  The organizers provided participation trophies for anyone with a winning record and medals to all others. Alex Chai received a participation trophy. Our Team took fourth of 29 teams.  OK, not bad, I guess, but not for this competitive coach. 

We fared a touch better in the individual results in the K-3 Beginner with Sahil Chopra placing seventh with 4 out of 5 games.  Vedant Thakker and Navin Saravanakumar took home participation trophies.  The other 11 players received medals.  Once again our team took fourth this time out of 24 teams. NOTE:  The team scores are based on the top four individuals who obtained the most points.  In this case it would be the top four of the 15 we had in the group.

The K-3 JV only had four teams and we placed second.  Mathew Miu, Wenbo Xi, Lucas Chiang and Lucas Immanuel Oh all tied for 16th.  Our seven other players went home with medals. I still am wondering what happened here because, as far as I am concerned we had a very strong field of K-3 Junior Varsity players. 

As I already implied, our K-3, K-5, K-6. K-8 Championship Division players were not faring much better when I went home to sleep it off.  I decided to just sleep and not set an alarm and ignore daylight savings time.  I knew Jason Cruz, one of our great Weibel reliable coaches who helped me set up our team room Saturday and went over our players games, as did Grand Master Enrico Sevillano, would be there bright and early to welcome back the Championship Division  and one day competitors in the K-6 JV and K-6 Beginner sections.  He called and woke me up inquiring if I had forgotten it was Daylight Savings.  I admitted I was a derelict  coach and decided to sleep-in.  By the way, in NY we say “sleep late.”  When I arrived at the convention center two hours late it appeared everyone understood—not my  feeling of failure, but that I was an ancient who needed his sleep.

The beginning of Sunday started out like Saturday and then as the later round rolled around.  I did feel good about the Mission San Jose coach pulling out his best player from the K-3 Championship because, while he was sure he could beat us in K-3, he simply failed to realize, I believe due to tunnel vision about Weibel, that the Basis School in Fremont had a stronger team than his. My grandson was one of those four players,  Sadly, to say, he had his worst tournament ever, and he finished at the bottom of his team’s scoring.  One draw more on his part would have allowed Basis a clear victory.  Basis did get the first place trophy, but MSJE tied for the Championship. Weibel finished third as I expected.  Vivaan Parhar and Ryan Chen tied for 17th place. Louis Love Le took home a participation trophy,

As I watched the results posted after each round my confidence dropped lower. Fallon Middle School was leading in all the one day K-6 divisions we had players in as well as the K-8 Championship Division. They have developed an outstanding program under the excellent organization of Eric Lai in Dublin.  While I didn’t mind losing to an unassuming likeable coach like Eric, I still didn’t like losing.  Surprise, surprise. 

Well, we did lose the K-6 Beginner by two points, taking second of 16 teams.  We had one big victory there with second grader Mintai Ye winning first place without losing a game to any of the older grade students.  Yes, he should have played on Saturday in the K-3 Beginner, but he had another commitment and so his parents placed him in the K-6 Beginner on Sunday.  I did express some concern because last year when a couple of parents did this their children lost most of their games against the older competitors. I am glad they ignored my concerns. Aditi Singamaneni tied for 20th in this section.

In the K-6 JV Kevin Xu had one his best tournaments ever tying for third.  Eric Seto, Anish Shankar, Sara Kuntjara (2nd grade) and Ved Desai took home participation trophies.  While we did take a second to Fallon Middle School by half a point, we did beat Mission by half a point. 

Right before the final round, in the Championship Division, Su Le, Nikko’s Dad came in smiling.  He told me he just analyzed the last pairings and said there was a great chance Basis would beat Mission in the K-3 Championships and for us to tie or even beat Mission in the K-6 Championships.  I think I had already given my rip roaring inspiration speech to the players where I just hoped to inspire them to win their own last games.

I listening to Su and his analysis raised my hopes enough to cross my fingers.  I went down to the trophy awards ceremony to take my pictures still with crossed fingers as the results had not yet come in.  It seemed like an eternity as Salman Azhar  gave out the trophies for the other divisions whose results he had.  The K-3 came in early and I heard the Mission coach walk by me and in a sotto voce undertone that was load enough for me to hear say “well, all that matters is the K-6 as that is the big one, but I don’t know the results yet.”  I uncrossed my fingers knowing we would do it.  And, while we did not win outright we  The icing on top of the cake was our third win with our Weibel players as Horner pulled ahead of Fallon winning the K-8 Championship by one point. 

If we had lost the K-6 Championship, I likely would have kept questioning my decision to act like the Mission coach and place all my top players in that division.  I was glad my faith, despite a day of doubt, in the superiority of our team was well placed.  I give thanks to their excellent coaches, Grand Master Enrico Sevillano, Demetrius Goins (Owner of Shoreview Chess whose players won a number of Club Team Championships), Frisco  DelRosario (who appeared Saturday to help go over games), Jason Cruz and Bada Norovasambuu.

