Wan, Turgut, Daggupati & Gao Win Big in Dallas
By Al Lawrence   
May 14, 2014
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Balaji Daggupati, Photo Polly Wright
There are no small national chess titles. But there are small players who win them.  

After three days and seven rounds at the Elementary Championships held at the Anatolie Dallas Hilton, more than 2,000 hopefuls in nine sections can forever boast of the experience of playing in a national championship. And everyone came away with one of 700 trophies or a medal to commemorate the event.  

All four premier championship sections were claimed by clear winners. Three put themselves in USCF’s history books with 6.5/7 scores. Nebraska’s Joseph Cheng-Yue Wan clinched the championship of the premier event, the 196-player K-6 section. Aydin Turgut, Illinois, led 351-players in the K-5 section. Balaji Daggupati of California was the best among 259, earning the big brass in the K-3 crowd. Marvin Gao, Florida, closed the door on his more than 300 competitors in the K-1 section with a 7/0 performance.


Wan had to win with Black in the last round against Andrew Hong, who was coming off a sixth-round win against Emily Nguyen. Emily had amassed a perfect 5-0 score going into that contest, a tactical melee in which one misstep cost her the game.

Wan was up to the task again Hong, playing a French Defense, castling long, and overrunning White’s king, caught in the center of the board and the eye of the storm. 31…Rc1 was a key finesse!
 


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Aydin Turgut, Photo Polly Wright
Fourth-grader Turgot dominated the biggest section of the event with both positional judgment and the sharp eye for tactics that usually marks a young champion—and that also earned him the K-6 Blitz title in Dallas. Aydin is no stranger to national titles. He won the K-1 championship in 2011 with a 7-0 sweep. His cardiologist-father Tansel, himself a strong OTB chess master and correspondence GM, said of Aydin’s fifth-round win.

Aydin plays a strong game. His opponent played in Brazil in the 2011 World Youth Chess Championship. 11…a6 was a more solid defense to the threat against the bishop. 19.Rfe1 was the major error, after which 19…Nxg2! decides. If 21. Ng3 Nf4 22.Kg3 Qxf3.

 

Other individual members

Anvi Surapaneni, California, won the K-6 U1000 section with a perfect 7/0. Jim Huang, Oklahoma, and Vignesh Anand, Washington, tied at the top of the K-6 Unrated group. Huang had better tiebreaks, so he took home the first-place trophy. Avril Gauthier, Oregon, and Joseph Samluk, New York, both scored 7-0 in the K-5 U900. Avril won on tiebreaks. In the K-3 U800 section, Anirudh Rajesh and Toby Black, both of Washington, also posted perfect scores. Anirudh got the tie-break nod. The K-3 Unrated and K-1 sections produced clear winners with perfect scores, Andy Huang, Washington, won the K-3 Unrated.

Team Champions

Team play is in some ways the soul of the National Scholastics. The top four scorers for a school are recognized as its team for award purposes. Gomes Elementary of Fremont California is the new K-6 national champions.
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Gomes Elementary, Photo Polly Wright

 
Speyer Legacy School of New York became the K-5 team champs.
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Speyer Legacy, Photo Polly Wright


Mission San Jose Elementary won the K-3 title.
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Mission San Jose Elementary, Photo Polly Wright


And PS 41 of New York City earned the K-1 national championship.
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PS 41, Photo Polly Wright


In previous reports, I forgot to mention that Detroit teams dominated the Blitz Championships held on Thursday night. University Prep Science and Math won the K-6 title. Chrysler Elementary’s team took the K-3 championship.
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Chrysler Elementary, Photo Al Lawrence



For a complete list of winners, participants and results, go here.


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Naren Pullela, Unrated & a big winner


Scholastic Council

Saturday afternoon’s meeting of the Scholastic Council was chaired this year by Rusty Harwood. Harwood coached numerous Elementary programs to state and national championships. In 2005 he became program director of the University of Texas-Brownsville chess program, building UTB into a national powerhouse. USCF Executive Director Hoffman and Council member Beatriz Marinello joined the head table. Sunil Weeramantry chose to sit with the audience.  

The meeting’s most-discussed topic was the issue of states that maintain their own rating systems for scholastic chess. Washington State was cited as an example. Several speakers at the meeting argued that such a system provides an advantage to competitors at the National Elementary Championships who are allowed to qualify for unrated or rating-restricted sections based only on their USCF ratings. “Kids may have hundreds of rated games and a high rating in a system very, very similar to USCF’s algorithm,” one coach said. These students may qualify for protected sections at Nationals because their USCF rating is low or provisional.

It practically takes a village

Like all national tournaments, the National Elementary Championship was organized by the U.S. Chess Federation. This year is an off year for the SuperNationals, which combine the National HS, JH, and Elementary Championships every three years. In between, the three events are held separately in various parts of the U.S.

USCF Executive Director Jean Hoffman and COO Pat Smith literally travel with their in-baskets.

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Jean Hoffman, Photo Al Lawrence
Although there was plenty for them to do at the event, other work for chess around the country just doesn’t stop. “We’re thrilled with the turnout. It’s one of the most enjoyable parts of my job to see such a successful event that forecasts a bright future for chess,” Jean said. Pat, the chief organizer of the event, is a veteran of USCF’s largest and most demanding events.

The National Elementary’s Chief TD, Bill Snead, of Amarillo, Texas, is likewise an accomplished administrator of super-chess events of all types, as is his right-hand man for the Elementary Championship, Wayne Clark. It takes a big, knowledgeable staff of experienced personnel to run the nine sections smoothly. Altogether, Snead and Clark oversaw a cadre of 26 other directors.

Non-TD staff served another very important role, helping waiting parents match up with their diminutive warriors at the end of a game. Scholastic rules require parents and coaches to leave the tournament hall once games are to begin. It’s a good rule for a number of reasons. But it seems hard for a few parents to let go. The crew of vested volunteers helped manage the crowd of parents and coaches at the well-organized waiting areas, facing the only exits from the various tournament halls.

The whole organization at the Hilton Anatole was impressive. The hotel itself, a major convention center, offers 1,600 rooms and displays more than 1,000 art objects. It’s one of only five venues in the U.S. to display a section of the fallen Berlin Wall.

Congratulations to all the participants. Thank you to all who worked behind the scenes to make USCF’s competition for its littlest champions a big success.

Al Lawrence is the program director at Texas Tech University and a frequent contributor to CLO and Chess Life Magazine.