The Bashkansky family Chess Travel blog

The Bashkansky family Chess Travel blog: parents Guy and Ludmila with children NM Ethan and WIM Naomi

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Washington State Elementary School Chess Championships

Now, and six years ago

Now, 2015

On Saturday, April 25, 2015, Washington State Elementary School Chess Championships were held in the Convention Center in Spokane, WA.  We arrived on the eve of the event and met the US Chess Champion Irina Krush, who won this title at age 14 in 1998, and many times since then.  We had a photo-crush on Krush:

Naomi played in the 6th Grade section, as part of her Odle Middle School chess team.  She was mentioned in the opening remarks as the girl who won first place in this championship 6 years ago in the Kindergarten section.

The accelerated pairing by the organizers meant that the highest-rated Naomi got stronger opponents than she would usually get under the regular Swiss system, and had to play harder games, while other good players got weaker opponents and easier games.  Also, Naomi was tired after winning the US National Girls Champion title just a few days before in Chicago.  And she hasn't played short games in a while.

Maybe because of all this strain, Naomi drew a game with the boy in the photo below, and got 4.5 points out of 5.  Another boy got 5 out of 5 (as usually happens in such large tournaments) and took first place in the 6th Grade section, congratulations to him.  Naomi shared second and third  place with Freya.

And, Naomi's Odle Middle School chess team took first place in the state, by overall team points.  Good job!

Here is our Trip to Spokane photo story automatically built by Google+ from my smartphone backup photos:

Six Years Ago, 2009

On April 24-26, 2009 all four of us traveled for the first time to Spokane, WA for the Washington State Elementary Chess Championships.  Ethan played in the 5th Grade section, and Naomi played in the Kindergarten section.  We stayed at the Travelodge Spokane hotel right next to the Convention Center.

We remember being overwhelmed by the size of the event and the amount of players and parents.  Many thousands of people roamed the halls and the corridors.  We tried to balance between the need to be near the kids and the desire to explore the nearby Spokane Riverfront Park, which 35 years ago hosted Expo '74.

Both Ethan and Naomi won first places and champion titles in their respective age categories, 5th Grade and Kindergarten.  Both of them got perfect scores, winning all 5 of their 5 games.  

The most memorable feeling was the sudden reversal of perspective.  From being just some insignificant one thousandth part of the whole chess event we suddenly became its focal point, twice over.  Uniquely, we now had two state champions in the family!  Both our kids both brought champion trophies to the school on Monday.

Here is our 2009 trip to Spokane photo album:

Ethan and Naomi both got first place in their sections

The Fame

The next morning we've woken up in the Travelodge Spokane hotel and leisurely rolled our suitcases to the front desk for checking out.  On the front desk, we've noticed a pile of The Spokesman Review local newspaper.  The front page prominently featured both Naomi and Ethan.

Jody Lawrence-Turner interviewed Naomi and a few other kids during the championships, and then wrote a remarkable piece about the event.  Quote from her article: 'Asked why she likes the game, Naomi said: “I like to win trophies and dollars.”' -- alluding to the example set by her big brother Ethan, who's 5 years older.

Unfortunately, in the printed newspaper version, the list of winners in the beginning incorrectly named the 5th grade 1st place winner as Samuel Meisner rather than the actual winner, Ethan.  We emailed Jody and she quickly corrected the online version of the article.

"Garrett Casey is a killer"

Naomi's last game opponent was Garrett Casey, a young local chess prodigy understandably cheered by the Spokane press.  On May 14, 2009, another local newspaper, The Inlander, printed a story named "Child’s Gambit" about the championship.  It started with the phrase, quote: "Garrett Casey is a killer", then proceeded to inflate his opponent and ultimate nemesis, quote: "machine-precise Naomi Bashkansky", who is, quote: "a remarkably seasoned player".  

Fearsome western invaders are preying upon the peaceful easterners domain, quote: "The seat of chess power in Washington resides on the west side — the area around Bellevue and Redmond, specifically. People have heard about the dominance of players from the area, speaking in awed tones about the ruthless children of Microsoft employees."

