The 5-hour tournament

The sound of plastic hitting vinyl… the smell of anticipation mixed with sweat… allured by the glory of massive trophies…  Caleb participated in his first chess tournament today.  We took a 2 minute video of his first game, but after we watched it, realized it was about 1 minute 55 seconds too long.  Chess is not a very video-friendly game.

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We’re proud of Caleb, because you could see that he was a bit nervous as we made the long  drive up to Shoreline, but he kept his excitement for the tournament.  He said that he was afraid he wouldn’t win any of the games considering that these were all kids who were likely very interested in chess.  We reminded him that losing is a sign that you’re trying things that are hard, and he seemed to take heart.

When we walked in, admittedly, it was a bit intimidating.  Many of the kids were practicing with their very serious looking dad/coaches.  One kid was reading a hardback book that was titled something like  “Mastering the Endgame.”  The book probably weighed about as much as the kid.  Almost every kid brought their own chess kit in some kind of custom, monogrammed case.    Many had brought their own chess clocks.   Some kids had what appeared to be “Chess Journals” with a name of some Eastern European Chess school and were sporting matching chess club T-shirts.  Caleb only brought some craisins.  Hmm…. maybe we were in a bit over our head. 

After checking in, they posted the pairings which showed who everyone was playing with and on which table.  Parents were asked to leave the playing area.  This was probably for the best.  These were all clearly VERY involved parents (including ourselves) and out of the hundreds of games, very likely that some parent somewhere would drop a hint or make a facial gesture that materially affects the game. We were allowed to be in there for about 5 minutes to take some pictures, then encouraged to leave.

It ends up that he won his first game which made his subsequent pairings much more difficult.  He lost the next 3, then won the last one.  Two for five.  Not bad for his first tournament.  Most importantly, when asked how he liked it?  He said, “IT WAS FUN!”  On the way home, he exclaimed enthusiastically, “When’s the next tournament?  Next time, I’m going to win a trophy!”  Maybe he will, and maybe he won’t… but that was exactly what I wanted to hear.  But, hopefully he’ll play in moderation and not succumb to the fast and loose life of chess pros.

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The tournament, just like most sporting events, is a great place for learning how to lose.   Don’t get me wrong – most kids were laughing and joking and being kids the entire time… But there were a few kids there who were crying or pouting because they lost.  There was one kid who screamed out “YOU DIDN’T CALL MY NAME!” after all the trophies were handed out, and his mom quickly drew him in to calm him down.  

We don’t always win everything.  And dealing with losing and failure is a learnt trait.  Way to go to all the kids who participated.  Especially the ones that didn’t win a single game… but will be back at the next tourney.  You’re headed to do great things!

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