Written by Antoine (previous member of our Elite Squad)
“On Sunday the 14th of June, a Wallace Chess Tournament was organised. I was given the opportunity to commentate the event live with the other coaches, Dimitrios, Andres and Tibor before finally being joined by John-Paul. I had been looking forward to the tournament. I was very excited yet quite anxious of not being to the level, so I went back through some chess books and watched the Wallace Chess team’s previous tournaments to better understand what kind of comments and analyses I was supposed to bring.
As a reminder, the day was split in half: from 10h00 to 13h00, a tournament was held for all the kids, and from 13h30 to 16h00 the kids had the opportunity to play against John-Paul, who would play blindfolded.
The tournament was very tense, all the kids played very well and seemed happy. Around 30 kids were playing, and I had the opportunity to commentate certain games with the coaches.
After 7 rounds, Emilio emerged as the winner, with Philip coming in second and Tristan coming in third. Many very talented kids also participated in the tournament, but didn’t make it into the top 3.
The match that particularly impressed me was Philip’s last game. Both players were fighting for a spot on the podium, and so a match was organised to determine a clear winner. After tens of moves without mistakes or blunders, Philip suddenly took the initiative and ended up winning the game. Philip’s concentration, patience and critical judgment had particularly stood out during the game. The context made the game much more fun, as Philip had just drawn the previous game, even though he was in a clear winning position; a king versus queen and king endgame. To stay on schedule, both players played a blitz, a shorter game, where Philip thought he was less performant, even though he proved the contrary.
Emilio and Tristan also played very well. They played some excellent chess during the tournament, using a mix of theory, tactics and an elaborate strategy to climb up the rankings.
I also remember Kyle celebrating his birthday on that day. Despite that, he was able to fully focus on his chess during the whole 7 rounds of the tournament.
As soon as the results came in, Emilio, Philip and Tristan were shown their medals through the zoom call and received some very generous gifts from the Wallace team.
Later on, brave volunteers could ask to face John-Paul in a blindfolded blitz game, meaning he had to remember each and every move off the top of his head! Many kids were fearless though, so to pick John-Paul’s next opponent, Astrid organised a mini contest: they had to draw something original, had to make an innovative joke, a poem… All the kids came up with some original content: a chess poem, a nice drawing… and were all rewarded by a game against John-Paul.
After each game, John-Paul and the coaches would go through the game with the player, telling them where they could have played a better move. As well as being a fun experience, it also allowed the children to improve and learn.
For the children, it was a fun opportunity to meet each other, talk, play chess and have fun during those very peculiar circumstances. For me, it was a whole new experience: being able to think quickly and give useful, original comments, – which is definitely harder than it seems, especially when you are commenting with very talented coaches.
It was fun but quite exhausting, even though I would definitely do it again. Chess is definitely a physical sport.
I highly recommend this experience for anyone who likes chess. It also enabled me to speak out loud, communicate with an audience, hence practicing my social skills, which can be quite rare during lockdown.
It was truly wonderful to see my old squad friends again. They were very nice, I chatted a bit with Emilio and wished him luck.
I’m relieved I left in December, as I’m not sure I could compete with them anymore. All of them have improved a lot and played amazing matches. Commenting such good games was quite demanding and got me thinking. I really learnt from the feedback the coaches gave the players.
Thank you and take care,