Sunday, March 11, 2007

Meltdown at CPS Chess Meet

Ray kids finish strong, but chaos & walkouts undemine results

The Ray School team played excellent chess at Saturday’s Chicago Public Schools championship, but their efforts were overshadowed by the larger chaos that prevailed at the event, as the badly run tournament prompted many of the participating schools to walk out after the second game.

Problems began even before the first round, when tournament directors announced a strange format for the competition that made no sense to kids or coaches. The officials were unable to clearly explain the system, which, given the shortage of tournament supervisors on hand, would require the kids to keep their own scores and decide their own opponent pairings. This is not the way scholastic chess tournaments normally work.

The frustration this elicited in players and coaches, many of whom had endured poorly organized CPS tournaments in the past, reached a head when one chess coach climbed onto the auditorium stage and delivered a stirring peroration denouncing the way the tournament was being run and calling it an insult to the CPS chess community, which he said deserved, “a well-run and well-organized championship tournament.”

Shortly thereafter a large number of schools left, including some of the city’s top programs: Burbank, Gale, Disney, Jordan, Clinton, and others. The tournament continued in the afternoon with about half of the original players, and as a formal matter Ray finished well, with second-place finishes in both the K-2 and K-4 sections. Yet it’s hard to say what these achievements mean given that many of the city’s top schools forfeited when they left the meet.

The Ray kids maintained their dignity and composure in a difficult situation. They also played well. Leading the way was the sister-and-brother team of Karen and Allen Dai, who both posted perfect 4.0/4.0 scores – four victories in four games. Right behind them was fourth-grader James Liu, who turned in a 3.0/4.0. Other kids who contributed to Ray’s high finish were Michael Averill-Panelas, William Burke, Andy Margulis, Nikolaj Reiser, Jared Clark, and Gonzalo Higuero.

Given the upheavals I am reluctant even to report the official results, but since they may not appear online anywhere else, here they are:

1st place – Bell
2nd place – Ray

1st place – Bell
2nd place – Ray

1st place - Beasley
2nd place - Cook

1st place - Edgebrook
2nd place - Sutherland

There is now talk among coaches of an alternative championship tournament to be run by one of the regular sponsoring organizations in the area, a move that would be aimed at producing a smothly run championship event for the Chicago public schools. I’ll keep you posted. Meanwhile, for excellent play and grace under pressure, congratulations to Team Ray.

Counterpoint: As anarchy reigned at the the CPS tournament, Ray third-grader Phillip Parker-Turner had the good fortune to be far away, at the K-8 Illinois state championship in Blommington-Normal. In that event, which I’m told went much better, Phillip finished an impressive 19th in the k-3 division, out of 184 of the most serious players in the Land of Lincoln. Congratulations, Phillip.


Lamarr Wilson said...

Well, your kids shouldn't be shortchanged because of this debacle, so I'm glad that you gave them their accolades.

Coaches like you are going to make the change; be sure to continue to call Larson out by name. Wrong is wrong, and when kids are involved, it's time to name names, expose the incompetence, and work to get something done. So keep doing what you're doing!