Saturday, May 20, 2017

Vashon Island conquered

"The pleasure is all ours" say the islanders
Veni, vidi, vici has never been more mutually enjoyable than on Saturday, May 20, 2017, on Vashon Island.

Philip McCready is the Seattle Chess Club past president, currently living on Vashon Island, where he has started a chess club at the local elementary school.  A few months ago he contacts us through Naomi's coach, GM Greg Serper.  He proposes an event on Vashon for the chess club where Naomi would give a small lecture about her game from the recent World School Championship and then do a simul with the kids in the club.

Naomi likes the idea, so we go ahead with it.  Joe Schonbok is the organizer of the chess club on Vashon, who joins Philip in organizing the event, on the chess club's monthly meeting on a third Saturday of any given month.  Eventually, May 20 is decided upon, to allow for our other chess travel to Victoria and Nashville.  

A week before the event, Philip harnesses the Vashon weekly newspaper, the Beachcomber, to the effort.  They're going to run a news piece, welcoming to the island this expected mighty invader from the mainland.  Very smart.  If only all prospectively conquered people had such excellent foresight and wisdom.  

Sarah Low is the reporter for the Vashon Beachcomber newspaper who is writing that article.  However, by now Naomi is busy playing chess at the SuperNationals in Nashville, so a phone interview with me has to do.  Sarah makes the press deadline and publishes a great article -- positive, accurate, helpful and playful:
"Young world chess champion will speak, play at island event"  

On May 20, the fastest way to the ferry terminal is jammed by highway repairs.  But nothing will stop our army of three.  The personnel carrier is re-routed via fields and gardens.  This is our first trip to Vashon Island.  The weather is fantastic, as if hyper-compensating for the lousy spring.  Just look at the photos.




We visit the famous bicycle tree and the Point Robinson Lighthouse.  In front of the lighthouse, a small local band plays lively Irish music.  Naomi stops to listen, and suddenly one band member says: "I've seen you in the newspaper.  You are that chess champion girl who came to play at the library."  We are dumbstruck.  How many times have you been recognized from a newspaper?


The event venue is Vashon Library meeting room.  We arrive at 1pm as scheduled, and the parking lot is full.  The meeting room is jam-packed with kids and parents.  We meet both Philip and Joe, they present Naomi to the public.  Naomi gives her opening talk, analyzing her last game of the World School Championship on a demo board and answering questions.  The folks love it.  We take photos and videos.



The simul starts, and Naomi makes her first move as white on all 20 boards, after a customary handshake.  Some of her opponents are small kids, being helped by their parents.  There are quite a few experienced adult players as well.  Philip and Joe sacrifice their own yearning to play for the sake of managing the event skillfully.  There are plenty of photo-ops, unlike at usual tournaments when parents are expelled after the game starts.



The simul progresses at a brisk rate.  Naomi is circling around the room counterclockwise.  Each time she comes to a board, her opponent makes his or her planned move, then Naomi thinks for a few seconds and makes a move as well.  After a few opening moves, each circle takes about 5 minutes on average.  We are temporarily satiated with the photo frenzy and go out for a stroll to see Vashon art galleries and the closing farmers market.


By the time we come back, there's already blood on the floor.  A few cute little kids are droopy and despondent.  Some struggle to understand the meaning of Naomi's concluding handshake offer, after getting an early checkmate.  She's politely ruthless though.  There is no mercy in chess, be it child or adult.  À la guerre comme à la guerre.


Slowly but surely all 20 games progress toward their inevitable, unavoidable outcomes.  Some parents spring to the boards after each move, to help their kids last just a little bit longer.  There are more players than boards, if family teams are counted as individuals.  But this is to no avail.  Deeper analysis and machine precision allow Naomi to outpace opponents each and every time.




The islanders are good sport.  They enjoy the game, take their defeats in stride, ask Naomi for a signature and a picture, thank her and us profusely.  They seem to be genuinely impressed and delighted to meet her.  We feel much warmth and human connection.  Lovely people all around, as well as upstanding, dedicated chess players.



The pace picks up.  More and more players are knocked out.  As the pool shrinks, Naomi can dedicate more time to the remaining opponents, which puts more pressure on them and escalates the pace even more.  It's a positive feedback loop.  In the end, just two strongest adults are left.  They move to one corner, so Naomi won't have to run forth and back anymore.




The library closing time of 5pm is fast approaching.  There is a flurry of PA announcements urging people to wrap up.  By  now only one opponent is still playing, his name is Robert.  A few minutes before 5pm Naomi asks for a clock, and sets it up for an endgame deadline.  As can be seen in a dramatic video, Robert soon loses on time.  He gave a great fight, and lasted the longest, so he gets a special prize, a book.  


Naomi won all 20 simultaneous chess games with Vashon Island players.  Conquest completed.  She gets the few book prizes from Philip and Joe.

On the ferry back, Mount Rainier seem to float in the sky like a giant distant cloud.  Summer is coming.



5 comments:

  1. Kol Hakavod
    Proud to be a member of such a talented family
    Well done Naomi
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