National Chess Week A Cross-Country Celebration
By Robert McLellan, USCF Marketing Director
National Chess Week was proclaimed by unanimous consent in the US Senate on Friday, October 4 for the week of October 7 through 13, 2013 and the week was celebrated across the nation with movie screenings, fundraising events, tournaments and social events.
While the official week started with PBS airing the film “Brooklyn Castle” on Monday night, festivities kicked off a day early on Sunday, Oct. 6 in Silver Spring, MD. Maryland State Senator Jamie Raskin hosted a screening of the film, a panel discussion and then had free chess play in the city’s main shopping center for the afternoon. Fittingly, “Brooklyn Castle” also closed out Chess Week in the same Silver Spring, MD theater where it was presented at the AFL-CIO film festival and honored for its “positive portrayal of working class children.”
At Gompers Preparatory Academy in San Diego, over 350 students (mostly non-chess players) watched the Brooklyn Castle movie and then discussed how the themes in the film might relate to their own lives. Then the chess team partnered with another school, Keiler Leadership Academy, to celebrate National Chess Day as a day to build connections and friendships. Forty students from KLA and Gompers played nearly 100 games in 3 sections.
In Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Scholastic Chess Federation held a 2 day chess camp for 14 students in Sheboygan. According to organizer Charles Windsor “Most were beginners so having a camp early in the season worked out very well.”
In New Mexico, the celebration was held at the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Museum in Las Cruces and kicked off with two area coaches playing simuls. Matt Grinberg played 9 opponents simultaneously while Jason Kammerdiner took on 5 boards. As games ended, players were replaced with others who had been waiting. Jason played about 15 games winning them all. Matt played about 25 games conceding only a draw to Danielle from Manny Castillo's Las Cruces Chess Academy. This was followed by the I-10 Showdown pitting a team of players from Southern New Mexico against a team of players from El Paso. (El Paso won!)
Several National Chess Week events were held as fundraisers.
In Bellevue, WA Chess4Life held a 100 board simul to raise funds for an elementary school in Nanning, China.
In York, PA the Royal Rooks Scholastic Chess Club, run by Rev. Dr. Michael Koplitz, hosted a tournament and canned food drive with 33 kids bringing over 120 cans of food to give as part of a larger community effort during Christmas.
Brewer Community School in Maine hosted its first National Chess Week Tournament as a fundraiser for the Brewer School Chess Team with 28 students from the area participating.
In Birmingham AL, 37 chess kids from around the state converged in the food court of the Brookwood Village Mall for a tournament that made chess a spectator sport for passing shoppers and raised money for the local hospital, Children’s of Alabama.
Also in Alabama, Country Knights Chess Club held its first National Chess Week Scholastic Chess Tournament in St. Clair County. Moody High School Principal Ms. Cheryl Kyuk provided school's lunchroom and 54 scholastic chess players representing 12 schools and 2 chess clubs participated.
And in Birmingham, AL the Birmingham Veterans Medical Center (VAMC) held a free chess event for veterans. Chess instructor and VAMC chess and mind sports coach Michael Ciamarra presented a proclamation from the office of Governor Robert Bentley which declared October 12 Chess Day in Alabama. Among the governor’s comments in the proclamation was the acknowledgement of chess as a “unique recreational therapy for individuals with traumatic brain injuries, the blind and the elderly.”
Held in the Atrium (also known as the Garden Room) of the Birmingham VAMC, the location was chosen for its high visibility and easy access. Families, visitors, and personnel were coming and going and watching the veterans play chess drew lots of attention with people stopping to look at the games in progress or ask questions about chess. Complimentary copies of Chess Life, brochures about the US Chess Federation, and ‘how to play’ pamphlets were given out to all.
In West Virginia the National Chess Week Scholastic Tournament featured Advait (Adi) Patel, age 11 and rated over 2100 in the Open section. Adi is the top player in the State. Organizer Craig Timmons opened the event with an explanation of the history of National Chess Day going back to President Gerald Ford, and a round of applause for WV Senator Jay Rockefeller who has introduced the Senate proclamation each year since the event was revived four years ago.
A letter from Senator Rockefeller citing the many benefits of chess was read and then posted for all to see. “This is a pastime that West Virginians of all ages can enjoy, and can teach to their friends, neighbors, children and grandchildren. And I join with you all in helping celebrate National Chess Day,” the Senator wrote.
Forty-seven players participated in 2 sections for the 2 day National Chess Week tournament at the Portland Chess Club, filling the club to capacity. Winner of the Open Section was Lennart Bjorksten, with 4.5 points out of 5. Winner of the Reserve (U1800) section with a perfect 5-point score was youngster Venkat Doddapaneni.
