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December 12, 2013

Welcome to HPChess!

Congratulations to Indian Trail, Oak Terrace, Wayne Thomas and Lincoln for finishing first through fourth in our December Highland Park scholastic tournament.  This was the best finish ever for Oak Terrace, which has a steadily-increasing number of strong players.

The top individual finishers in the K-1 section, along with their scores in the 5-round event, were Indian Trail’s  Siena Logan (4.5) and Sy Rosenblatt (4.)  The section for grades 2-3 was won by Eric Saxe (East Prairie), followed by Nancy Flores (Oak Terrace, 4), Eli Davis (Indian Trail, 4), and Gideon Rigler (Walden School, 4).   In the section for grades 4-8, the top finishers were Patrick Carow (South Park, 5) and Joshua Boas (Attea MS, 4).  Winning the advanced section was Adrian Calinescu (Highcrest MS, 5), followed by Eric Starkman (Edgewood MS, 4).

The complete standings are in our Tournaments/Results section.  The advanced section was USCF-rated, and the ratings report has been submitted to USCF.  

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Members of the Indian Trail Chess Club brought home three team and seven individual awards from the November Illinois All Grade State Championship in Normal, Illinois. More than 300 players attended the event.

Connor Edelstein, who attends Ravinia Elementary School but attends the Indian Trail club, took second place in the state among 2nd graders.

In the team competition, the Indian Trail Kindergarten team took 2nd place, its 2nd grade team took 3rd place, and its 3rd grade team took 4th place.

In individual awards, Kindergartener Allie Trifonov took 6th place and Truman Evans took 10th place. Second graders Michael Pasquesi (11th place) and Cooper Evans (14th place) also won trophies, as did third graders Eli Davis (15th place) and Aron Amram (17th place).

Also making the trip to Normal, and getting two wins apiece, were 2nd grader Yonathan Garfinkel, 3rd grader Charlie Goldberg, and 4th graders Levi Goldberg and Ethan Peal.

Oak Terrace’s Colin Huh also attended the event, winning two games in the tourney’s tough 5th grade section.

Indian Trail has emerged as one of the top teams in the state, winning a total of 22 team and 17 individual awards at state championships in five years.

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Congratulations to Elliana Faletsky, a long-time star of our program, who two weeks ago took first place in the girls section for grades 9-12 of the Susan Polgar World Open for Boys and Girls.  The win entitles Elli to a $14,000 annual scholarship at Webster University in St. Louis.  Webster’s chess team is the best in the country, ranked #1 in Division 1 chess since the team was formed in 2012.

When Elli was in 4th grade, she was one of the first to join our then-new district-wide program.  She rose through the ranks, and her USCF rating is now 1376.  Her long-time coach is James Fagan.   Elli has been a fixture at many of our tournaments, excelling at the board and later helping Phil Yontez direct the events.  She also coached for two years at our Oak Terrace club, and was known to entertain kids at our events wearing a styrofoam hat in the shape of a chess knight.  She is now a sophomore at Chicagoland Jewish High School in Deerfield.

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Highland Park Tournaments:  We run two types of tournaments.  Three are on Saturdays   (the remaining two on February 8 at Elm Place Middle School and April 12 at Northwood Middle School).  In a change from prior years, the advanced section of these events will be USCF-rated.

We are also running “Quads With Game Reviews” in conjunction with Highland Park High School. The most recent event was on November 17th.  In these events,  players are placed into groups of four based on their ratings — the top four players in the top quad, etc. — and each player plays the other three in his/her quad.   Because the ratings within each quad are usually closely bunched, games are likely to be competitive (very few “blowouts”), making them good content for post-game analysis. What is unique about these events is the quality of the game reviewers: International Masters Florin Felecon and Arjun Vishnuvardhan, and FIDE Master Gauri Manoj.  We know of no event elsewhere in the state in which players of this quality are all available at a single event to review player’s games.  These events have become a centerpiece of our instruction program.  The quads are open to all grades, K-12, as long as the players know how to record their moves in chess notation.  Players from outside the district are permitted to attend both types of tournaments.

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Our clubs meet as follows:

Indian Trail on Mondays and Wednesdays from 3:20 to 5:15

Oak Terrace on Fridays from 3:20 to 4:45

Lincoln on Thursdays from 3:20 to 4:30

Wayne Thomas on Wednesdays from 3:20 to 5

As in the past, each of these four clubs offers instruction at multiple skill levels.  The “Quads and Game Reviews” mentioned above are also an important part of our instructional program.  

Sherwood has a club run by a private service provider, Chess Scholars, and information is available from them at ilya@chessscholars.com.

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State K-8 Championships: Mark your calendars for the second of this year’s state championships: the K-8 championship in Schaumberg March 15-16 (where kids play in age groups).  

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Some of you know that I’ve been involved in a long effort to upgrade the chess program in Chicago’s Public Schools.  The effort has generated some attention in the media.  See, e.g.,  http://bit.ly/1fDFUVU and http://il-chess.org/index.php/youthnews/608-cps-media-coverage-and-public-documents.

