Our annual school year end chess camp was held at the Mechanics' Institute Chess Room June 8-12. This brought kids from around the city into our building to see the world famous club. These were some of the more motivated players from our scholastic program, and the camp allows them to learn some advanced topics.
Fifteen to twenty kids would come each day, immersing themselves in the complexities of the game. Yet they had great fun — the chess room was often filled with laughter. One young girl (Elinor) was shy and reserved to begin with, but made new chess friends throughout the week and felt at home by the end.
Teachers Elliott Winslow and Emilia Krubnik taught chess tactics, including forks, pins, and skewers. Difficult puzzles of checkmate in 3 moves were solved, and each day the kids would try the challenge game against the instructor (who would play all simultaneously). By the end of the camp the kids were managing to score points!
Thursday, June 11th also brought our annual visit from the Salvation Army. Thirty-two children came from the Tenderloin Salvation Army building for an afternoon of chess. Some had learned chess in previous visits and were versed in the fundamentals. Half of the kids were complete beginners, but enthusiastically learned the rules and started play. We again donated sets and vinyl chess boards so the kids can play at their Tenderloin location.
The 2nd Annual San Francisco Scholastic Chess Championship was held March 28th at the County Fair Building in Golden Gate Park. Mayor Ed Lee sent his deputy Joaquin Torres to welcome the 400 kids and parents who came for the event. "On behalf of the City and County of San Francisco, it is with great pleasure that I welcome you to the 2015 San Francisco Scholastic Championship" wrote Mayor Lee.
The championship was free for all as it was sponsored by the financial firm Robert W. Baird & Co. It was organized by the Mechanics' Institute as the high point of the Mechanics' Youth Outreach Chess Program, which teaches chess for free in the San Francisco schools. This is San Francisco's version of the New York "Chess in the Schools" program.
The beautiful playing hall was decorated with colors for the different sections. This was courtesy of the Baird events team, which also produced colorful t-shirts with a chess/SF skyline motif featuring the Golden Gate Bridge. Side events provided much entertainment. There was a courtyard simul by GM Daniel Naroditsky who played 35 players. (He defeated them all - a warm up for the US Championship.) GM Jesse Kraai gave an entertaining blindfold simul, Iris Kokish, a local women’s class A player and coach gave a (mostly) all-girls simul, and chess clowns entertained the kids in downtime.
There were six sections, High School, Middle School, 4-5 grades, 2-3 grades, and K-1 grades, which were unrated sections and one rated section (with the first three prizes getting free entry to the Mechanics' Institute's Summer Chess Camp). The tournament was 4 rounds.
Lowell High School
Wallenberg High School
Francisco Middle School
SF Pacific Academy
Report by GM Nick de Firmian
Nearly three hundred school kids descended on the Hall of Flowers in Golden Gate Park March 22nd to contest the 2014 San Francisco Scholastic Chess Championship. About 40 people played US Junior Champion Daniel Naroditsky in the sunny courtyard outside the tournament hall, though most were engaged in the championship quest for their grade level.
There were five sections of competition in the chess championship. The winners were:
(Article by Nick de Firmian.)
The World Youth Chess Championships were held in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates on December 17-28 2013. Participating from around the world were 1800 children from 130 countries. The age groups were under 8, 10, 12, 14, 16 and 18 years old for both boys and for girls. The United States had 94 participants, among which were eight of the Mechanics' Institute's regular junior players. The Mechanics' GM in residence, Nick de Firmian accompanied the kids as a coach.
The youngest M.I. representatives, Chinguun Bayaraa and Callaghan McCarty-Snead, competed in the Under 8 category, scoring 6 and 5.5 points respectively - solid performances for their international debut.
Josiah Stearman started off like a rocket in the Under 10s with 7 points from 8. He faded at the end, losing his last three games to remain on 7 points but this was still a very fine result.
All the M.I. representatives in the Under 14 section turned in plus scores with Colin Chow finishing with 7 points and Siddarth Banik, Vignesh Panchanatham and Kesav Viswanadha at 6-5.
The most dramatic finish came in the boys Under 18 section. The Mechanics' Daniel Naroditsky was battling at the top with 7.5/10 as the last round began. He had the the black pieces against another great young talent, the Spanish player David Anton Guijarro, who is a fellow grandmaster. A draw would gain Daniel the silver medal, but Daniel played for gold and glory. He bravely sacrificed his queen to get a very complicated double-edged position. He had good chances after giving up the mighty queen, but then forgot about a lowly pawn which anchored his position. Sadly he went down to defeat and finished out of the medals.
The United States did manage a gold medal in the Under 10 boys section with Awonder Liang scoring a scorching 10/11. Fellow American David Pend also picked up the silver medal in this section.
