[From a parent letter describing the second year of the Malcolm X Chess Tournament, two years ago.]
— My vote for the best quote of the tournament, so far, is a fourth grade student, speaking of her last round of play: “My heart was pounding so much that I could feel my glasses moving up and down.”
— I overheard one student telling a friend how big a deal it would mean to be second grade champion. Overall, people played much more seriously, especially third and fourth rounds. A few faculty told me about how the tournament was all the buzz in their classrooms, and we had more children spectators than last year.
[It has kept growing, from 32 students the first year to 62 last year, the third.]
— There were several notable upsets of a student winning who wasn’t “expected” to win. For better or worse, the students do come with their own hierarchies in how they see each other — “I am better than him, and he just beat that person, so I will be able to beat that person.” Sometimes it was hard on people who used this logic and still lost. The children are more even in ability than they realize. For example, none of the students who were grade level champions last year could hold on and repeat as champions this year.
[From last year’s tournament.]
There will be a couple new awards in the tournament this year, one for the most beautiful checkmate and one for a pair of students who together create a great game. Current contender for #1 is [a student] who had a very spare mate using bishop, knight, and pawn. Often students prefer to get two queens and bludgeon their opponent to death. His solution is much more elegant. Current contenders for #2 are a pair of students. When one didn’t understand the rule about pawn promotion, the other, instead of being frustrated or condescending, gave her a series of hints and made a game out of the situation. That attracted a few other students who also tried to help out; it was a very sweet scene.