By Steve Robinson | March 24, 2013 - 10:22 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite

Illinois Elementary School Association held its third annual State Chess Tournament at Bone Student Center on the Illinois State University campus on Saturday, March 23. After two years of being held at U. S. Cellular Coliseum in Bloomington, IESA moved the event, and while the setting may have changed, the intensity of those seventh and eighth graders who participated competing in varying divisions didn’t – at least from what I could see.

John-Charles Micklich, known to friends and family as “J-C,” is a seventh grader at Epiphany Catholic School in Normal who, thanks to his dad, Doug, learned the game for the first time before he had even started kindergarten. But he has been playing – and winning competitively at it since kindergarten. Doug Micklich, J-C’s father, is now one of three coaches for the chess team from the school. The other coaches are Sean Clark and Chris Morgan.

Now 13, J-C was one of 380 players at this event. Epiphany Catholic School was among 40 schools that participated in this tourney that had players that ranged in their skill level from beginner to intermediate to advanced. The schools represented were from as far north as the suburbs of Chicago and as far south as Alton.

Doug Micklich said when kids are small, obviously, you start them on the game by teaching them the basics, such as the names of each chess piece and how they are allowed to move. He adds that as kids grow older, “it’s just practice, practice, practice” that helps improve at their game. The senior Micklich had also taught chess to kids representing Prairieland Elementary School before moving over to Epiphany.

But at this level and with that much experience, for kids, Doug Micklich said, there is still more for kids to learn about the game. “The kids can learn game-opening moves, some defenses, and using pieces in combination.”

“I like how you can coordinate the pieces to work in a specific order and I like the strategy,” J-C said, addressing his fondness for the game. “I enjoy watching the way my game plan comes together and succeeds against an opponent.”

J-C, even at his age, has not just caught on to the strategic aspects of the game, but has also come to a realization that the game has been helping him in other ways, too. “Chess is very important to me because it builds up how I think,” J-C said, explaining he believes it bolsters the analytical side of his brain.

Chess, J-C said, has taught him that “before one makes any kind of move, it’s important to think about it first.” With that kind of thinking, young J-C said, a person would be less likely to commit an error in play.

As it turns out, in that last statement, J-C wasn’t just talking about game-related mistakes, either. He said he has seen friends post and then remove items they have posted on their Facebook pages after a second thought. He said he wishes people his age would increase their contemplative thinking before they act.

Doug Micklich said he has always tried to teach young chess players that a skill they need to catch on to is “to be able to look at least two, maybe three moves ahead in a game. You need to know an opponent’s responses to your move, and your next move in response to theirs.”

“They have to learn that moves need to be planned,” Doug Micklich said. He added a child’s maturity has a role in how long it takes young players to pick up on that.

The senior Micklich said being part of the chess club helps kids like his son also make life-long friends. “People J-C plays with since he was in kindergarten still play today,” he said. “You’re never at a lack for a game anywhere. They’ll always have a friend because it’s a common element that binds all these people together.”

“The people at this tournament are from up and down the state, and we’re all friends,” Doug Micklich explained. “We may not know each other at first, but it’s the chess board that joins us together.”

Doug Micklich said, as a coach, he and the other coaches can tell when kids get the gist of what they’re doing as far as their game development is concerned “because the kids are locked in” to what they are doing. He said kids he encounters showing that mindset do not want to be disturbed, even by a coach wanting to consult with them.

“The kids clearly have picked up on enjoying and winning tournaments, and meeting new people, Doug Micklich said. He said he knows the kids want to add more trophies to the 7×7 trophy case at his son’s junior high school.

“There is room for growth for more trophies,” Doug Micklich said. And his son can also look upon the tournament as a growing experience, too. In his division, J-C placed seventh.

The competition is divided into seventh grade and eighth grade, but there are a few sixth graders who are individually placed at either of those other two grade levels who get to participate, too, explained Steve Endsley, IESA executive director. He added there is no previous event students must participate in to qualify for State. “Schools just simply sign up their kids to participate,” he said.

