Record-breaking turnout for girls state chess championship

Apr. 22, 2013 @ 11:46 PM

A record-breaking 53 participants descended on First United Methodist Church April 13 for the N.C. Chess Association all-girls championship.

Kydriana Carter, Jiyoung Parker and Joyce Wei tied for first place in the championship section. Monroe’s Carter, a ninth-grader, took the title via tiebreaker, thereby earning a $500 scholarship.

Henderson’s Rudy Abate, president of the state chess association, said the event took months of planning and praised the community’s support.

“We had a lot of support from local businesses,” said Abate. “They were very supportive with the scholarship fund.”

Four Vance Charter School fifth-graders participated in the K-12 tourney that is split into three different sections according to rating.

Lindsey Kimbrell tallied 5.5 points out of a total of eight to finish first in her class. Nadia Simmons, Carleigh Roberson and Haven Osborn each had four points.

“I was very happy with how all four of them played,” said Abate.

A win is worth one point and a draw equals half a point. Each girl has 45 minutes to complete their game. Play started at 9:30 a.m. and the event concluded close to 7 p.m., according to Abate.

Abate said competitors came from as far away as Asheville and there were eight from the Charlotte area.

Last year’s state tourney in Charlotte had a field of 24 players. The Henderson tourney broke the participant number of 46, set in the 2010 Durham event.

Abate attributed this year’s spike in a high volume of players entered from Wake County, about 50 percent of the field, he estimated.

Abate added that the popularity of chess seems to be growing in Vance County.

“I think chess with the young kids is just starting to get popular in our area where before it was always popular in the Charlotte, Asheville areas,” Abate said.

Abate hopes the event will return to Henderson next year. He’s also trying to bring the state closed championship to Vance County.

The next major state event organized by the U.S. Chess Association is the N.C. Open on Labor Day weekend, held in conjunction with the U.S. Masters tourney.

Abate takes in Nashville, Tenn. Supernational tourney

Rudy Abate has been playing chess for most of his life, but he was blown away by the level of play at the U.S. Chess Federation Supernationals V.Abate takes in Nashville Supernational tourney

Known as the Olympics of scholastic chess, the Supernationals are held once every four years. This year’s tournament was held April 5-7 at the Gaylord Opryland Resort Hotel and Convention Center in Nashville, Tenn.

Abate, president of the N.C. Chess Association, was selected as the assistant K3 section chief.

“Naturally they’re going to have arguments or disagreements over the rules,” said Abate, a Henderson resident. “We’re there to arbitrate that.”

The tournament directors assess penalties and enforce forfeits, not always the easiest job with children.

“You feel like you have to walk around with a box of tissues sometimes,” said Abate. “There was a lot of crying with the little kids. It’s very hard as a judge to go to a table with a little second-grader looking up at you because his opponent called you over because of a rule infraction.”

The player’s face reads, “Please don’t tell me I’m wrong.”

“And then as soon as you tell them he did something wrong, the tears just come out,” said Abate.

A record of about 5,300 players participated in the competition that showcases scholastic challengers from each grade level.

Abate said one of the K3 champs went unbeaten and boasts an 1850 rating. In perspective, the legendary Bobby Fischer had a rating of 2800 and Abate is a 1500.

“I watched his game and it was unbelievable, his concentration,” said Abate. “Even being involved with chess as long as I have, how well they can play at that age is unbelievable.”

Abate said there were about 170 participants from North Carolina, which was one of the better-represented states. New York brought more than 900.

The tournament is open-style. The only requirement is that the participant be a member of the U.S. Chess Federation. The competition is organized by grade level rather than rating.

Contact the writer at kholtzman@hendersondispatch.com.