Chess tournament matches school system's best
By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Glastonbury - posted Wed., Jun. 8, 2011
In its third year, the annual Glastonbury Intra-district Chess Tournament again saw more than 110 participants, and the enthusiasm was the highest yet.
Denise O’Leary, a PACE resource teacher at Gideon Welles, organized the first tournament in 2009, after she had chaperoned two students at a national tournament and was impressed with how it was run. She also quickly learned that there was a large number of students in Glastonbury who played chess.
Except for GHS, students from all of the town’s elementary and secondary schools - including the East Hartford/Glastonbury Elementary Magnet School - were represented. Some of the schools even had more-organized teams, such as the Naubuc Knights and the Eastbury Kool Kings.
After being instructed on the ground rules, such as shaking hands after the match in the spirit of good sportsmanship and not commenting on other players’ matches, the players began the four-round “Swiss style” tournament, in which they were paired against players with similar records as the match progressed. A computer program, maintained by Connecticut Scholastic Chess Instructor Dave Aldi, tracked each player’s progress and re-matched them for the next round.
Aldi said, despite the software’s help, his job is no small undertaking.
“It’s very involved,” he said. “It’s all about the ‘gotchas’ that can happen and how to avoid them.” For example, Aldi said, when a match result is incorrectly reported, it can play havoc with the rest of the tournament, and can be very difficult to repair.
“The whole thing is when you see something, you have to catch it now,” he said, adding that to help avoid such problems, players were to get the attention of one of the monitors as soon as there is a questionable play.
Ahbi, 9, a student from Hopewell, has been playing chess for about three years, and was the first player to win the first match, utilizing a blitz-type strategy and checkmating his opponent in less than a minute.
“I just call it ‘four-move checkmate,’” he said. “I’m going to try it every time, but if it doesn’t work, I’ll try something else.” (The four-move strategy was quickly thwarted by his second-round opponent).
Between matches, the players retired to rooms, divided by school teams, and were treated to pizza and beverages, and were allowed to play practice matches, or just relax and watch movies.
O’Leary said she was pleased with the turnout. “We’re up to about 112 kids,” she said. “It’s time for me to start ordering some more chess boards.”
Nayaug School had only about one or two players in the past, but the school’s principal, Dr. Holly Hageman, had proactively gotten more students to play.
“She really took hold of it,” O’Leary said. “This year, she has 14 players, which is a substantial growth in that school.”
Naubuc and Eastbury each had more than 25 players.
O’Leary added that the volunteer support has also increased.
“This year we ended up with 20 chaperones,” she said. “I feel comfortable that the kids aren’t unattended. That was a new piece this year.”
Gavin Smith of Eastbury placed first in the Primary Section; Mason Pawelek placed second. Chris Lomeli and Anthony Diaz, both from Gideon Welles, placed first and second, respectively, in the Elementary Section. Dan Pascetta from Gideon Welles placed first in the Middle/Secondary Section and Ian Lomeli from Smith Middle School placed second.