Thursday, April 18, 2013

Scholastic Chess Nationals in Nashville

Scholastic Chess Nationals in Nashville

The Whole Country Comes to the Land of Country

Тhe luxurious and humongous Gaylord Opryland Resort in Nashville, TN frequently holds USCF scholastic chess national championships.

Every four years, all school ages come here to compete, from kindergarten to high school.  This event is known as SuperNationals.  For a few days around spring break time, the place becomes the massive focus of US scholastic chess pilgrimage. This is the most important children chess tournament in the US.

This post compresses time but not space.  It describes all 3 of our trips to chess nationals in Nashville, TN.  They occurred in Aprils of years 2009 (SuperNationals IV), 2012 (Elementary Nationals) and 2013 (Supernationals V).

2009 SuperNationals IV (K-12)


That was our first trip to any Nashville chess championship, still vividly in memory.  Both Naomi (grade K) and Ethan (grade 5) played, and all four of us traveled.  First time we experienced an event of such grand scale (see http://www.chess.com/event/view/supernationals-iv).

Hotel


After a long and tiresome 2-leg flight we waited long time in the airport for the pre-ordered transfer bus (a taxi would be faster and cheaper) and got to the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Resort lobby pretty tired.  However, once we got the keys and went on to find our room, the amazement set in.  It’s five stadium-size areas, each a garden city under a glass roof:



Here’s a view of just one tenth of the Delta area (the upper-right corner of the red part above):



Kasparov, Shamitov, Kosteniuk, Polgar


There is a story behind the photo below of Ethan and Naomi with the best chess player in the world history, Garry Kasparov.  In the morning of April 3, 2009, Garry Kasparov and the chess playing astronaut Greg Chamitoff were the keynote speakers at the opening ceremony at the Grand Ole Opry House.  Kasparov proclaimed, ironically: “As a young kid, I just hated these opening ceremonies.  The chess functioners just kept talking and talking, and all I wanted was to play chess!”.  This got him an enthusiastic round of applause from the kids audience.


Later that day, back in the hotel, hundreds of people stood in line to get Kasparov’s autograph.  He was signing his own books which people bought specially for this occasion.  We also bought his book in advance, to get an autograph: “How Life Imitates Chess: Making the Right Moves, from the Board to the Boardroom”.  He made periodic breaks from signing, every 15 minutes.  As our turn in line has approached, both our kids became quietly excited.  They gave Kasparov his book for signing.

“How old are you?” - he asked Naomi.  Shy silence was the obvious answer.  No self-respecting girl or woman will tell her age just like that.  Garry understood.  He said: “Is it a secret?”  Her eyes were burning with both adoration and indignation.  Ethan laughed and provided the age information (she’s 5, he’s barely 11).  This is when I pressed my camera button, and took the photo below.


Just before going to Kasparov, Naomi posed for a photo with Alexandra Kosteniuk, who was the Women's World Chess Champion at that time.  We simply kept running into chess celebrities ;-)

A couple of days later, we also met Susan Polgar (the oldest Polgár sister).  Susan has won many Women World Championships and Chess Olympiads.  She does a lot for kids chess development in the US.  She is certainly one of the most famous and important chess celebrities.  Naomi posed for a photo with Susan, and soon after that became her online chess school student.

Photos


2009_04_06 Nashville Downtown  -- with a full-size 100 year old copy of the Parthenon, which is quite handy, because the original is in ruins again, in the course of its endless reconstruction.


Nashville’s showily seedy old town oozes country music:

Results


Naomi (rating 786) got 5 points out of 7 and a shared 25th place trophy in the K section.

Ethan (rating 1410) got 4.5 points out of 7.  He played well, but grade 5 competition was strong.

2012 Elementary Nationals


Only Naomi played in the 2012 Elementary Nationals, because Ethan was in grade 8 already.

Naomi traveled to Nashville with her mom and took 10th place in her K-3 category!  This is her best personal placement result in all 3 trips to Nashville.

Photos





2013 SuperNationals V


2013 is the year of the SuperNationals’ (K-12) fifth edition.  This year, 5335 schoolchildren traveled to Nashville to play in SuperNationals V, making it the largest rated chess tournament in history - see http://uschess.org/tournaments/2013/snv/.

Both Ethan and Naomi traveled to Nashville, accompanied by their mom.  During the tournament they spent great time in that amazing hotel with fellow chess parents and their kids.  It’s a small world, where friends from Pennsylvania and Arizona are closer than next door neighbors.

Photos


2013_04_07 Nashville SuperNationals V (thanks to fellow chess parents for award ceremony photos!)

Results

Naomi got 5 points out of 7.  She lost only to 2 players with much higher ratings.  Good job!

Overall there were 1565 teams from all 50 states.  Naomi’s Spiritridge Elementary team won 2nd place team trophy in K-5 Open championship.  They missed 1st place by only a half point.  Spiritridge also won the 2nd place team trophy in K-6 Blitz Championship.



All of Ethan’s opponents (except one) had ratings significantly higher than his own rating.  Despite these overwhelming odds, Ethan managed to wrestle 4.5 points out of 7 and placed 25th in the K-9 Championship.  Very good job!





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