Young chess players enjoy learning from their opponents

By Shondiin Silversmith
Navajo Times

KEAMS CANYON, Ariz., Oct. 3, 2013

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(Times photos - Shondiin Silversmith)

TOP: Hopi High School student Daniel Lim contemplates his next move during the first round of the Hopi High chess tournament on Sept. 27. Lim took second place for the alternate section of the tournament.

MIDDLE: Alchesay High School chess player Tyrone Ngo plays a practice game with a friend as they wait for round two of the Hopi High chess tournament to start last Friday night. Alchesay placed first in the tournament.

For some of the top chess players in Arizona the main concern doesn't fall on themselves, but their opponent.

"It's only as hard as your opponent is. If your opponent is weak then chess is easy; if your opponent is really good then it's hard," Holbrook High School Chess Coach Daniel Mitchell said during a team chess tournament at Hopi High School this past weekend, where five schools from across Arizona came to compete - Kingman, Holbrook, Tuba City, Hopi, Alchesay and Blue Ridge.

"The most challenging thing about chess is the other player. You don't know what they're going to do or where they're going to move. It's hard to predict," said Hopi High School chess player Aidan Frendericks, adding that is what he enjoys about the game.

"You really have to think about it in order to win," Frendericks added.

Ryan Gross, 16, from Kingman High School, has been playing since third grade and says the opponent is what helps you get better.

"You can learn from their styles and they can learn from your styles," Gross added.

Tyrone Ngo, 17, from Alchesay High School said, "The people you go against, you learn from in every game, and you learn from your mistakes," and that is one of the reasons why he stays interested in a game he's been playing since seventh grade.

"It's one of the few sports and activities you can do where you have boys and girls playing at the same time," Mitchell said adding that that is what he's found fascinating about chess in the three years he's been involved as a coach.

"It teaches them a lot of skills like how to calmly deal with a passionate situation," Mitchell said.

"It's a great life skill because chess really shows that if you put the work in you get the results out," said chess coach Jeff Robinson from Blue Ridge High School, adding that in some cases it does involve natural talent, but most of the time you have really work at it.

"It makes me think, that's the main thing because it's challenging," said Tuba City High School chess player Amber Robbins on why she enjoys the game, adding that as a chess player "you actually depend on your opponent."

Robbins, 15, has been playing chess since she was 7, thanks to her uncle, and now that she is on a team she feels that it's a great way for her to expose her talent in the game.

Many of the players said there is a difference between playing in team tournaments and playing individually, most of their concerns being that they don't want to let their team down.

"Individually (I) mainly I focus on how well I'll do, but if I do well in a round in a game, and if my teammate loses a round the whole team loses," Robbins said. Still, she thinks working as a team makes the chess play a lot better because the whole school is recognized.

"I think it's all about the sportsmanship and teamwork," Robbins added.

Robinson said that each game is played like a regular chess game, but in a team tournament the top five players within the chess team play against the other team's top five.

How the tournament is scored is based on the players on each chess board. If this person wins the game the team gets a point, if it's a draw they get half a point and if they lose they get nothing. The team that gets three wins wins the round, and whoever has the most points at the end of the tournament wins.

For this tournament they had five boards. The first board starts with white getting the first move, and then it switches back and forth down the line.

Each game played is controlled by a chess clock. On average each game will last from two to two-and-a-half hours, said Robinson. "It makes for very exciting chess."

On top of the time crunch, players have a notation system where they have to write all their moves down, so when it comes back to practice the team can recreate that game to see where they could improve, Robinson added.

Playing too fast, a lot of pawn movement and bringing out the queen are some of the common errors each of the coaches see within their chess players.

Mitchell said that sometimes kids don't really know what else to do with all the pawns so they start moving them out too quickly before developing their major pieces.

"I wasn't sure what to do," Robinson said is his players' common answer for mis-moves, and he believes it's because of the adrenaline the kids have right before the chess clock starts.

Alchesay High School took first place at the tournament, followed by Blue Ridge, Holbrook, Tuba City, Kingman and Hopi.

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