Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Chess Agon

I can't imagine adding commentary to this video, except to say that I enjoyed it and think you will, too.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

State’s Top Chess Kids at Taste of Chicago

Phillip to join Warren Scholars in July 1 event

If you’re anywhere near Taste of Chicago on Sunday, July 1, please come to the Family Village area at the south end of Grant Park, where the Warren Chess Scholars will be holding court.

You won’t regret it. You, your family, and friends will see or play chess with the best young players in the Land of Lincoln, and you’ll probably learn a thing or two that will improve your game.

One of the best scholastic chess programs in these parts, the Warren program recognizes the best young players in Illinois, those who are ranked in the top 50 nationally in their age brackets.

It’s a tough standard to meet, and only 27 kids have made it, but for the second year in a row one of them is Ray fourth-grader-to-be Phillip Parker-Turner. You can see the entire list here.

The purpose of the program is to support chess education for the Prairie State’s most promising young talent. “It provides subsidized individual and group instruction for top youth players to help them be competitive in national and international events,” says program committee chair Andi Rosen.

At Taste of Chicago, the scholars will be out in force, playing and teaching chess to all comers in Grant Park. They’ll play simultaneous exhibits, blitz, or just easy, friendly games, if that’s your pleasure.

I attended last year’s Grant Park event and had the privilege of losing to the state’s top high school players at the time, Kayin Barclay. But he didn’t just beat me: he patiently and methodically reviewed the game with me afterwards, showing me where I blundered and what moves I should have played instead. Kayin was an excellent teacher. I had fun, I learned a lot, and I still have a record of that game.

The vitals:

Warren Junior Chess Scholars
Sunday, July 1
2:00 – 5:00 PM
Taste of Chicago, Grant Park
Family Village Area (near Ferris wheel and children’s stage)

More information here.

Photos by johnnyscars via flickr.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Goodbye, and Thanks

The end of an era at Ray

Last night I had the privilege of attending a dinner honoring Ray School Principal Cydney Fields and Vice Principal Dolores Lobbins at Maggiano’s restaurant on the Near North Side. There must have been 200 people there, including Ray teachers who long ago retired or moved on to other schools. This was an event nobody wanted to miss.

As you know, Ms. Fields and Ms. Lobbins both retire at the end of the school year, and with them go two of the best friends the Ray School Chess Club has ever had. Both Cydney and Dolores have given the chess club their unstinting time and support, and we couldn’t possibly have built the kind of program we have now without it.

Examples of the help they've given us are too numerous to name, but I'll mention a few. When we started the club four years ago and had no equipment, Ms. Fields just went out and got it. Voila! To this day I don’t know where it all came from or how she got it so quickly. And Ms. Lobbins? Don’t get me started. She’s been there for us: Every. Step. Of. The. Way. She's found rooms for us to meet when we needed them, more rooms when we needed them, and this year, as if wielding a machete, she cut a swath through a thicket of administrative obstacles so we could have a citywide chess tournament at Ray last March.

Both of them have been forced to stay at school when parents were late picking up kids, and they've done so cheerfully. (My apologies, ladies.) They have given us everything and denied us nothing.

I could name many more examples of their support for chess at Ray, but I think it’s more important simply to say thank you, Ms. Fields and Ms. Lobbins, good luck and good health to both of you, and we will miss you. Big time.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Ultimate Luxury Item

From Reuters, via

New chess set for $37-million winner

Wednesday, June 13, 2007
OTTAWA (Reuters) -- Forget luxury cars, an apartment in New York or a big yacht. What the winner of a huge Canadian 6/49 Lottery jackpot really hankers for is a chess set.

Graham Gelineau, a 55-year-old Toronto man who lives alone in a rooming house and relies on disability payments, found himself in a new world after picking up a cheque for $37 million on Monday.

Asked what he would buy with his fortune, Gelineau said, "A new chess set." He also said he might rent an apartment. "I'm flabbergasted. I'm quite happy, to put it mildly," he told reporters.

The jackpot is the largest single prize won by an individual in Ontario.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Home Court Advantage

Ray kids stand out at neighborhood tournament

The last chess tournament of the school year turned out to be one of the best, as Ray kids took advantage of their superior numbers at a meet held here in Hyde Park yesterday to win three team trophies with a clean sweep of all elementary-school divisions.

Chess Education Partners’ Zack Fishman with the trophy-laden Ray School team

In the first of what we hope will be many tournaments at the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club conducted by Chess Education Partners, Ray took first place in the K-1, Grades 2-3, and Grades 4-5 categories.

Ray students also brought home eight individual trophies, a school record for a single event. Leading the way was Phillip Parker-Turner, who finished first in the Grades 2-3 division with a perfect five victories in as many rounds. Other Ray kids who won trophies were Allen Dai, Karen Dai, Sonam Ford, Gonzalo Higuero, James Liu, Nikolaj Reiser, and George Vassilatos.

Kids from other schools who posted excellent records included Mickey Li, Brian Lorenz, Noah Weeks-Brittan, Zackery Mateo Montes, and Stone Tao. See the complete results here.

It was a great way to finish up the season, and we didn’t even have to leave the neighborhood. Thanks to Zack Fishman, Jan van der Mortel, and Bruce Haffner from Chess Education Partners and to Peter Cassel of the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club for hosting the event. Look for more programs from CEP at the Neighborhood Club in the fall.

More photos here.

And don’t forget: We’ll be back playing chess again next Saturday afternoon at the University of Chicago. See you there.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Art Fair this Weekend

I’m a little late in posting this, but not too, late, I think. The 57th Street Art Fair, an annual tradition in Hyde Park, takes place this weekend in and around the Ray School grounds, and I want to urge all chess club parents to support the fair in any way they can, particularly by coming by the Ray School booth (behind the school, near the annex) and putting in some time selling drinks.

The art fair is one of the PTA’s big annual fundraisers, and it’s vital they we do well there. The sale of drinks is the main variable revenue source for the weekend because it depends on a number of things, such as the weather. But since the sale of drinks is labor intensive, its success also depends on how much help the PTA gets from parents and students.

Money raised in this and other fundraisers goes to fund vital programs at Ray—including the chess club. The PTA has supported the Ray School Chess Club generously, so please help the PTA by coming out to the art fair to help. Thanks.

Photo by Zesmerelda, via flickr