Glastonbury Schools' Chess Tournament sees record turnout

By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Glastonbury - posted Mon., May. 6, 2013
Mason Pawelek, 11, is pumped about his chess move at the Glastonbury Schools' Fifth Annual Intra-district Chess Tournament on May 2. Photos by Steve Smith.
Mason Pawelek, 11, is pumped about his chess move at the Glastonbury Schools' Fifth Annual Intra-district Chess Tournament on May 2. Photos by Steve Smith.

A record number of players came out for the Glastonbury Schools Intra-District Chess Tournament on May 2, at Gideon Welles School. More than 140 students from all of the town's schools took part - 30 more than any prior year.

The tournament was started in 2009 by teacher Denise O'Leary, with the help of Naubuc teacher and chess club advisor John Briody.

Briody said that the number of students at the chess club at Naubuc has stayed consistent year after year, but programs at other schools have increased, and the Welles-Turner Library has also added a program, due to increased interest. Chess is simply becoming more popular amongst Glastonbury kids.

“Some of the schools, for a long time, didn't have an advisor,” he said. “That's more in place now. So, the increase at the tournament is because of a lot of things, including the tournament itself, which helps get the word out.”

The Glastonbury PTSO also recently donated $600 to the tournament for new chess boards, timers and scholarships for some players' entry fees.

David Aldi, who facilitates the tournaments all over the state, had to quell some of the players' over-excitedness. “Some excited chess players have been slamming pieces during play,” he said. “That's unsportsmanlike conduct. Make the move without slamming the piece.”

However, with the emphasis as much on sportsmanship as on the rules and instruction, the students were overall very well-behaved and cordial, including handshakes before and after each match.

Mason Pawelek played in the first tournament at age 6. Now an 11-year-old fifth-grader at Buttonball Lane School, he said he loves the tourney. “I like it a lot. I usually win. There are a lot of kids I know,” he said, after taking the first two matches out of his four on the day. “It was okay. It wasn't that hard, but it wasn't too easy. I'm probably going to win today.”

Brimming with the confidence of a natural, Pawelek said he expects to win each game, and hardly needs to practice. “Not a lot,” he said. “Occasionally when a tournament is coming up, I'll play a couple of games on the computer.”

“He plays well, but he only has to pay half a mind to it,” Briody said of Pawelek. “He's so much more focused on everybody else.”

Pawelek's brother Max, 6, also plays in the tournament, but admits he's not as into chess as his older brother, preferring another game instead. “I play Mah-jong,” Max said.

First-place finishers were: Primary level - Matthew Stephen of Eastbury School; Elementary level - Ian Sullivan of Buttonball Lane School; Intermediate Level – Jonathan Bell of Glastonbury-East Hartford Magnet School, and; Secondary Level – Iam Lomeli of GHS.

Pawelek had a 3-1 record (though the one loss was close) at the end of the tournament. Players are ranked according their common and uncommon opponents. A computer program values for the level of the opponent and generates points for each player so that a ranking can be determined.

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