Ally Connors

Ally Connors (Wayne Thomas) is a freshman at Highland Park High School. She started playing chess five years ago at the Indian Trail club, where she quickly became one of the top players. She has being teaching since 2009 at Indian Trail, and this year teaches older beginners at Wayne Thomas. Outside of teaching, Ally is on the HPHS chess team, is an avid reader, plays piano at the local School of Rock, and loves to write and paint.

December 18, 2011

Congratulations to the winners at our December 10th Highland Park Championship tournament, especially to the winning team from Wayne Thomas and to the section winners: Ezra Boldizsar (Advanced), Samuel Harris (4-8), Jonas Vriend (2-3) and Andrew Arzac (K-1). Full results are posted under Tournaments/Results at left. 104 players participated. Many thanks to Phil Yontez, Anne Connors, Amy Rosenblum, Daniel Blank, Fred Bowers, and all others who helped.

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Welcome to Gopal Menon, a National Master who has joined the Highland Park coaching staff and will be teaching at Oak Terrace. Gopal made his Highland Park debut playing a simultaneous exhibition on December 9th against 82 players at Oak Terrace and won all his games. He joins what we believe is the strongest coaching staff in the state (see below).

Sadly, but with many thanks, we say goodbye to Adarsh Jayakumar, our advanced coach at Wayne Thomas and also a National Master, who is devoting his spare time next semester to international competitions needed to achieve “IM Norms,” special points needed to become an International Master. Best of luck to Adarsh and we wish him the best. We are in the process of filling the coaching vacancy at Wayne Thomas.

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Congratulations to Indian Trail for the club’s performance at the November Illinois All-Grade State Championship in Peoria. The club captured the First Place team trophy in Grade 2 (Levi Goldberg, Ethan Peal, Ethan Noffsinger, and Dylan McDonough), the 2nd Place team trophy in Grade 4 (Sam Lichtman, Henry Coplan, Max Kaplan, Evan Rosenblum, Uly Noffsinger, Jack Goldberg, and Jesse Blank), and the 3rd Place team trophy in 1st Grade (Charlie Goldberg and Eli Davis.)

Indian Trail’s 4th graders have been a remarkably cohesive group. Most of them have played together since they were kindergarteners, and their finish in Peoria marked the sixth time in four years they have finished among the state’s top three teams at one of the state’s two annual state championships. They took First Place at the 2010 All-Grade.

Elli Faletsky from Northwood took 7th Place in the tournament’s tough 8th grade section.

Individual awards were also won by Lichtman (15th Place, 4th Grade), Levi Goldberg (15th Place, 2nd Grade), and Charlie Goldberg (9th Place, 1st Grade).

Also participating in the event were Jason Rosenblum and Josiah Davis from Indian Trail and

Jacob Hersh from Wayne Thomas.

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Several Highland Park students participated in a simultaneous exhibition in downtown Chicago on October 29th. Our own Eric Rosen (see below) took on 15 players in a kick-off event for the Illinois Chess Association Tour, a grouping of 10 major events around the state in which prizes are awarded for consistent participation and performance. Two of our participants, Faletsky and Lichtman, finished among the last three in spectacular showings.

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Our teaching program continues to grow with what we believe is the state’s best coaching staff. Highland Park has featured a three-tiered system in each club, with instruction available at the beginner, intermediate and advanced level. This year, we added “Level 4” instruction for the district’s top players, who meet on Fridays at 4:30 at Oak Terrace. International Master Florin Felecan uses a Promethean board and combines top-level analysis with an easy style, keeping the kids engaged and leaving observers impressed at the pace, warmth and quality of his teaching. Visitors are welcome.

Eric Rosen, one of our top Highland Park coaches who teaches at Sherwood, has continued to progress through the ranks of the nation’s top players. Eric won the National High School Chess Championship in May in Nashville and became a National Master. Eric was recently named both a Life Master and a FIDE Master and has a USCF rating over 2400. FIDE is the governing body of international chess. Eric is a senior at Niles North High School in Skokie.

Jonathan Kogen, a sophomore at Deerfield High School, took over as Indian Trail’s advanced coach this fall. Kogen is a long-time member of the state’s elite Warren Junior Scholars Program and has a USCF rating of 2148. Chad Hirsch, a freshman at Northeastern University and former top player on the state championship Niles North High School team, teaches at Lincoln.

Another strength of the Highland Park program is our use as coaches of players who have come up through our own program. Our top two student players, Jonathan Hrach (rated 1531) and Elli Faletsky (1324) coach at Sherwood and Oak Terrace. Other Highland Park student coaches include Ally Connors at Wayne Thomas, Sam Lichtman and Jack Kirkwood at Indian Trail, Mason Bates at Lincoln, Jacob Vilker at Sherwood, Michael Vilker at Sherwood and Indian Trail, and Patrick Tippens, Emmanuel Guzman-Vega and Matt Warshell at Oak Terrace.

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Our remaining district-wide tournaments will be February 11th and April 14th. See “Tournaments/Upcoming tournaments” on this site.

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Drop-in Chess at the Highland Park Library takes place on Saturday mornings from 10:30 to noon. Dates are posted in our section called “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, and ICA is at work on additional sections including lists of clubs (with contact information) throughout the state. All the new content 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. To access those sections, “Create an account” at left (if you haven’t already done so).

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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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Want to get involved? New volunteers are always welcome, especially parents and other adults able to help out in our clubs. No chess experience is necessary.