Players and teams earned points for wins. If a match ended in a draw, that resulted in a competitor and/or a team earning one half-point.

With 40 seventh grade teams participating, Parkside Junior High School finished fourth with 205 points. Chiddix Junior High School finished right behind PJHS, in fifth place, with 185 points. Bloomington Junior High School finished sixth as a team with 175.5 points. George L. Evans Junior High School finished 10th with 151 points. Heyworth Junior High School finished 14th with 117 points. Epiphany Christian School placed 38th with 20 points, and Kingsley Junior High finished 40th with 18 points.

Individually, in both grade levels, players placed in seven separate divisions, played seven rounds during the daylong event. Local seventh graders, their school, and how they finished were: Chidambara Anagani, CJHS, 1st; Hanson Hao, BJHS, 3rd; Balaji Iyengar, EJHS, 4th; Tanner Gillam, PJHS, 5th; Anjali Toli, CJHS, 6th; Saishankar Nair, EJHS, 2nd; Michael Maxfield, CJHS, 3rd; Bafna Mifir, BJHS, 6th; Suhrud Raut, CJHS, 10th; Hance Clymer, Heyworth, 11th; Nikhil Pallem, EJHS, 4th; Kumar Prithiv, BJHS, 5th; Nikhil Madugula, CJHS, 6th; Jake Lamont, PJHS, 9th; Zane Dalton, Heyworth, 14th; Rebekah Nielsen, PJHS, 2nd; William Vanarsdall, Heyworth, 11th; Boyd Bronwen, BJHS, 21st; Richard Newcomer, EJHS, 31st; Clayton Davis, PJHS, 2nd; Michael Dixon, CJHS, 20th; Chris Cuppini, CJHS, 22nd; Mitchell Travis, CJHS, 27th; Jackson Lauren, BJHS, 31st; Sierra Stengel, Heyworth, 43rd; Sawyer Price, PJHS, 46th; Alaysia Peterson, KJHS, 57th; and Jacob Tomaras, PJHS, 64th.

With 32 eighth grade teams participating, results had KJHS placing third in team results with 218 points. Heyworth Junior High eighth graders placed 10th with 132 points. BJHS placed 27th with 40 points. EJHS placed 29th with 30 points, while PJHS placed 32nd with 18 points.

Local eighth graders, their school, and how they finished were: Jared Schuckman, KJHS, 1st; Robert Madison, KJHS, 1st; Nithin Sebastian, KJHS, 7th; Jack Jackon, BJHS, 9th; Anish Tallam, EJHS, 15th; Colton Longstreth, Heyworth, 17th; Vishvarath Karthikeyan, KJHS, 3rd; Brayden Estes, Heyworth, 4th; Nick Deiter, Heyworth, 13th; Noah Pearson, KJHS, 3rd; Austin Estes, Heyworth, 18th; Evan Milsteadt, KJHS, 9th; Bryce Rudge, PJHS, 34th; Linnea Hall, Heyworth, 39th; and Amber Greenburg, KJHS, 54th.

“Chess fits into IESA’s big picture by offering opportunities for kids to participate in some of the ways that hadn’t been possible before,” Endsley said. He cited Illinois High School Association’s debut of bass fishing competition as one of another of the unique competitions open to young people these days.

“This is an avenue for kids who are talented in the activity of chess to participate in an interscholastic competition,” Endsley said.

It has been a very long time since I sat at a chess board to challenge an opponent. I dare say I was no older than J-C the last time I did it. That was a long time ago. These kids showed a lot of skill and poise and held their concentration while participating in this event. If I ever decide to take the game up again, I may have to start with the beginners, but I have no doubt I could learn a thing or two from these players.

This entry was posted on Sunday, March 24th, 2013 at 10:22 pm and is filed under The Normalite. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

Comments are closed.