Observations of a chess parent

An essay for MI Chess Magazine reflecting on the 2019 Michigan Junior Chess Championships held at Oakland University, Rochester, MI – March 23, 2019.  Michigan Chess Association

Saturday, March 23 dawned bright and early as my son and I finished breakfast and headed off to Oakland University for the 2019 Michigan Junior Chess Championships. Tournament days are always exciting and full of promise. Our ride to Rochester was occupied with a mix of music and conversation.

The Oakland Center was a spacious and modern events facility with plenty of room, seating and some on-site food options. We arrived early enough to pick a spot near where the pairings would be posted and settled in. On tournament days, we like to pass the time between games either reading, stretching our legs outside, or playing each other.

Once the first pairings were posted, we headed into the K-5 playing room to find my son’s board and get set. The lighting and setup were quite nice. Since I have also been photographing matches for use by the MCA, I took up a position at the edge of the room and listened to the opening announcements.

Then, with the shaking of hands, the round began. I’ve been so impressed, given that the room is filled with young kids, how a silence descends upon the room with the only sounds being the clack of pieces being moved and clocks being triggered.

This is a point that is really striking for me as a parent. Chess is a game of concentration and discipline. I can see the concentration in these young faces as they play each other. I also love the sportsmanship aspect of these tournaments. Games begin and end with a handshake. Opponents over the board laugh and play together outside of the playing room. Chess challenges the brain, teaches patience, discipline, and sportsmanship. I am so happy that my son enjoys the game and is able to play in a wide variety of tournaments run my the MCA.

If the K-8 room was quiet, the high school room was silent. With a much longer time control, there were no quick moves to be seen. Just stony faces of concentration. These young competitors were playing at a high level. The ratings in this room ran up to nearly 2500 with a majority of the players over 1000. This was a room to tiptoe around the edges and capture a few images with a long lens.

Round one turned into two, three, four, and five and before I knew it the days was done and it was time for the awards ceremony. I’m always pleased how many players stay and cheer for their peers that earned trophies.

A few closing thoughts for other parents. The International Olympic Committee has recognized chess as a sport! I believe it based on the energy my son expends in a day. We have found these tips to be valuable in preparing for scholastic tournaments:

      • Get a good night’s sleep!
      • Eat a hearty breakfast.
      • Bring a nutritious lunch and plenty of healthy snacks – we need more than a typical school day.
      • Stay hydrated! A water bottle is key throughout the day.
      • Rest, relax, and get some fresh air between games.

As always, we are looking forward to the next tournament.