At the beginning of this month, the 2014 Spanish National Kids Chess Championship kicked off at the Best Western hotel in Salobreña, Spain. For five consecutive weeks, children from all over the country in the Sub-10, Sub-12, Sub-14, Sub-16 and Sub-18 age categories gather to compete for the title of national champion in classical and rapid chess. This past week the Sub-12 event took place, with my 11 year-old son Lance participating for first time in this category.
The week is divided into two tournaments—a five-day “classical” tournament, consisting of nine rounds played with a time control of 90 minutes per player, followed by a two-day “rapid” tournament, consisting of nine rounds played with a time control of 10 minutes per side, with a 5-second increment per move.
Last year, in Sub-10, Lance finished 3rd overall in the classical tournament, in a close battle with 4th place finisher from Cataluña, Victor Alvarez. In fact, they both finished with the same number of points, but Lance was awarded 3rd place based on tiebreaks. In the rapids tournament, however, Lance struggled—finishing 40th.
For this year’s tournament, Lance came into the event ranked 3rd overall and was ready to play. Leading up to the national championship, he’d had a streak of great performances in local tournaments, including a win over a FIDE Master.
Tears in the Classical
After five days and nine rounds of grueling classical play, Lance missed being on this year’s podium by the smallest of margins. What was emotionally crushing, though, was how it happened.
On the last day, when the final results were initially published, Lance was listed as the 3rd place finisher—and we all celebrated. But then, just before heading to the awards ceremony, the results were updated and Lance was moved into 4th place. We were devastated.
An Andalucia delegate came to explain what happened. Over the course of a tournament, there are four “tiebreaks” that are computed, each evaluated according to a different set of criteria. Since Lance was tied with the 4th place finisher on overall points, a lottery was conducted to see which of the four tiebreaks would be used to determine 3rd place. Lance finished ahead on 3 of the 4 tiebreaks, but the randomly-chosen deciding tiebreak turned out the be the fourth. And so by luck of the draw, Lance missed this year’s podium by a single place.
But as sad as it was, the story did have a bright side. It turned out that the 3rd place finisher was none other than Victor Alvarez, the same boy who in 2013 missed the podium due to the same tiebreak situation with Lance. So in a way, it seems life is sometimes fair.
Lance and Victor are great friends and Victor had a super tournament—having started this year’s tournament 17th in the raking!—and so although we were sad for Lance, we were at the same time happy for Victor. He deserved it, too. (We did make the boys promise, though, that next year in 2015, they’ll battle it out for 1st and 2nd, and leave 3rd and 4th for somebody else!)
Lance went undefeated during the nine classical rounds, scoring a total of seven points—five wins (one point each) and four draws (a half point each), including a draw with the eventual champion Pablo Baquedano at table 1 on the final day.
The classical tournament’s final results are listed here on Chess Results.
Euphoria in the Rapids
Saturday afternoon saw the kick-off of the rapids tournament with four rounds in the afternoon, followed by the final five rounds on Sunday morning. Last year, Lance did so poorly in the rapids tournament that we’d all—including Lance—concluded that fast chess just wasn’t his thing.
So entering the tournament with zero expectations, we were thrilled when Lance won all of his first four games on Saturday—ending the day ranked 1st overall! But with five tough rounds remaining on Sunday, we tried not to get too excited. Rather than preparing games as he normally would the night before a classical event, Lance spent the whole afternoon running around the pool playing Cops & Robbers with the other kids.
On Sunday morning at breakfast, I started to get the feeling Lance just might be considering his chances, as he didn’t have much appetite. He admitted feeling a few butterflies in the stomach! Afterwards, he and his mom walked over to the playing hall, while my daughter and I setup the computer and wifi in the cafeteria.
Day two of the tournament started at 10am, and shortly thereafter all hopes of winning were dashed—for the moment—when Lance lost the first round of the day. It was actually the first time he’d lost a chess game in a long time, and word from the playing hall was that in a slip, he’d lost a rook cleanly.
But then he began to clawe his way back into contention, with two subsequent wins against the classical tournament’s 2nd place finisher Gabriel Quispe, and top-ranked Marcos Lianes.
Round 8 saw Lance matched against then-current leader, and fellow Andaluz, Salvador Guerra—who had been playing spectacularly. The hard-fought game ended in a draw. So after round eight, with one round to go, Lance found himself alone in third place with 6.5 points, behind the two leaders—Guerra and Dominguez—each with 7.0 points.
Our fingers were crossed for some luck in the final pairings, but it wasn’t to be; when the final pairings were issued, Lance was matched up against powerhouse Daniel Sanz—winner of the 2013 rapids championship, and who’d entered the tournament ranked number one. For Lance to win the tournament, he would have to beat Daniel, and Guerra and Dominguez would each have to lose.
As time ticked by, my daughter and I were constantly refreshing the results page at Chess-Results.com. After what seemed like the 100th refresh, the first news came through—Guerra had lost at table 1! A few minutes later, the second news came across—Dominguez had lost at table 2! Holy cow!—Lance still had a chance to become the national champion!
One final refresh of the results page and OMG! There it was, in black and white—Lance had found a way to win against Sanz, and had become the 2014 Spanish National Champion of rapid chess. We couldn’t be happier for him, or more proud of the effort he’s put in to get here.
The full rapids results are listed here on Chess Results. And here’s a slideshow of the photos from the event.