Sunday, February 28, 2010

Let the tournament begin...

So Riley has taken to chess. He loves playing, and I really don’t know he learned all of the moves, but he does really well. A few weekends ago, he had a chess tournament. Since we ended up not being able to get close enough to actually see the match, I was more of a people watcher. I found a pretty mixed batch of about 150 kids.

Almost all of Riley’s team is from Mexico, and several of them have faux-hawks, so he kind of stood out. There was a group of inner-city kids, with a jolly African American coach reassuring them when they came to report their wins and losses after each game. There was the Indian kid who looked like he’s biding time until the next spelling bee. There were several white boys, with hair that is a bit longer (kind of like the mean kid on “Searching for Bobby Fischer”). Riley’s first opponent (who I think eventually won his age group) looked like he was born to play. His hair was kind of long, a little wavy. His skin was pasty white, kind of like he hadn’t been out in the sun much, or if he had, he was always carefully bundled up in some Land’s End parka. There were a few other kids who had the same look. Not nerdy, just eccentric, at age 8. One shaggy, blonde-haired boy played with his hood over his head, while sucking on it’s draw strings.

But most interesting was a man who I noticed and had the thought, “This guy must be a chief in the tribe of chess.” He looked distinguished, with a button-up shirt, buttoned all the way up. And he wore the most interesting, round, thick-rimmed glasses that seemed to be made out of wood. I’ve never seen any quite like it. I quickly gathered that he was a coach, as he would go out between games and sit with a student with just a few pieces on the board and have them do a focused practice. Later, I watched as students after each game would come up to him and say, “I won.” “I won.” “I won.” …. “I won.” “I won.” “I lost.” I won.” I heard almost all, “I won.”

It seemed almost like a ceremony. No high-fives, no fist-bumps, no “way to go tiger”. He would just take out his book and record the result. When they were sad at losing (which was pretty rare), he would just say a few sentences calmly, and then they would walk away.

Later in the day, I got close enough to hear him talk to them, and realized that he was either Polish or Russian. They called him Mr. K. I asked him how I should encourage Riley. As I came away from the day, I was again reminded how much I love to see people brought together in the search for excellence.


Angie Larkin said...

So great to be observant Monica! I loved the bit about the kid playing with his hood up and sucking on his drawstrings.

Kristin Chesnik said...

Way to go Riley! I, like Angie, amused by the drawstring-sucking kid. Sounds like a fun, very interesting event! Benjamin is also a chess player and plays with his Grandma Chesnik who will never "let" him win but whom he has beaten several times. Yeah for smart kids!!!!