An Event to Remember

by Kimberly Anonuevo

   A memory I will always cherish is my participation in the 2002 National Elementary Chess Championship held at the Portland Convention Center from April 26-28. More than 2,000 scholastic chess players attended.

   We arrived in Oregon two days before the main event in order to learn more and see more of the state we are visiting. Already, though, I could feel the excitement of the tourney. It seemed to me that I was going into battle after a rigorous preparation, and I had the mixed emotions of nervousness coupled with an eagerness to fight.

   This time I did not feel too intimidated. Thanks to the Super National last year for giving me experience. However, not being able to know who I would be paired with or the outcome of each game still made me anxious. I was very happy to see some of the kids who had played at the Super National last year. The familiar faces made me feel a little better, a little like playing chess back home.

   The first day of the tournament was quite exciting. As we entered the Convention Center, I was amazed by the number of kids and adults I saw. I couldn't wait to see the pairing lists, I was so hyper. My brain felt like it was going 100 miles an hour.

   Finally, the moment I had been anticipating became real. I sat across from my first round opponent and we exchanged names and rating information. The room was very noisy; kids were still running around trying to find their board. The place was so big that I couldn't hear anything they were announcing over the loud speakers because of the echo. I hoped it would not be as chaotic when we start our clocks.

   Then the chief TD said, "I wish you all good luck, shake hands and start your clocks." As noisy as it was, it seemed as if somebody had pressed the mute button. The whole tournament hall suddenly became so quiet I could even hear the cameras clicking. Now I realized it was time to fight. The pieces on the board seemed to come to life with me as the commanding general who would make them move. Although my opponent's rating was lower than mine, I knew that I had to give him the respect of a higher rated player. After 28 moves I checkmated him, and we shook hands and said "good game" to each other. I did not smile or jump for joy, because I knew that the battle had just begun; also, a wise man once told me, "there are no good emotions in a fight."

   I was aware that after my first win, it would only get harder, and, in fact my second opponent's rating was 100 points more than the first. She came from New York. In this battle, too, I was victorious after only 33 moves. I could rest longer to prepare for a more furious battle the next day.

   Day two of the tournament, we went back to the Convention Center knowing that I would have to fight stronger and harder, since I won both games the day before. I also realized that I would be playing against higher rated players on higher boards. Round three has begun, clocks were being hit and pieces were being slammed on the board. I looked at my opponent before I made my first move. I was thinking to myself that this boy is my enemy and I must do what I can to defeat him. He was originally from Russia with a rating of 1744, well over 400 points higher than mine, so I knew that it would be difficult. I failed to make enough moves in the one hour time control and lost. Normally, after shaking hands at the end of a game, chess players part and go their separate ways but this young warrior walked with me and started telling me how I could have won against him. He even analyzed our game and pointed out my mistakes. I was very grateful for what he had done, and by the end of the tournament we became friends.

   My next game was probably the most memorable of the entire event. Other parents were coming up to me before the round to wish me good luck. They said how great it is to see a girl on the top boards. Once again I played with somebody two whole classes above mine. I had learned from my mistakes during the last round and wasn't about to repeat them. It was the first time I had dared to risk playing the Soller gambit, but I was determined to win. To my surprise, the next thing I knew he was shaking my hand. I had won in only 24 moves!

   I won again in round six the next day. One more point would guarantee a place among the leaders at the top of the standings. But the effort was too much for me and I lost. Perhaps most of my energy was drained by my exertions the day before. Nevertheless, I failed to secure my point and was now worried about whether I would even finish in the top twenty five.

   After eating dinner we went back to the Convention Center to look at the wall charts. As we went down the escalator, one of the parents congratulated me. At first I thought it was because I had won most of my games. I was still very nervous. As we approached the bulletin boards, my Dad looked, then turned around and hugged me. I knew then that I had battled through this tournament victoriously. It was my first trophy at the Nationals, and I was very happy. Time to celebrate!

   Just as I said, this tournament has left me with many lasting memories. Not only did I gain new friends, but also priceless experience. I hope someday that I get to participate in this kind of event again.

Dedicated to Mr. Richard Shorman

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