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Congratulations to Jonathan Kogen, our advanced coach at Indian Trail in his senior year at Deerfield High School, for taking 7th place in the nation at this year’s Denker National Tournament of Champions in Madison, Wisconsin.  Jonathan won the Illinois qualifier for the event, giving him bragging rights as the top high school player in the state.  A wonderful article about Jonathan appeared in the Trib Local last spring which included nice comments about our program:

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/suburbs/ct-tl-lk-0314-chess-champion-20130313,0,5215243.story.

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News from the spring:  Our Highland Park players excelled again at state championships on March 9-10.  Indian Trail won three team trophies (7th place in the 4-5 and 10th place in the 2-3 and the K-1), bringing the total number of team awards won by Indian Trail at state championships to 19 in five years.  Top players for Highland Park were Joey Harrigan, Henry Coplan, Max Kaplan, Evan Rosenblum, Jesse Blank, Uly Noffsinger, Jack Goldberg, Dylan McDonough, Aron Amram, Levi Goldberg, Ethan Noffsinger, Yonatan Garfinkel, and Michael Pasquesi, as well as former District 112 players Sam Lichtman and Zach Lichtman.  Details at http://www.bnasc.info/.

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Our district program sent 11 girls to participate in the 3rd annual Evanston Girls Tournament.   The tournament attracted a record 62 players.  Dominating the K-1 section were Wayne Thomas’ Quinn and Madeleine Hinde-Schuster (first photo on left) twins playing in their first tournament who both went undefeated through four rounds.  Quinn beat her sister in the final round to take first place with Madeleine alone in second place.

Oak Terrace’s Nancy Flores (2nd photo, at right) and Sarah Regalado (2nd photo at left) tied for second place in the Grades 2-3 section, each dropping only one game to finish with a score of 4 out of 5. Wayne Thomas’ Morgan Yontez tied for third with 3.5.

In the Grade 4-8 section Lincoln’s Lucy Rowe came in tied for third overall with 3.5 while Wayne Thomas’s Michelle Tyrrell and Oak Terrace’s Margareth Robles (2nd photo, center) took home ribbons as first and second place finishers for 5th graders with 3 and 2.5 points respectively.

Also competing from Highland Park were Wayne Thomas’s Anna Hoffman, Hannah Lubell and Sydney Yontez.   Complete results can be found at: http://eschess.org/

For results of Highland Park tournaments, see Tournaments/Tournament Results above.

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Good news also about some of our former coaches. 

FIDE Master Adarsh Jayakumar, a former advanced coach in our program at Wayne Thomas and only a year out of high school, has won his last “norm” required for him to become an International Master, one level below a Grandmaster.   He is coached by Grandmaster Mesgen Amanov.

FIDE Master Eric Rosen, formerly the national high school champion and an advanced coach at our Sherwood club, now anchors the excellent chess team at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, which this year advanced to the collegiate Final Four championship in Virginia.  The Tribune ran a piece on Eric (and a great photo) yesterday.  See http://trib.in/14KDNdw.

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We continue to have what we believe is the top coaching staff in the state, which is the primary reason our players have won 58 awards at state championships in five years.  In addition to the coaches above, we are grateful for the continued participation of Phillip Yontez (advanced group at Wayne Thomas), a mainstay of our program for years, a former top player on the Northwestern University team, and a former participant in the Pan-American Intercollegiate Chess Tournament.  Phillip is a software development project manager.  He also runs the computer operations at our district-wide tournaments.

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Another strength of the Highland Park program is that many of our top student players, some now attending Highland Park and Deerfield High Schools, serve as coaches in our clubs:  Ally Connors, Andre Cochran and Matthew Strehler at Wayne Thomas; Jack Kirkwood, Chana Gandelsman, Jason Rosenblum and Evan Rosenblum at Indian Trail; and Mason Bates and Robert Collins at Lincoln.  Jonathan Hrach, now rated 1875 and the top board on the high school team this year, helps teach other players on the high school team and has privately tutored a number of young players in our district.

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Drop-in Chess at the Highland Park Library:  The dates of the library sessions are posted in the section “Our Clubs and Library Programs.”

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Want more details about youth chess in Illinois?  The Youth Committee of the Illinois Chess Association (ICA) has put together content considered by some to be among the best in the nation.  The content is designed to foster the development of new clubs, provide an overview of youth chess in the state, and provide resources for parents, principals, coaches, and club directors.   Go to www.il-chess.org and click the “Youth Chess” button.   The content includes detailed guides on starting a youth chess program and on tournament play; a list of recommended curricula, including software and websites; an updated summary of the research on the value of chess; profiles of community-wide programs in Illinois; a summary of the major youth tournaments in the state; and lists of Illinois’ past youth champions.  (Top current players are listed in the Warren Program section.)  But there’s much more.    Content from the site can be downloaded in pdf format.

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Scheduling problems? Some kids are unable to attend particular clubs because of schedule conflicts with other after-school activities, but we can usually accommodate these kids in another club with a different schedule.  We’ll be glad to help you find a suitable club.  Registration forms for all clubs appear (or will shortly appear) in their respective sections of this website.

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Is your child ready for more?  Consider our Tutors program. Most of our coaches do private tutoring for individuals or small groups, and approximately 30 kids in the district took advantage of this opportunity during the past year.  See “Resources/Tutors.”

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Thanks to all who contribute to our program!

Jerry Neugarten