In the K-6 our Vincent Yang (1725) tied for the Championship title with Mission San Jose’s Allyson Wong (1794).  Yesun Lee (1776), fresh off her victory at State Girl’s Championships, tied for second.  Ryan Tiong tied for sixth place.  Chau-Ha Nghiem(1119), Reyansh Samanta(1137), Sabrina Kuntjara(1380) tied for eighth Kevin Arakkal (1013) tied for 18th.  All my love!

In the K-8 Championship, Dharshan Vetrivelan tied for second.  Krish Gangal tied for fourth. Prisha Jain tied for eighth. Two of our top players were not in the section with Umesh Gopi (1591) playing in the three day K-12 division and Oliver Wu (2049) deciding to sit it out and come up on Sunday to cheer his teammates on. 

Last, but never least, was our K-5 Champion Team members.  Nikko Le(1813) did meet his goal and tied for the Championship. YES!!!  Shruti Nath tied for fifth.  Mai-Ha Nghiem finished tied for 11th. Obviously, if you have been reading through my report, you have become aware that our girls got their mojo back on Sunday.   Ekansh Samanta, Shreyansh Suraparju and Edward Miu tied for 15th. Mihika Deshpande, Akarsh Khare and Reyansh Gangal tied for 20th.

I want to thank all the parents who gave up their weekend to join their children at the CalChess State Scholastic Championships.  This parental support, I am sure, provides the strength our players have to strive hard and continuously improve their chess skills.

Special Kudos go out to Judit Sztaray for organizing an excellent State Championship.  I know personally how difficult a task this is. Her seriousness of purpose and dedication to excellence is a pleasure to see.  Over the years she has listened to advice, analyzed why things went wrong and found ways to improve on the weaknesses.  

As soon as I can obtain a photo of the K-5 Championship Division I will add it.  All my photos will soon be available at http://www.CalNorthYouthChess.org/photographs.html








Sunday, March 3, 2019

CAISSA SHINES DOWN ON THE WEIBEL GIRLS’ CHESS TEAM


CAISSA SHINES DOWN ON THE WEIBEL GIRLS’ CHESS TEAM

Saturday, March 2, 2019, the CalChess Girls State Age Level Championship was held in the new Berkeley Chess Center.  Berkeley Chess School(BCS) transformed this former church into a Temple for Caissa, the goddess of chess.  The interior allowed the worshippers to view chess history throughout the building. The 100 young nymphs that showed that day not only played Caissa’s game but spent their energy in a beautiful playground in the Temple’s  cloister.

Caissa gave her grace, as she has done for so many years before to the Weibel Elementary School’s  girls’ chess teams.  Weibel girls won the School Team and the Club Team championship in the open 5 to 17 year old open division which was created to provide all the best of the best girls to compete to win a $1000 scholarship to attend the All-Girls Nationals in Chicago on April 12-14.  Four of our girls competed in this division.  Yesun Lee(12 years old and a USCF rating of 1776) tied for first and won $500 to attend the Nationals,  Shruti Nath(10, 1311) tied for third.  Sabrina Kuntjara (12, 1380) placed 5th in the section,  yet brought home the second place trophy for the 12 year old group. Three of the players in the top five were under 12 and failed to obtain trophies.  Although they were not playing for trophies, as I am sure they have loads, I am sure a little more recognition for their placement, like a chess book or even a certificate would have been nice. 

ASIDE:  Yesun will attend the All-Girls Nationals, but sadly despite winning eight Girls’ Nationals since 2011 a Weibel team will not be attending.  Our parents and I failed to take heed of the organizer’s warning that the hotel might sell out their rooms early.  They did in early fall as did the nearby hotels due to a popular convention that same weekend. 

Yesun Lee, who was admitted to the Weibel Chess Hall of Fame in 2018 for breaking the USCF’s 1600 rating, will have State Champion listed next to her name.  She will be joined in our Hall of Fame by Mihika Deshpande and Charlene Kwok who tied for first place in the 11 year old division.  Chau-Ha Nghiem tied for fifth place.  Sadly, BCS did not award trophies for those tied for the final position that has been the tradition in our State Championships.

Mai-Ha Nghiem (1209) took second in the tenth grade division.  From my perspective, this was a far more difficult task than that faced by her 11 year old teammates for she faced Kally Wen a USCF 1733 player who by all logic should have entered the National Scholarship Section.  

BCS awarded team trophies for combined age groups and not individual ages.  Weibel Chess dominated the team 10-11 year old team field winning both the School and Club Championships. 

Our younger chess players and teams did not fare as well.

In the nine year old division none of our players finished in the top five. In the eight year old section Sara Kuntjara did tie for fifth, but failed to meet the trophy cut-off.  Our team in the  8-9 Age Division finished second for schools and third for clubs.

In the Seven Year Old Division,  Eliana Cai, tied for third and as noted above, sadly and with tears, went home without a trophy thanks to the failure of BCS to follow tradition and the practiced by the United States Chess Federation at their Nationals.  Weibel did win second in the 5-7 Year Age Group Team Championships despite only one player in the 5 and 6 year old sections. 

Our young girls are all new to chess this year and with the grace of Caissa, the outstanding instruction of our teachers as well as their beautiful comradeship they will flower in the tradition of our past girls’ teams.