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National Elementary Championship Draws Record Crowd to Dallas Print E-mail
By Al Lawrence   
May 10, 2014
Top contenders in the K-1 section shake hands before round two, Photo Al Lawrence
For many, traveling to this year’s National Elementary Championship didn’t turn out to be child’s play.

On Thursday winds up to 80 miles an hour shuttered Dallas airports. That led to canceled flights from Los Angeles to New York. And that put parents and players, backpacks stuffed with chess gear, in long airport lines. For some already onboard, it made for tedious and squirmy waits inside cabins. “We were on the tarmac three hours--our flight attendants only had three sandwiches for the entire flight,” one father told me as he and his son waited to check into the Hilton Anatole Dallas late Thursday evening.

But by Friday, planes were touching down on schedule and the weather was perfect for impromptu soccer between the 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. rounds in the hotel’s spacious courtyard. A record 2,224 preregistered hopefuls took their places among the mega-event’s nine sections, while parents and coaches waited in well-organized areas just outside the tournament hall or even in private team rooms, with prominent coaches like Bruce Pandolfini, while their family champions played in a USCF national.

Thursday night’s bughouse and blitz tourneys couldn’t be delayed, Chief Tournament Director Bill Snead said, because, “USCF’s scholastic rules state that the last round of the Blitz Championship can’t start past 9:30 p.m. But as latecomers with delayed flights showed up, we included them.”  The warm-up events were well-attended despite the travel problems.

Benjamin Medina, Photo Polly Wright
The bi-costal bug-house team of Benjamin Medina (New York) and Callaghan McCarty-Snead (California) took first place by a full point. Medina then went on to take first place on tiebreaks in the 82-player K-3 section of the National Elementary Blitz Championship, tying with Jason Yu of Washington, while McCarty-Snead took fourth. In the 132-player K-6 section, Aydin Turgut of Illinois tied for first with Adam Serota of Pennsylvania. Both Blitz sections featured six double-rounds. Opponents played each other twice, switching colors.

Jason Yu, Photo Polly Wright

IM Danny Rensch of Chess.com offered a popular seminar for parents, “Raising a Scholastic Star!” Among his many practical tips, he urged parents not to tackle critical chess issues when a child is emotional—for example, immediately after a tough loss. “And don’t be tempted to say that it’s not important to win.” Instead of telling young players they must finish chess practice in order to get to something else they want to do, like video games or TV, Rensch promotes goal-oriented motivation—for example, offering a big reward for reaching a rating milestone.

Christine VanCott (MrsBugs) of Chess.com gives away a free t-shirt at the analysis table, Photo Al Lawrence

Saturday will see three more rounds at 9 a.m., 2 p.m., and 7 p.m.—as well as a Parents and Friends tournament, and USCF’s annual Scholastic Meeting. Then two more rounds on Sunday, at 9 a.m. and 2 p.m., wrap up the event.

Look for CLO’s roundup of Saturday’s action. And follow results and pairings here.