Nationals Report - A Coaches Perspective
Chelsea Chessmates Nationals 2016 Report - A Coach's Perspective
Dear PS 11 Chelsea Chessmates Families,
Hello and welcome to a PS 11 chess team 2016 Nationals Report!
It was a long weekend filled with ups and downs, tears and cheers, motivating speeches, family support and (most importantly) scholastic competitive chess at its very best! Most students and coaches arrived Thursday or Friday morning and with some nervous energy all the students, parents and coaches gathered in our team room before the first round started at 1 pm. For many of us, (including this coach) it was our first Nationals tournament. There was a small scare when I found out our flight had a delay to take off... thankfully it was a short one!
Coach Aaron Nervous - Are we taking off soon?
All the kids started to warm up by playing some chess and start to get their "Chess Juices" flowing... always a good idea before the first round of a big tournament! Many parents had been here before and knew what to expect, but of course, every tournament has its own feel... new moments, new surprises, new challenges... and this 2016 Nationals was no different! The Chelsea Chessmates were well represented with three different grades competing: first, second and fifth. I was confident all of our grades had a good chance to score well; though each had its strengths and challenges. It's always tough to send only three or four players to compete for National Titles when you know that there will be teams that send two or even three times that number! But I knew we already had some excellent tournament veteran players, for each grade, who were ready to lead the way!
- Arthur Xu
- Avaan Chamadia
- Christoffer Lamtan
- Amaira Chamadia
- Jack Neirick
- Joshua Isaacs
- Nathaniel Mullodzhanov
- Sabella Faccio
- Viggo Vanaselja
- Anya (Anna) Tsukerman
- Bix (Bromme) Cole
- Ian Shearer
- Kolya (Nicholas) Shulga
The Team's First Picture - Nervous Excitement!
Getting Things Started:
After the initial settling in, it was time to talk to the chess players! Time to get our game faces on and time to get serious! This is what we work for and no one (and I mean NO ONE) works harder than PS 11 does to improve their chess!
The words themselves, when you talk to a group of young chess players before their game, aren't always as important as the tone... You are trying to get them to get into the "chess zone" and get their focus and energy ready for the competitive challenge! Hopefully, their best possible effort, as these moments can be fleeting and are a unique opportunity. The PS 11 Chelsea Chessmates students didn't fail, as they came to Nashville ready to play and every game they gave their best effort!
Time to Play Chess! Go Chelsea Chessmates!
Once you get down to the playing hall for the first time, no matter how many times you've been to large tournaments, the immensity of the room and the number of chess boards set up hits you... And you realize just how amazing this will be! We are competing with teams from all over the country; these are chess players who have all traveled here to do one thing... Win chess games! You know every game and every round it will be a fiercely contested game. You earn your wins and your points here at the Nationals! The Sea of Chess Players is an Amazing Sight to Behold!
The Chess Players:
Ultimately, as a coach, you know how much you have worked with each student and you know if they are ready for competitive play... But chess is such a grand game... No one plays it for you... Once you are at the board, it is only you and no one is there to help you. It is the most scary, unique and exciting feeling all at the same time! Once experienced, it is almost always a feeling that most young players want to go through again and again!
The Chelsea Chessmates team are fighters as seen by every single game I went over... Win, lose or draw. I never saw one single halfhearted attempt or any player give up during their game. Even if the player gave away a pawn or piece early in the game, each and every one of our players made their opponent work to finish them off! There is nothing that makes a coach prouder than fighting spirit in his students!
First Day - Two Games Played:
As a team, all three grades got off to a strong start with a high percentage of the students winning their first round. Quite an accomplishment considering a majority of them were paired up against higher rated players! Unfortunately, that start was hard to sustain in the second round since winning the first round meant that many of our players would be facing an even higher pairing!
I know from my own experience that traveling the day before, or the morning of, a big event and sustaining high energy that first day is a tough task! But the first day is an important one to get yourself mentally immersed in a long tournament and with all three grades already posting early victories, it took a lot of early pressure off.
I was very pleased with our first day results but of course there were two full days and five rounds of chess yet to play! Way too early to make any predictions and my job was to make sure the students were ready in the morning for a long day of competitive chess! The longest day, Saturday, with three full rounds was up next and by the end of the day, PS 11 would really know where we stood... Top ten placement is the expectation with top 5 the goal... And, of course, a National Team Championship the dream!
Day 1 Results - Great First Round, Tougher Second Round
Second Day - Three Games Played:
I could sense a fantastic energy from the students and parents first thing in the morning... After the parents, coaches and students had a full good night's sleep, everyone was prepared and ready for the longest day! I must admit, I understand why they run the Kindergarten and First grades at a different schedule than the other grades but it does make for a few weird deja vu moments! Didn't I just give this motivational speech a moment ago? Didn't the students just leave to go play their game...
Why are they back so quickly? HA!
Go First Grade Team!
There is no greater joy than seeing a student charge back into a room after they win! The students love to post their scores on the board and having the whole team room applaud is truly a uniting and team solidifying moment! It is a such a joyous moment, it can be quite addictive for everyone involved and it can make it a little hard when a student comes back after a loss. High expectations are the norm as we have worked hard as a school. Indeed, there were several tough losses on day two and several of the students took them very hard. But losing a well-fought chess game is something to proud of and a great building block for growth if used correctly! I did have to speak to a couple of students away from the team room to make sure they stayed focused... And I was not disappointed in my private talks as each of those students came back to play well and help the team! Fighting Spirit!! Day two was an up and down affair with more ups than downs. We had first grade veterans Avaan and Christoffer leading the way with Arthur getting adjusted to such strong competition. We had second grade veteran Nathaniel leading the way with Joshua not far behind... Which 2nd grader was going to step up to join them? Fifth grade had the true tournament veterans Bix, Ian and Kolya fighting every game for their points... And almost always facing a higher rated opponent to boot!
