Sachit is Ready For Nationals
With only a ten days until the Grade Nationals tournament, we decided to check in on Sachit, a fourth-grader and long-time student in our online academy. Sachit and his family live in Illinois and will be traveling to Maryland to join the action at National Harbor from December 9 - 11. There are thousands of kids signed up to play and nearly 250 in the fourth grade section alone. You might want to check the advance entries for your own grade level.
We are pleased to report that Sachit is excited about his upcoming trip and is ready to play his best chess. We wish him the best of luck.
Active in the Academy
Sachit’s readiness is actually the culmination of a lot of work over the past couple of years. Sachit worked his way through our regular small group lessons, attended numerous broadcast lessons, and played in lots of our online tournaments. He worked very hard to get where he is now and we want to congratulate him on his achievements. He is currently enrolled in our Elite Academy level where he and other advanced students take lessons with grandmaster Johan Hellsten.
Participation: Making the Most of It
Part of Sachit’s success can be attributed to not only attending the lessons but truly participating in the club’s activities.
Sachit asks a lot of questions.
There is nothing that our coaches like more than to be hit with a really good question that gets everyone thinking.
Sachit is always happy to answer questions.
Raising your hand and volunteering to answer questions in class is a great way to confirm your understanding of the topic.
Sachit has been a regular player in our online tournaments.
He currently plays in our top section for players rated over 1700.
No matter the task at hand, Sachit gets the most out of it because he consciously puts a lot of effort into participating.
Other Recent Tournaments
Although this will be his first time at Nationals, Sachit has played some important preparation tournaments this year. One of those, the National Online Scholastic Quick Championship, was an online tournament with some of the best players in the country. In the seven round event, Sachit finished with 5/7 in the K-6 section, losing only two games to players rated nearly 2000. Earlier in November,, Sachit played in the Illinois All Grade Championship, which as an over the board (OTB) tournament played at a somewhat slower time control. He scored 4/5 and placed third (on tie-breaks) out of all fourth graders in the state. Both of these results are excellent and Sachit should feel confident that he is ready to play against the best in the country.
Are You Ready for Nationals?
The Grade Nationals are a big tournament with thousands of kids spending the whole weekend playing a seven round tournament. Each game can last up to three hours and everyone has to use clocks and scoresheets. Even though it’s a pretty serious tournament, there will be plenty of kids there with limited tournament experience. If you are lucky enough to live in the Washington DC area, don’t be afraid to sign up and find out what it’s all about. One of the traits that has helped Sachit progress very quickly is that he has always been willing to give it a try! If you have played at least one over the board (OTB) tournament and you enjoyed it, you should not be afraid to play.
What if I’m Not Ready Yet?
If you don’t feel ready this year, you can start thinking about 2023 (Florida) and 2024 (back at National Harbor).. Our online academy generally prepares students for competitive chess and we emphasize the importance of regular tournament play. We also offer specific tournament preparation workshops (sold out for this year). If you’ve never played an OTB tournament before, you probably should start with something smaller than the Grade Nationals. In the DC/MD/VA area, we run regular tournaments which are perfect for first time players. At our weekend tournaments the use of clocks and score sheets is optional. Also, the games are much shorter, with each game finishing in less than one hour.
When we met with Sachit, he was feeling pretty confident but he did have a few things on his mind and we tried to offer some practical advice
- What to do when playing a lower or higher rated opponent?
- How to get ready for playing such slow games? What do with all that time?
- Should he try to win every game? Is that realistic?
Playing an opponent with a significantly higher or lower rating can be psychologically confusing. Does a higher rated opponent mean that I am doomed? Does a lower rated player represent an easy win? Both of these are dangerous notions for a chess player.
Our advice to Sachit was to ignore the opponent’s rating and always just try to find the best moves. Many students have played a lot of online chess but not a lot of OTB rated games. Sachit himself is in this category – his current rating of 1020 is well below his actual playing strength. One mental trick that we discussed was to always think of yourself as a future grandmaster and try to play accordingly.
The time control for the Grade Nationals is G90/d10. This means that both players start with 90 minutes on their clocks and a 10 second delay applies to each move (your clock doesn’t start counting down until 10 seconds after your opponent completes their move). This means that each game could last over three hours. For some of us, this sounds utterly exhausting but, for most kids, stamina is not the issue. Rather, kids tend to have difficulty staying focused for hours at a time.
We suggested that Sachit should prepare for the slower time controls by avoiding “blitz” chess for a week. Instead, he should find some activities like puzzle solving (without a time limit) where he can practice the kind of careful calculation required to win slow tournaments. In speed chess we rely a lot more on intuition and pattern recognition and its important to turn on the other (slower, calculating) part of your brain.
Before a big tournament, it’s natural to think about what overall score might be achieved. Will I win a trophy? Will I be the best fourth grader in the country? Sachit did not seem overly concerned with such lofty goals. He did ask whether it is the “right thing” to try to win every game. The answer is definitely YES. This doesn’t mean you need to play with a “must win” attitude. Sometimes, making a draw is necessary (and always better than the third option).
The key is to take each game one at a time. The results of previous games do not affect your chances in future games. This is not just a psychological trick but also a logical truth. Statistically, It will be harder to win with Black than with White. Also, if you have a good overall score you will be forced to play tougher opponents in the latter rounds. But, each game is a new game and should be approached with the same mental attitude. You should try to win each game.
Finally Meeting Friends
Traveling to National Harbor will mean a lot more than just playing chess. Sachit has made a lot of good friends in the academy over the course of many lessons, friendly games, and tournaments. In our online classes it is easy to forget that students on the same screen are actually in Chicago, Virginia, New Jersey, or British Columbia. This tournament will be a rare chance for our online students to get together with their friends and coaches. Magnus Chess Academy will have a “team room” and coaches will be on-hand to talk with the kids and parents. Please come and say hello – you might even get to meet Sachit!