There were two elementary school chess team championships held in the United States in May 2015. The weekend of May 9th and 10th the USCF (United States Chess Federation) held its annual Elementary school chess championship at the Grand Old Opry Hotel in Nashville TN. This is the “official” chess championship and for the second time in three years (also 2013) and the third time seven years (also 2009) MSJE (Mission San Jose Elementary of Fremont, CA) won the National Elementary School Chess Championship. In the USCF Championship schools enter as many players as they want in the championship section of the Nashville tournament. Over 2300 students and 600 teams competed in the tournament in Nashville.
There was also a Yes2Chess national elementary school chess championship held in May. Yes2Chess is a not for profit organization based in the UK that is dedicated to increasing the use of chess in schools. The Yes2Chess Championship consists of five player teams usually playing over the internet. It is not as prestigious as the USCF championship, but instead of playing for a trophy the players are playing for an all-expenses paid trip to London to be the US representative and compete with teams from seven other countries for the international championship. ( http://en.chessbase.com/post/barclaycard-yes2chess-tournament-2015 )
The Yes2chess nationals were designed to come down to four teams the plan was to have an online playoff on the day after Memorial Day. The four teams were Nest A with an average rating of 1537, Nest B, 1655, and IS 318 with an average rating of 1758. Both Nest teams and IS 318 were from New York City. The fourth team was MSJE with an average rating of 1771. (Note Kavya played on our B team and was not eligible to play in these finals.) Nest and IS 318 have both won USCF National titles. They are part of the very strong New York City scholastic chess program. The New York teams played at the famous Marshall Chess club in Manhattan. We played in Don Pans’ (David’s dad) home.
In the first round we were paired against IS 318. We expected, based on ratings, that they would be our main competition. We got off to a bad start and lost on board four and five. Boards 1-3 looked even with maybe an advantage on board 2. Board three then draws based on a repetition of position. We now need to win boards one and two or lose our first match. It is almost impossible to win a four team round robin if one losses the first round.
This is a unique feature of team match chess. On board one David Pan had four pawns and a knight vs. four pawns and a bishop. This would have almost certainly been a draw except for the pressure put on David by the fact that the team had to have a win. David got his king to the center and won several pawns and the game. Rishith pushed home his advantage and we get the last two points for a 2 ½ to 2 ½ draw.
Meanwhile Nest B beats Nest A 4-1. We are paired with Nest A in round two. We expect that MSJE and IS 318 will win our last two matches and it will come down to tie-breaks, which is the total points scored. We get off to a good start against Nest A. Leo wins quickly on board 5. Rishith and Kevin win on boards two and three. That assures that we win the match. Annapoorni losses a tough game on board 4, and David draws on board one. This gives us a 3 ½ to 1 ½ victory, but it is somewhat discouraging as Nest B beat Nest A 4-1. I was concerned that if IS 318 could beat Nest A 5-0 they would beat us on tie breaks.
The result of the round two Nest B versus IS 318 match is a 4-1 win by Nest B! This is a shocker. We thought IS 318 was our major competition, but now Nest B has two wins and we have a win and a draw. Also they have scored 8 points against the two teams that we scored six points.
It all comes down to the last match Nest B versus MSJE. If Nest B wins or draws the match, they go to London. If we beat Nest B we go to London.
Round three gets off to a good start. We are looking very good on board one, where David Pan has a strong position. Also both Annapoorni on board 4 and Leo on board 5 are ahead material and seem certain to win. Rishith seems to be in a tough fight in board two. David wins giving us the first points. Leo is moving his rook to take a knight and announce checkmate on board five when the rook stops short of the knight and his opponent gets a simple checkmate. Leo is devastated the position was very simple and the only move was checkmate. The rules on mouse errors are very clear. The move and the loss stand.
Shortly after this happens Annapoorni wins on board four. Then on board two the opponent of Rishith has a mouse error and goes from a very strong position to a lost position. Rishith pushes home the win and we have a victory and a trip to London. Kevin is way ahead on board two. We try to keep the celebrating to a minimum until Kevin checkmates his opponent. Kevin wins and we win the last match 4-1.
The MSJE Chess team is going to London!
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