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New York Triumphs at Grades Print E-mail
By Macauley Peterson/Betsy Dyanko   
December 12, 2007
Hunter's 1st grade Championship team. Photo Betsy Dynako.
Over the weekend, while in Houston coaching for Hunter College at the Grade Nationals, I wrote that I was struck by the domination of New York and Texas teams which rivaled each other in nearly every grade. In the final tally, New York triumphed in seven grades (1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 7th, 8th, 9th) while Texas came out on top in five (2nd, 6th, 10th, 12th, and Collegiate). Texas finished a distant fifth in grade 9, and no New York teams competed in 10th, 12th and Collegiate, but in the remaining grades 1 through 8, the top two spots were always occupied by New York and/or Texas teams. So, yeah, I would say that constitutes a trend. Check out the results summary here, and access complete results here. Also check Monroi.com for games from the event.

In response to my previous article, JonH comments, "In the individual standings there were quite a few Floridians battling for the top spots, too. It was not just New York versus Texas." Touché, but I was talking about the team competition. I'll add, though, that Florida did place third in 1st grade (Oak Hall in Gainsville) and 5th grade (Sweetwater Episcopal Academy), and that Oak Hall crushed the competition (such as it was) in the small Kindergarten section.

Regarding the individual competition, it is unfortunately the case that most of the nation's top rated players don't usually participate, and 2007 was no exception. Skim any of the relevant USCF Top Players lists, comparing with the K-12 results and you'll see what I mean.

Since its inception, the Grade Nationals in December just hasn't been considered as prestigious as the Spring Nationals. The national champions of the K-12 Grades are rarely considered the best in the nation for their age. I can speak from personal experience here, having been co-champion of the 12th grade in 1996 despite barely breaking the national Top 50 for players under 18. (NB: This year's 12th grade winner, Warren Harper, is a bit of an exception, since he's one of the highest rated 16 year olds and the Denker Champion.)

There was some behind-the-scenes talk in Houston of tying World Youth invitations to the Grade Nationals in some way, an idea which should at least be explored as a way to encourage more masters and experts to attend.

Another comment on my Sunday blog, from "ueschessmom," objected to the description of Horace Mann as part of the "old guard," by pointing out that Horace Mann never managed any first place finishes at the Grades before winning three (3rd, 4th, and 7th grades) this year. That may be (somebody go look it up), but Horace Mann was a national factor before Justin Karp was even born. In fact, the chess team pre-dates the Grade Nationals itself, which was only invented in 1991.


(This is where I get to feel old.) You see Horace Mann used to be our ally ("our" meaning Hunter when I was in elementary school) in the annual struggle against Dalton back in the late 1980s. It was kind of like our version of Lord of the Rings, with the Kingdom of Rohan (Horace Mann) battling alongside humanity (Hunter) against the evil forces of Mordor (Dalton). (Save the hate mail Dalton -- that's what it was like to us! You guys won way too freakin' often back then, and yeah, I'm a little bitter about it.)

Sunil Weeramantry actually started the program at Dalton (around the time GM Joel was winning the High School Nationals), but quickly left for Hunter, and then also taught at Horace Mann. I'm not sure what that makes him in this Tolkien-esque narrative! Elven maybe?

But back to 2007, and far be it for me to argue with those noblest of creatures, the chess mom: Shall we say Horace Mann is on a new upswing, back from the late 20th century doldrums?

Besides, that way I get to be, in her words, a "sage coach" looked to for "inspiration and guidance." I like the sound of that!

Macauley Peterson recently earned his Masters in Film Studies from the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. His 18-part video series on the 2007 World Chess Championship, "ICC in Mexico," can be found at ICC Chess.FM. and he can be reached at www.MacauleyPeterson.com.
Elizabeth Vicary will write an article on the K-12 for the March issue of Chess Life Magazine.

Photo Gallery by Betsy Dynako

Hikaru Nakamura, who just turned 20 on Dec.9, poses as a Hunter coach!  

AngelicaBerrios from of I.S. 318, placed 6th in the 8th grade section. I.S 318 won that section.

Michael Lee Sang from the Kindergarden section

Does the stuffed animal count as outside assistance?

Raymond Sun scored a perfect 7/7 in the 1st grade section.

Tom Shutzman-Polgar tied for 2nd-6th in the third grade section, and got the 5th place trophy on tiebreak.