All the children had an interesting cultural experience and enjoyed being members of the American team.
(Article by Nick de Firmian.)
The annual summertime Mechanics' Institute Scholastic Championship was held July 6th at the MI chess rooms. After 5 rounds of 30 minute per player games, Alexander Kassil emerged as the winner with 4.5 points. Close behind was Matt Stecklow with 4 points, and the 3rd place trophy went to Aaron Thompson with 3.5 points. All participants received a prize. The tournament was funded by the M. Wiskemann foundation.
Twenty bay area kids came for the Mechanics' Institute novice chess camp, held June 10-14 from 10 am to 2 pm. The kids learned news strategies, played hundreds of games, watched " Knights of the South Bronx" and played a chess tournament. They finished on Friday afternoon with "bughouse chess."
Thursday afternoon brought another visit to the chess rooms of a wonderful group of youngsters. Leaders of the Salvation Army on Turk St. walked Twenty-five children to 57 Post st. The kids learned the rules and basic strategies from our MI staff.
On May 16th kids (along with parents) from Marshall Elementary School in the Mission district traveled to Cleveland Elementary in the Excelsior to play a fun tournament run by the Mechanics' with trophies to the winners and medals for all participants. Thirty-eight children played three rounds showing fine sportsmanship as well as fine ability. Teachers Judy Viertel (Marshall) and Vanessa Perez (Cleveland) arranged their students participation to cap their year long participation in the after school chess classes.
After a hard fought 6-game two-day tournament at the Santa Clara Convention Center, Lowell High captured 2nd place in the Junior Varsity section of the Northern State Championship. They finished ahead of thirteen high school programs, only behind first place Saratoga High School.
This is the first time since the 1990's that Lowell has competed in a major scholastic chess event. The fine showing starts the resurgence of the great Lowell chess tradition of previous years. The efforts of Mechanics' Institute chess teachers Nick de Firmian, Elliott Winslow and Jules Jelinek have been fruitful.
Pictured below are team members Alan Ching, Edwin Cheng, Hawkins Hu, Justin Jelinek and Matthew Dimon. In the second picture they are joined by intrepid faculty sponsor Pat Fahey (math teacher who hosts the chess club).
Fifth grader Mateo Hansen won the MI Spring Scholastic Championship on March 30th, held in the MI chess rooms at 57 Post St. San Francisco. Mateo scored 3.5 out of the 4 games. He won a crucial last round game against 4rth grader Ibrahim Chappelle, who had won his first 3 rounds. Andrew Ng won the second place trophy with 3 points, edging out Ibrahim (3rd place trophy)on tie-breaks.
Many of the kids were playing their first ever chess tournament. All learned the rules of tournament play and were good sports, so received a knight trophy.
Mechanics' US Chess League members Sam Sevian of Santa Clara and Cameron Wheeler of Cupertino won top honors in the Boys Under 12 year old division of the World Youth Chess Championships held in Maribor, Slovenia November 7-19th. The teammates both scored 9 points from the 11 games, but Sevian edged the gold medal on tiebreak. They were accompanied at the event by coach Nick de Firmian, the GM scholastic director for the MI. The above picture is US Ambassador Joseph Mussomeli greeting the young American participants in Maribor.
They join other Bay Area stars who have been mainstays of the Mechanics' team.
Steven Zierk (2010 Boys Under 18 1st place)
Sam Shankland (2008 Boys Under 18 Champion = 1st)
Daniel Naroditsky (2007 Boys Under 12 1st place)
Vinay Bhat (1995 Boys Under 12 =2nd, 1996 Boys Under 12 3rd place, and 1998 Boys Under 14 =3rd)
No other area of the country, including New York, has a comparable record.
In Maribor the US also won a gold medal in the Boys Under 14 and a bronze in Boys Under 8. The World Youth Championships had 1584 players from 92 countries. All the kids enjoyed meeting and playing others from around the world. The US team got to meet former World Champion Garry Kasparov after the last round.
Weibel Moy, Michael Wang, Steven Li and Anthony Zhou won the K-6th grade National Chess Championship in Nashville Tennessee held May 11-13, 2012. The victory gained the boys each a $500 scholarship. The Fremont chess powerhouse, run by the indefatigable Dr. Alan Kirschner, overcame 27 other teams from across the country, including the elite contenders from New York.
The youngsters where coached in Nashville by the Mechanics' Institutes' own scholastic organizer Anthony Corrales. Kevin Moy, Michael Wang and Anthony Zhou are Mechanics' members and participants in our chess camps and tournament programs.
The Weibel Elementary School chess program has been one of the best and strongest in the country for more than 20 years with 135 children currently enrolled their program.