This past weekend as presidential candidates and reporters were descending upon the city of Milwaukee in anticipation of Tuesday's Wisconsin primary election, another more intellectually stimulating event was also going on: the northern regional qualifier of the Amateur Team National Chess Championship. This tournament was different from the ones in which my son usually competes because it provided an opportunity for him to play on a team--something which many young players who attend traditional schools get to do but which he as a home educated person generally does not. So when the invitation came to play he enthusiastically accepted it.
For my non-chess savvy readers, here's a short explanation of how this tournament worked. Each team consisted of four players, each of whom played a certain position (determined by his rating) throughout the tournament: Board 1, Board 2, Board 3, or Board 4. In any given round, the players from one team went up against the players from another team, with the players on each Board position sitting across from one another. In order to win the point for that round, the individual members of a team had to score better overall than those of the other team. So if the round ended with 3 members of one team defeating those of the other team, that team won the point for that round. In addition to playing for their teams, however, players also competed individually for standing on their particular Board as well as for their own rating.
My son's team was the Wisconsin Chess Academy Surprise, so named because it was headed by Alex Betaneli (playing Board 1), one of the top-rated players and chess teachers in Wisconsin and the proprietor of the Wisconsin Chess Academy. Other members of the team were Ashish Vaja (Board 2), Erik Santarius (Board 3) and of course Trevor on Board 4. Ashish and Erik, like Alex, are among the top ten rated players and teachers in Wisconsin and are well-known in that state and beyond for their high achievement in chess. (Click here for more information on all three.) It was clearly an honor for Trevor to be invited to join this stellar group.
I wish I could write with some authority on the game play itself. Unfortunately, my understanding of chess extends no further than how the pieces move on the board (and I do well to remember even that). So on the occasions that I do venture into the tournament room to see how things are going, the best I can do is count the pieces on the board (hoping that Trevor has the same number or more than his opponent), check the game clock (again, hoping that Trevor has just as much or more time left than his opponent), and try to study my son's body language and facial expressions (very hard to do, especially as he is getting older). Sometimes I prevail upon a more knowledgeable chess friend to take a look at the board for me and come back with a report. But mostly I have learned to avoid the playing hall, realizing that my presence is generally more distracting than helpful (I am useful for providing snacks and drinks) and that I only succeed in stressing myself out by trying to watch the proceedings. So my time was spent reading (without interruptions--pure joy!), visiting with dear chess friends (those people with whom I have developed friendships over years of attending tournaments but that I generally only get to see at events like these), and trying to find a warm spot in the hotel that served as the tournament site (the constant opening and closing of the front door on this frigidly cold weekend turned the entire lobby into a veritable icebox). Oh, and I also spent some quality time at the home of our hosts for the weekend, dear homeschooling friends who happened to live only minutes from the tournament site.
But you don't care about how I spent my weekend! What you really want to know is, how did the team do? Do these smiles tell you anything? (Pictured from left to right are Trevor, Erik, Ashish, and Alex.)
The Wisconsin Chess Academy Surprise placed first in the tournament, and Trevor and Erik (both undefeated) placed first on their Boards. Team prizes were new Chronos blitz chess clocks and an opportunity to compete in the National Team Championship in April. Individual board prizes were memberships (or membership extensions) on the online chess-playing site, ICC (Internet Chess Club).
For another perspective (and more photos, including several of Trevor) on this tournament, click here. To see team captain Alex's write-up for the United States Chess Federation, click here. And finally, to see a full list of final standings and results, check the Wisconsin Chess Academy site, linked earlier in this article.