Portland Area Elementary Schools Meet in Chess Competition

06.12.13 The rainy day on May 29th was one of all too many in May, but was welcomed by the chess coaches as Little League was cancelled and several chess team members could make the tournament at the East End Community School after all. Nearly 50 players from the East End Community, Ocean Avenue, and Falmouth Elementary Schools met in the East End School cafeteria to play chess matches after a quick supper of pizza generously provided by Leonardo's Pizza.

Action ready to begin at the Portland Area Elementary School Competition on May 29th.

Thanks to Ron Lewis for contributing to this report.

The Falmouth program, guided by coach Chris Kidwell, was in its second year. The Ocean Avenue and East End Programs were in their first years. The Ocean Avenue coach was volunteer John Gordon, while the East End program was initiated by Extended Learning Coordinator Naila Wissa and the team's coach is Ben Monaghan.

The large number of players, the odd number of teams, and the limited time for play, two and a half hours, all presented difficulties for devising a suitable format for conducting the tournament. One typical format would be to use the National's format, a giant Swiss with team-mates not playing each other. However, time required for pairing would have absorbed much of the available time for the entire tournament. Straight match play between the three teams would have meant one team sitting out each round, clearly not desirable. A solution was suggested by Ron Lewis, volunteer Tournament Director for the event, and board member of the Maine Chess Association. This was for each school to divide its players into two squads of approximately equal playing strength. Then a 4-round tournament would allow pairing each of the school's squads against each of the other four squads in the tournament without any delays or any school sitting out a round. Squads, maintaining the board playing order, could be moved from place to place without regard to individual player pairings. Pairings of the squads could be done even before the tournament started. In the event of uneven squad numbers in each pairing, only the number of boards by the lower number squad would count. Alternates could be shuffled in at the end of the squad, and extra players during each round could play non-counting games to keep everyone busy and a part of the actual scoring. One match point would be awarded to the winner of each inter-squad match. The match points would be tallied to determine the winning school.

To overcome the playing time limitation, and that no clocks were used, 25 minutes were allotted for each game. A warning was announced with 5 minutes left to play, and at 25 minutes, all play was suspended. Most games were completed within the time limit, with typically only 4 or 5 games remaining unfinished. At this point, the TD quickly adjudicated the positions, declaring a winner or the game drawn based on position, material balance, or, having observed some of the game in progress, lack of understanding of how to deliver mate.

By the end of the third round, East End had accumulated 5.5 points, to 3 for Falmouth, and a half point for Ocean Avenue, essentially clinching the win. Pressing on in the fourth round, they garnered another two match points. The final totals were East End 7.5, Falmouth 4, and Ocean Avenue 0.5, with East End excitedly crowded around each other, their coach, and the winner's trophy.

While everyone played well, especially the newcomers to any tournament play, the coaches wanted to recognize outstanding play by the following. For East End: 3rd graders, Arius Ahmed, James Botting and Devyn Shaunessey; 4th graders, Jack Mahoney, Teddy Perreira, Mick Fennessey; and 5th graders, Alex Hernandez, Lazarus Bongamin. For Falmouth: with 4 wins, Angus Christie; with 3.5 points, Payton Smith; and with 3 points, Yu-Jai Lin, Quinn Hagerty, Joseph Thorpe, and Finn Caxton-Smith. For Ocean Avenue: Oliver Van Soest, Alexandro Collings-Rico, Henry Mandeville, Michael Randall, Eli Podolsky, Mara Wyman, Patrick Duffy, Zach Lull, Gabriel Gomez, and Keller Sims-Kestelien.
In addition to the team coaches and parent volunteers, the event was ably assisted by Jon Malev and Frank Smith. Jon and Frank have been very active over the past few years in the Portland area in helping support elementary schools interested in establishing a chess program. The tournament and trophy were named in Frank's honor. In the past these two have been active at the former Nathan Clifford School, the Hall School, and this past year, both at Reiche School and assisting at the East End program. Also assisting the East End team during the year were volunteers Fred Fowler and Ben Hart.

All the participating schools and coaches hope that the programs can expand and that more schools in Southwestern Maine would participate in an annual tournament. Points of contact for those interested in school chess programs include Naila Wissa at wissan@portlandschools.org, East End coach Ben Monaghan at bmonagha@maine.rr.com, and Falmouth coach Chis Kidwell at kidwell@maine.rr.com. Chris, in addition to running the chess program at the Falmouth Elementary School, has also conducted after-school programs through the Falmouth Community Programs. Those interested in chess activity in the State are directed to the ChessMaine.net internet webpage for news, information, puzzles, and articles of chess interest.

The players are ready...

...and the action begins!

Determination and concentration on players' faces

Jubilation at the awards ceremony

Winning East End Team - tall, older guys at rear (left to right) Coach Ben Monaghan, Frank Smith, and Jon Malev

Second place to Falmouth Elementary with Coach Chris Kidwell

Third place team Ocean Avenue with coach John Gordon


what a great job from the organizers...giving so much to the children....and to see the happy faces from the students.

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