"All Those Hours On Chess.com Really Paid Off!" -Camden
If you saw the 60 Minutes piece on Franklin County, you were probably just as impressed as we were with the young and fierce talent being groomed in the quiet countryside of Meadville, Mississippi. Last school year, our Wingfield High School team (from the troubled capital city of Jackson) got whooped up on by Franklin County youngsters at least 3 or 4 times at various tournaments across the state, including the Team State Championship tournament, where their upper elementary kids have claimed K-12 State Championships in the past.
Tactics, Tactics, Tactics!
Inspired by those days, our Wingfield kids have been putting in some SERIOUS work thanks to a generous donation by Chess.com. After I wrote in desperation (I'm only a 1000 level "coach") being unable to raise the funds necessary to provide my economically disadvantaged students with premium memberships... the owners graciously allowed the Wingfield kids to train unlimited tactics and lessons on Chess.com through scholarshipped memberships. Our team now practices constantly on the website, as well as on the live boards at practice. They have become very competitive with each other creating quite a productive "iron sharpens iron" atmosphere on the team.
The Belly of the Beast
Despite the austere surrounding the Franklin County Chess program (or perhaps because of it) we EAGERLY looked forward to facing some of that fierce competition at their gorgeous chess center this past Saturday. There were only 2 sections, U800 and Open. Our highest rated player, Kamarie, (a senior) is 559 so our entire team competed in the U800 section. It was a beautiful, sunny day full of fellowship, fun and the unexpected.....
Out of Nowhere!
Along comes Camden. I've known Camden for a couple years now. I met him in another after-school program. After a tragic loss in his family last year, the already quiet & reserved Camden receded more into the woodwork and I didn't see or hear much from him for a great while.
About couple months ago, he wandered into my classroom during chess practice wanting to join the team. He already knew how to play but realized very quickly how serious the team was taking our competition preparation. In classic Camden fashion, he proceded to spend the next few weeks working RELENTLESSLY on Chess.com, utilizing his scholarshipped Premium membership to the fullest. He came into every practice with another detailed recount of a lesson he'd studied the night before. The young man was putting in WORK.
When we arrived in Franklin County Saturday, Camden was the only player on our team who'd never been to a chess tournament. After the first 2 rounds, while I frantically tried to go over notated games with the other seasoned players on the team, Camden (not yet confident in his notation) quietly went 2-0. Upon telling him how proud I was of his fast start, I warned Camden that round 3 would be what separated the lions from the lambs. Camden hadn't been able to beat Kamarie (559) in practice and he was about to face a 631 player. What a pleasant surprise when he came out of that round 3-0, the only Wingfield player to do so. I had to wipe tears from my eyes as he sat down across from the #1 rank in the final round to vie for FIRST PLACE!
Nerves tore me up waiting to see: Could he do it? Could our only unrated player come to his first tournament and WIN? In Franklin County, Mississippi? The drama did not end when he emerged, flat affect, from the round to plainly state, "We stalemated." A two-round Blitz was to be the tie-break, and Camden had never played Blitz. Unfortunately, his coach (me) didn't even know the rules and he lost both rounds the same way, nervous and rushed, he didn't see that he was in check on this new and different battlefield and his king was captured.
Crying and hugging him I asked, "Are you proud of yourself?"
Coyly he responded, "Not proud I didn't see I was in check."
Kamarie was a supportive teammate, not miffed by being out-performed by this green newbie. He hugged Camden too and told him how proud he was as well, and as they both were awarded for their Top 5 finishes (out of 38 players), all Camden could say was...
"All those hours on Chess.com really paid off!"