I have to mention the wonderful table spread full of snacks provided by the parents; it really helped this coach keep his energy high throughout the day! Not to mention the delicious pizza lunch, thanks parents! By the end of day two, our first graders were doing very well sitting in 4th place with 10 and a half points. Our 2nd graders were in 9th place with 9 points and our fifth graders had 8 points, good enough to sneak into the top ten with tenth place. All three teams were in the top ten with a shot for higher spots going into day 3! Hard to ask for more and I can say the excitement and team energy was very high all around.
Phew! Time for a good, quick dinner and some sleep... This coach can hardly wait for tomorrow!
Third Day - Final Two Games Played:
One final push! One more day of staying focused! Two more games to play, can we move up in the standings? This is what we came to Nashville for! Can our 2nd grade or 5th grade teams sneak into the top 5? Can our first graders make a final strong last day move to actually be national champs?? The reality was it would be next to impossible to win it all for the first graders but mathematically still a possibility! All three would need to "run the table" day three, but with our fighting spirit I would hardly be shocked...
Will the Chelsea Chessmates take our time? Can PS 11 stay focused and give our best team effort? Let's see some game faces please!!
The rush of students running back after their Sunday morning games was indeed dizzying! Team spirit was high with teammates, parents and coaches celebrating each moment. It was wonderful to see so many blue shirts and each proud face rooting on the team!
Second grade had an amazing round six, catapulting themselves into 5th place in the standings! Both Viggo and Jack won their games helping tremendously! Woot! Fifth grade slugged along keeping their solid pace in 10th place. Unfortunately, the first grade team had their rockiest round with the only time both Avaan and Christoffer would lose at the same time... having only three players for a team provides very little wiggle room and is a Herculean task! Even with that said, the first grade team was still tied for 4th place heading into the last round.
One more game! One last moment! One more effort! Don't save anything for later... use every minute of your time! Go Chelsea Chessmates!! The team went downstairs for one last determined game...
Fifth Grade Team - Ninth Place Finish!
Fifth grade finished very strong! The trio of Kolya, Ian and Bix gathered in 4 out of a possible 6 points on the last day to stay solidly in the top ten. With this solid finish we were only 1 point away from 5th place! All three can be very proud with each having only two loses out of seven games... An impressive feat in 5th grade at the Nationals!
A special shout out to Anya who played extremely excellent chess!
Sometimes the results don't always show up the way we want them to but her effort and focus was top notch every game. I enjoyed going over her games tremendously. And Anya finished the tournament as strong as any of our players winning both her Sunday games!
Second Grade Team - Sixth Place Finish!
After an incredible morning 6th round, the second grade team couldn'tquite follow it up in the final 7th round. But while just missing the top 5, sixth place is an amazing accomplishment! Especially considering we were in 9th place heading into the final day... Moving up in the standings on the final day is not easy!! It was a tournament experience sure to help our second graders continue their chess growth. Nathaniel led the way with the overall 13th place trophy for individuals with Joshua not far behind. The future looks bright!
A special shout out to Sabella who definitely worked as hard as any of our players this tournament! As she got acclimated to the environment, you could see after each game her confidence growing and in the last three rounds, Sabella scored two and half points! Great finish Sabella!
First Grade Team - Sixth Place Finish!
Another top ten finish!?! Amazing! We just fell out of the top five due to tiebreaks. Tiebreaks can be fickle and a mystery to understand to most of us, but a sixth place standing at the Nationals is always to be celebrated and cherished! Especially when the team has only three players... Avaan, Christoffer and Arthur can all be very proud of their results! Amazingly, Avaan was actually winning every single game he played at some point! And we were STILL only 1 point away from the 2nd place team's final score... wow!
A special shout out to Christoffer, who I constantly have said is underrated... He took the clear first place trophy for the under 1000 rated players in the First Grade! Well done!
To say the future is bright for the PS 11 chess program is such an understatement I can hardly begin to explain... When you add the first and second graders together, we definitely have some of the best young talent in the nation! And it is my privilege to help them continue their chess journeys, I look forward to everyday I work with PS 11!
What is there to say other than no school has better parent participation and support than PS 11! Meeting every parent who attended the Nationals only confirmed this further for me.
Mr Fier and Coach Russ:
An extra special shout out to Mr Fier! Lest we forget, Mr Fier was with us in spirit each and every round! I often asked the students before we went off to "battle"... "What does Mr. Fier always say?" And I would always hear the response "If you see a good move, find a better one!"
Coach Russ desperately wanted to be in Nashville with us but it's hard to argue about staying behind to add a new member to one's family! Congrats on the new daughter Russ! The newest chess player's name is Emily everyone!
The camaraderie and fun:
It's hard to compare or believe any other school has the team spirit, the close bond and the ability to enjoy themselves as well as The Chelsea Chessmates! GO Team!!
There is no greater satisfaction than the smiles along with the trophies at the end! All three grades and teams should feel proud with a tournament to celebrate and results to applaud! Enjoy every moment!
Final Shout Out!
To my two co-coaches who I couldn't have survived without over the Nationals weekend! Thanks for the never-ending support and help throughout the tournament Brian and Angel! You guys rock!
Thank you Chelsea Chessmates for allowing me to join you on this journey and I can hardly wait for the next chapter!
PS. Who is Ready for a Game of Chess?