Thursday, April 05, 2007

Ray Kids are the Crème de la Crème

Phillip, Allen et al show their stuff at MVP tournament

Beneath the sky-lit canopy of the Harold Washington Library’s majestic Winter Garden, Ray School’s top chess players went up against the city’s best on Wednesday and showed once again that they are among the crème de la crème of scholastic chess in Chicago.

The scene was the annual MVP Tournament, in which the best chess players in the Chicago Public Schools meet for a day of inspired competition to see who really is the best of the best. By day’s end it was clear that several Ray kids belong in that elite group, particularly Phillip Parker-Turner and Allen Dai, who each posted perfect 5.0/5.0 scores—five victories in as many games—to take first place in the Grade 2-3 and K-1 divisions respectively.

Nikolaj Reiser, Karen Dai, Andy Margulis, and James Liu also added to the Ray team’s overall score of 20 wins in 30 total games, a remarkable record considering the strength of the competition. Everyone contributed victories to the total, and Nikolaj’s 4.0/5.0 brought him so close to a trophy (he missed on statistical tiebreaks) that he was called onto the stage to take a bow.

The 4th/5th-grade division in which Nikolaj played was won by Decatur School superstar Sam Schmakel, who beat the runner-up, Burbank’s Christopher Velazquez, in the last round. Former Ray student Zesen Li finished third. Chengliang Luo of Edgebrook Elementary took the junior high school division (grades 6-8).

Competition was particularly fierce at the high school level, where thousands of dollars in scholarships were on the line. Winning the varsity division was Kevin Velazquez (Christopher’s big brother, who played some awesome blitz in a tiebreaker round), while Paaras Modi took top honors in the freshman/sophomore category.

The tournament was sponsored by the David R. MacDonald Foundation, which generously underwrote the scholarships, thirty stunning trophies, and special gifts to all players, which included lunch, a medallion, a beautiful chess score book, and membership in the U.S. Chess Federation for the kids who did not already belong. And as they did last year, Zack Fishman, IM Jan van de Mortel, and their associates at Chess Education Partners provided first-rate tournament direction.

Thanks to the MacDonald family and CEP for putting on an excellent tournament, and congratulations to all the kids who played. Every one of them is a champion.

Lamarr Wilson has more to add, and, as usual, he has the best pictures.


chessdad64 said...

Congratulations to the Ray School Chess Team. You guys are establishing yourselves as a powerhouse on the Chicago chess scene. Keep up the good work!