USCF Home Chess Life Online Todd on the K-12s: The View from Coach's Corner
|Todd on the K-12s: The View from Coach's Corner|
|By FM Todd Andrews|
|December 16, 2009|
Originally I had no intention to attend the K-12 National Scholastics (Dallas, December 11-13), because I did not really have many students going to play. While my stronger teams in Nashville are planning to attend some of the "major" scholastic, national events that are traditionally held in the Spring, no one really had the K-12 event, where kids only play those in their respective grade, circled on their calendar. In fact, I passed over this event entirely during my own scholastic chess career in lieu of the bigger events and now I find regret in doing so.
The K-12 Nationals has the feel of a "mini-Super Nationals." Just like the famous event that has put Nashville on the chess map, you will find the cute, little babies playing in one room with the students awaiting their college acceptance letters in another. Well over 1200 students made their way to the HIlton Anatole in Dallas this year to see if they could become the best in their grade. A few weeks before the event I was hired by the USCF sales department (also The House of Staunton) to come and lend a hand anyway that I could. It would turn out to be a blast!
Once my flight was booked, I had to ensure I had, at least, one horse in the race and one of my kids came along with his father just for the experience and to train for the upcoming Nashville Scholastic City Championship. Colin Smith is a first grader at St. Paul Christian Academy in Nashville. I began teaching him when he was a kindergartener and, without a doubt, he is my hardest working student. I have a feeling that Colin will turn out to really be something, because he has the same characteristic trait that I recall myself having when I was kid - he not only loves to play chess, but he loves to study chess. Out of all the kids I have taught over the past decade, the ones who can spend all day studying have always been the ones that come out on top when it comes time to do battle on the board. The first two Nationals Champs I coached had this quality and after 7 tough rounds, Colin collected his first National Title and he made his coach and his father especially proud.
While Colin had a great weekend, the "Best Weekend Ever" Award goes to a young man named James Black of the powerful IS 318 school in Brooklyn, who impressed me very much with his play and his attitude. I know the coaches of his school very well, so James caught my eye the first day of the event when he was playing on board 1 in the K-6 Blitz section in the final round. He convincingly won that event, then went on to lead his team to a National Title in the 6th grade with 6.5 points out of 7 which amounted to a clear first place individual title of his own. To be a part of three US titles in one weekend has to be record of some sort. James' understanding of chess is solid and he has sharp tactical ability (although not quite sharp enough to take down the author in a post-tourney bughouse match). It was a pleasure to meet and hang out with James and his teammates and I am sure it will not be long before I am looking up his openings to prepare for him around the American open sections I participate in from time to time.
Working in a chess bookstore for the first time in my life was an entertaining and exhausting experience. The "crew" ( Mindi and BoBo, Amy, Korey, Zach and my own henchman Josh Wolff ) was a lot of fun to be around and when we were not running around trying to remember what our names were, we were goofing off having a great time working all weekend. The USCF sales offered, for the first time I had ever seen, a feature known as "the coach's corner" where I sat for most of the weekend looking over games and giving free chess lessons to any student in the event that wandered up. I also gave book recommendations, Chess Strategy for Kids and the Al Woolum Chess Tactics Workbook, and My System and Pawn Power for older kids with more experience.
Along with all the great equipment and scholastically oriented materials that were for sale, there were also plenty of items, such as the newest books and software, so that even the stronger players and coaches could shop. We got a big "thumbs up" from the beloved Aviv Friedman, when he inspected the shop as a part of his scholastic councilman gig. If you need any sort of chess equipment, you will not find a better store or a better bunch of people to buy it from than the Sullivans and crew that run the USCF Sales.
It was great to be a part of this and I am sure you will hear from me again soon on CLO!
Also browse the results, MSA rated results, and see Mark Schein's article, "Sunday in Dallas: A Chess Dad's Decathlon."