The dramatic battle of the tiny chess titans has been described in decidedly Homeric tones, until the climactic end of Naomi's game, quote: "She hovers over the square that will checkmate him", then, quote: "takes her championship and Garrett Casey becomes a little boy again".  We wiped away very real tears while reading this inlander Greek tragedy.  Such a cruel crush by the ruthless coastal aggressor riding her pair of black Trojan horses: ♞♞

In May 2010, this Iliad-envy epic by Luke Baumgarten won first place in the Lifestyles category when Region 10 of the Society of Professional Journalists awarded its prizes for work published in 2009 in a competition of publications in Washington, Idaho, Montana and Oregon.  Well, after this Iliad, we are waiting for the Odyssey...

And of course, Garrett Casey is a great chess player.  He took first place next year (2010) in the Kindergarten section.  And then, after a long lull, took first place in the 5th Grade section this year (2015).  Atta boy!  

Ethan and Naomi: greedy ruthless machine-precise trophy-grabbers

Take a look at that first trip's photo album:

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Naomi Wins the US All-Girls Chess Championship Again

Naomi has become the US All-Girls National Chess Champion again!

All-Girls Championship

Chicago is the US girls chess capital.  Every year the Kasparov Chess Foundation organizes the US All-Girls National Chess Championships in the Windy City.

There, on April 17-19, 2015, Naomi has won first place at the US All-Girls Chess Championship Under 12 section, with 5.5 points out of 6.  Here is the championship results cross-table.

Her wins seemed deceptively easy, as if Naomi just steamrolled over her opponents.  There were no exhausting super-long games we've gotten used to see her play at the World Youth Championships.  First place in the USA seems easier than, say, tenth place in the world.  

Naomi's win qualifies her to represent the USA in October 2015 at the World Youth Chess Championship in Halkidiki, Greece (she has already qualified for this by other criteria also).

It's second time Naomi becomes the US All-Girls National Chess Champion.  Her first time first place at All-Girls was in 2013 in the Under 10 section.  And before that, she took second place in 2012 in the Under 8 category.  For all these years Naomi has been coached by GM Greg Serper, who guided her to these and many other achievements.

The US All-Girls Championship write-up appears on the US Chess Federation website.

Also, Becca Lampman of Vancouver, WA got first place in the Under 18 section and first place in blitz.

Back home, Naomi's Odle Middle School chess team burst in applause upon learning that she won the tournament.  The teammates said they are proud of her, and wished her keeping the winning streak alive next week by winning the State Championship.

In this photo Naomi holds her first place trophy, on the podium with the organizer in McCormick Place, Chicago:

2015-04-19 Naomi first place - All Girls Chicago 1 crop.jpg


The Windy City has amazed us before, and it hasn't failed to do so this time as well.  

The championship was held at McCormick Place -- the largest convention center in North America, which covers a large chunk of the Near South Side, next to Soldier Field.  

Through McCormick Place halls, we would venture east to the Lakefront Trail and then would walk north to the Museum Campus.  

Over the weekend, we visited the Field Museum of Natural History, Shedd Aquarium, the Glessner House and the Museum of Science and Industry.  All are superb, just like the Art Institute and the other places we went to last time.

Take a look at the complete photo album to see some Chicago gems:


We flew to Chicago O'Hare airport with Alaska, then took CTA Blue and Red lines to Chinatown Hotel.  It was after midnight on Friday and some of the passengers were rowdy.  Police walked around with dogs the size of a lawn mower, with steel muzzles!   

For the rest of our stay, we decided to start using Uber and Lyft for the first time, and very much liked these peer-to-peer smartphone taxi apps.  We had to shuttle a lot between the hotel, the convention center, and the museums.  For the three of us it felt cheaper, more convenient and safer than either public transit or conventional taxi.  

We flew back with Southwest Airlines from Midway airport.

First Place Trophy

True story: on an earlier occasion someone saw the knight figure on top of Naomi's trophy and hypothesized it must be something related to horses.

People have actually wondered: How did we manage to board the return plane with this golden bazooka of a trophy?

When flying to Chicago, we providently packed just 2 carry-on bags for all 3 of us, so that on our way back we could accommodate this expected spare piece of luggage.

On the way back, all along our way from the airport entrance to the plane seats, people have been constantly stopping to ask Naomi about her humongous trophy.

As we made it to our plane seats, a group of teenage boys in the adjacent seats burst into spontaneous applause upon learning it's the US National Champion trophy.  Naomi bowed nicely to the adoring crowd.

And the flight attendants have been so impressed, they allocated a full overhead bin for the trophy, so that it wouldn't get damaged accidentally.

Shipping it home (for about $40) would delay the time-sensitive boasting, and disassembling / packing / reassembling has been historically shown to be fragile.