Passers-by at the Cobb Galleria Centre were astonished to discover over 1000 kids happily spending their Saturday in an all-day intensive chess competition. While most elementary and middle school students often enjoy their weekends playing team sports or video games, chess kids from more than 100 public, private, and home-based schools came from all over the greater Atlanta area to compete in the 2014 K-8 Team State Qualifier Tournament on February 8, 2014.
By sheer numbers, the Qualifier is the largest scholastic tournament that the Georgia Chess Association (GCA) hosts all year. It is also one of the most important tournaments for kids playing on their school teams because it provides the opportunity for them to win statewide recognition for their elementary or middle school. Originally, the GCA hosted four smaller regional tournaments, one for each of four geographies spanning the greater Atlanta area. The challenges of scheduling four separate regional tournaments, each requiring its own weekend date, facility, staffing, equipment, etc., were quite considerable (and expensive). For the second consecutive year, the GCA brought everyone together at the Cobb Galleria Centre, a venue accustomed to hosting very large events and offering economies of scale. It was a lively event, with an expansive Skittles hall set up as a waiting area for school teams and their families, a huge tournament playing hall, and vendors selling food, chess paraphernalia, and the new GCA t-shirt. (Our motto: Georgia Chess. We’re not just playing games here.) A special thank you to the four Georgia chess players who provided the all-day simul exhibition: #1 ranked player in GA, GM Alonzo Zapata; IM Carlos Perdomo; current GA State Champion Damir Studen; and A.J. Steigman.
The Qualifier serves to recognize top-performing school teams, awarding both county championships and invitations to play in the 2014 K-8 Team State Championship in March. Students competed as individuals in five rounds of unrated competition, with their wins counting as points for their school teams (a draw was worth a ½ point). The scores of a school team’s top four performers (identified as those with the most points scored) were counted and used to derive an overall team score.
Each school was allowed to field multiple teams, assuming that they played in different sections, which were determined by grade level: K-1, K-3, K-5, and 6-8. Competition was intense, but the kids enjoyed themselves thoroughly–especially those on teams who were invited to come back and play at the next level of competition, the K-8 Team State Championship. The three top-scoring K-1 schools were: Cliff Valley, Montgomery Elementary, and East Side Elementary. The competitive K-3 section was led by: Medlock Bridge, Brookwood Elementary, and Mt. Bethel Elementary. The K-5 top three champion schools were: East Side Elementary, Whitefield Academy, and Fulton Sunshine Academy. And the Middle School section (grades 6-8) was dominated by: Fulton Sunshine Academy, Paideia, and Westminster.
The invitation to compete at the Georgia State Championship was extended to the top scoring tier of teams from the Qualifier event, as well as other schools from around the state: 8 K-1 teams, 24 K-3 teams, 28 K-5 teams, and 12 Middle School teams. Unlike all other scholastic tournaments, the rated Championship limits each team to five players in any given round, plus two alternates who can be cycled into play. Each team registers its 5-7 players by playing strength (usually USCF rating) and is required to keep this order, even when alternates are cycled into a particular round. School names are used in the pairings and players are instructed to sit as a team at their assigned tables at boards 1-5 (lettered as “a” through “e”) across from their opponent school’s counterparts.
The State Championship was held at the Marriott Perimeter Center hotel on Sunday, March 23, 2014. The space provided for a separate K-1 tournament playing hall, which allowed the youngest chess players to be more closely supervised and to conclude their tournament ahead of their older teammates. Many parents appreciated the accessibility to the hotel restaurant, the sports bar (best guess as to where to find the dads, especially with basketball on the flat screens), and nearby restaurants and shopping. This was especially needed with the tournament running late; the trophy ceremony didn’t conclude until after 8:30 pm.
Congratulations to the 2014 Georgia State Champion school teams! They are:
K-1: East Side
K-5: East Side
Middle School: Westminster
The top performers by section from the Championship are as follows:
1st East Side
2nd Crabapple Crossing
3rd Cliff Valley
3rd Fulton Sunshine
1st East Side
2nd Fulton Sunshine
3rd Trinity School
2nd Cliff Valley
3rd Northwestern Middle
So what’s next for Georgia’s scholastic chess competitors? The National Junior High Championship is coming to Atlanta on April 27-29, 2014 at the Hyatt Regency. Please see www.uschess.org for more information and to register for this prestigious tournament.
Catching up with the 2013 K-1 National Co-Champion Next Post:
A Mother’s Perspective on the National Title