Today I was an arbiter at the Chesskids Victorian Schools State Finals. School teams that have qualified through zonal tournaments throughout the year came together to fight it out at Monash University today. About 400 kids turned up in 2 divisions, the Primary event for years 1-6, and the Middle School event for years 5-9. There were all levels of players, but although the tournament is run as an individual 9 round swiss, it is the team element that makes this sort of event magical. There are kid who will play chess at an adult chess club playing alongside those who will possibly not play chess outside of school in their entire life.
The competition is fierce at all levels. At the top end, players are trying to score as close to maximum points as they can in order to help their schools win, and for their own individual satisfaction. But there are also teams who know they probably won't be winning but it doesn't mean they don't try. The kids each compete against their own personal goals, maybe to score 50%, to be the highest scorer for their school, or just to win a game, and however well they do, in the end they are all winners. It is amazing to see these kids representing their schools and really tackling a tough game in an adult fashion.
Both the divisions were hotly contested, witht he lead changing many times. The Middle School event turned into a fight between Mazenod, Brighton Grammar and Scotch College, with the Brighton Grammar tream finally triumphing. The Primary event was a fight between Deepdene Primary and Waverley Christian College, though Deepdene finally pulled away and won. The tournment ran very smoothly under the direction of Chess Kids manager David Cordover and his team of helpers and we can all look forward to the National event which will be held in late November.
My favourite moment of the day was when I had to answer a question. I walked to the board where the players had their hand raised and saw a checkmate at the board. I was about to announce the game as won, when the checkmated boy asked if he could castle. I told him that you're not allowed to castle when you're in check. He replied he wasn't in check, he was in checkmate and wondered whether he could castle out of checkmate!