Thirty-five players participated in a 4 round G/65 d5 tournament at Bay Area Chess Headquarters to celebrate the National Chess Day. Two expert juniors, Siddharth Banik (weighing his options in this photo) and Teemu Virtanen broke away from the rest of the field and met in the last round with perfect scores. Banik won the game to finish with a perfect score and the top prize ($160). Virtanen finished with 3 points along with Charles Barnard, a veteran Expert, and Arhant Katare, another junior. The three split $200 between them. Six players tied for first place with 3 points in the Reserve section (u1700).
In Flagstaff, AZ 80 players competed in 4 sections in the Stubenrauch/Schneider National Chess Day Memorial Chess Tournament.
In 2008, massive floods devastated Cedar Rapids, Iowa with a number of city buildings lost including the public library. The library limped along for 5 years in a temporary storefront and reopened in their new building in August of this year. The Cedar Rapids Chess Club began meeting at the public library's temporary location in 2011 and was able to move with the library into their new building in August 2013 and host their very first National Chess Week event at the new facility with 30 people competing in the Iowa State Blitz Championship.
In Memphis, TN Shelby County Chess teamed up with the University of Memphis for a 2-day event. Players of all ages and skill-levels (Kindergarten to FIDE-rated) reveled in the festive atmosphere and fun competition. Saturday’s Scholastic players enjoyed face painting, cake, and door prizes (bags of cotton candy & popcorn).
Also in Tennessee, the Cumberland County Chess Club reported a total of 46 players, “4 more than last year” says Club President Susan Houston who also works for the USCF in Crossville TN. “We had players from Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia come to play. Dominic Breeze TN and Vignesh Sekar are Co-Champions for the Open section with 3.5 out of 4. And James Ray Vick had a perfect score to win the Amateur Section.”
In Northbrook, IL, thanks to sponsorship from SBB Research Group, an investment management firm, many chess players in the Renaissance Knights National Chess Day event went home not only with trophies, but prize money in the form of bonds for college at a future date. Several schools, which had teams competing, also received a stipend to purchase or upgrade their chess equipment. There was also special prize for the best girls in each section to receive money for college. In the top section, however, Rahul Dhiman had a perfect score and took no time in earning the first place trophy as well as the stipend while Georgia Wolf – a Chicago Public School 7th grade student at Taft won the 7-8 section 1st place trophy and $200 college savings bond.
Also in Illinois the Kenosha Chess Association hosted a day of classes, a simul and a casual tournament at the Kenosha Public Library while in the Milwaukee, WI suburb of Hales Corners, the Southwest Chess Club drew players from across the region to compete in Challenge XVIII.
Ohio State University at Marion, joined forces with the Marion Technical College and Marion Chess Club to host a free National Chess Week tournament in the Albert Student Center on the OSU Marion campus. Thirty players participated and the attention is helping the chess club expand, according to director Larry Edington. He said they sent out fliers to local high schools and the local newspaper featured an interview with Elgin Middle School teacher Kim Cornelius who said she has incorporated chess into her language arts program for 16 years. Mrs. Cornelius said she starts off most school years with a chess-themed movie and gives writing assignments based on the film. The class discusses other literary elements such as characters, narrative and setting, all while brewing interest in a game that has been played for centuries.
An outdoor event in the mountains of East Flat Rock in western North Carolina attracted 21 players from Tennessee, South Carolina, and Charlotte. Most players had 18 rated games including blitz-, quick-, and dual-rated tournaments. Organizer Kevin Hyde reports “There was lots of chess and lots of fun starting with a thirteen player blitz round robin, finishing with a three round action swiss, and several quick quads in between. NM Klaus Pohl won both the rated blitz round robin and the action swiss.”
The 2013 Orlando Autumn Open & National Chess Day Scholastic event attracted 118 players and paid out 83.1% of the advertised $7000 prize fund with top honors going to John Ludwig who received $831 for his effort. The young Canadian Master Erik Tan came down from Alberta for the event and tied with Makaio Krienke for 2nd with each receiving $332. Amy Tsai was also in the money winning the Under 2000 section 1.5 points ahead of the rest of the field.
More reports are still coming in to ChessLifeOnline at USchess.org. Check there for updates.
The USCF would like to extend our thanks once again to Senators Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) for taking the lead on the National Chess Week proclamation in the Senate and particularly Sen. Rockefeller’s assistant Sarah Shive who was our coordinating contact this year. And thanks to all the organizers, the ones mentioned, and the ones we are still getting reports in from, for your efforts to bring chess to people of all ages in communities across the USA.