Inaugural 2015 Greater California Scholastic Championships
By Jerry Yee   
September 5, 2015
Shyam Gandhi winner K12 OpenArmen.jpg
Shyam Gandhi, winner of the K-12 Open, with Armen Ambartsoumian
193 kids participated in Glendale, California on the weekend of August 15-16 in the Inaugural 2015 Greater California Scholastic Championships. The event was sponsored by the Kasparov Chess Foundation and organized by two of Southern California's most prominent and successful chess education programs, Beyond Chess and the American Chess Academy (ACA). Beyond Chess and ACA have enjoyed the most competitive scholastic chess rivalry in the area for several years now, dominating at California's annual Super States event every year. 

In March, it was Beyond Chess co-founder IM Sarah Lu who approached ACA's Armen Ambartsoumian and Jerry Yee about teaming up and organizing a big summer youth event. The three agreed there was a void in the summer the last few years and that it was worth considering. Soon after their meeting, Ambartsoumian contacted KCF President Michael Khodarkovsky about sponsoring the inaugural event. It would be the first west coast scholastic event sponsored by the Kasparov Chess Foundation.

The event was the result of several months of planning with concerns about the event possibly conflicting with the vacations of many local chess families in the month of August. The two day event's good turnout put those concerns to rest and further illustrated that scholastic chess in the Southern California area continues to thrive, even in the summer!

The venue was Glendale's iconic Maple Park Community Center, a beautiful modern two story building with a basketball gym that can accommodate up to 275 chess players if needed. There is also a spacious cafeteria for families to enjoy their lunch. The building is surrounded by playgrounds and grass fields, an ideal setting for a scholastic chess tournament. ACA has been organizing chess tournaments at Maple Park since 2011.

A challenge for this event was having more than one time control so that it could also accommodate higher rated players who prefer more time on their clocks. The solution? The two K-12 sections had 6 rounds with a time control of game in 60 and the three JV sections had 5 rounds with a time control of game in 30 in a double Swiss format. This allowed for the tournament and award ceremony to conclude after 5 rounds for the three JV sections just before the start of round 6 for the two K-12 sections. The plan looked good on paper at least... 

The event ran smoothly in Day 1, but experienced two unforeseen power outages due to a local electrical transformer exploding in the neighborhood on a very warm Day 2. In the middle of the second power outage, the JV final standings were calculated manually and the JV award ceremony took place in the basketball gym's sweltering heat in what felt like sauna like conditions at 230pm in the afternoon. The second outage lasted for most of the final 3 hours of the event. When power and air conditioning was finally restored around 5pm, round 6 was concluding. It was time for the K-12 award ceremony to begin as things concluded in a festive, happier atmosphere and a much cooler gymnasium!

The event's chief TD was yours truly and even with my extensive experience, many thanks have to go to WGM Tatev Abrahamyan and IM Sarah Lu for their efforts in dealing with the manual calculation of pairings and standings during the power outages. Special thanks also go out to KCF President Michael Khodarkovsky for approving the sponsorship of this event. The Kasparov Chess Foundation's continuing support of scholastic events like this throughout the country help give children in the U.S. the opportunity to compete in chess tournaments with larger turnouts.

While there may have been some bumps along the way, it was still a great and very memorable summer weekend of competitive scholastic chess in Los Angeles and the organizers are already looking forward to this event again in the summer of 2016!