Like clockwork, the virtual Chess in the Schools (CIS) summer camp materialized in front of my eyes at precisely 8:50am every morning. Hearing Shaun’s clarion voice welcoming the students as they poured into the zoom…
CIS Students Play in the Spring Charity Chess Challenge Hosted by Chess24
Thanks to the growing partnership with Chess24, a world-famous chess platform, on June 9, 2021 we conducted the Spring Charity Chess Challenge. Sponsored by CIS’s community of supporters, seventeen high-school chess players, participants of CIS’s College Bound Program, had a chance to play against U.S. top players.
The guest list included:
GM Pascal Charbonneau, GM Daniel Naroditsky, GM Irina Krush, GM Andrew Tang, GM Hans Nieman; and IM Carissa Yip, IM Christopher Yoo; as well as the rising chess star NM Tani Adewumi, a Nigerian-American chess player who recently made headlines when he became America’s newest national chess master, at 10 years old, after playing chess for only three years.
For many of our students this was the first time in their lives when they could challenge a grandmaster, and they demonstrated very strong chess skills! Tommy Feng and Elian Garcia defeated GM Hans Nieman. David Pozo won in the game against GM Daniel Naroditsky. Anne Zhang drew GM Irina Krush and Katrina Wong finished her game against IM Carissa Yip in a draw as well.
Early this week Elian, in an email Elian told us what he felt while playing.
Elian Garcia: My game against the GM felt surreal. From the very first move, I didn’t believe how different the pieces felt. By the 4th move, it felt like I was going into undiscovered lands. Yet, these undiscovered lands felt strangely familiar. I’ve played many positions like this. Still, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was not only in a weird position but also losing. And in the next couple of moves, I really was losing. At the time, it just felt like [GM Hans Nieman] had more control of the center, however, once reviewed on the computer, it appears that I was losing significantly. I played some of the right moves but not enough of them, and soon, the GM took advantage of this and it all seemed over for me.
And while some may have given up at this point, I decided to see how badly I would lose. I at least wanted a draw. So I hesitated to move my queen in a defensive matter, but then after I realized I had an attack that could equalize or even give me checkmate, I moved.
I put my hands together and saw to the sky, without hope in my eyes, I waited patiently for his move. In 10 seconds he responded… without covering mate. My eyes that were so focused on the screen were now spiraling out of control. A single tear broke this cycle and I was back to my senses. I saw the screen once more, and with eyes filled with fear and wonder, I took my shaky hands and took the pawn with my queen. In a second, he played his queen move. As my mouth dried, I looked at my hand that pressed the mouse, and carefully held it with my other hand. I delicately moved both hands towards the queen and took it. Checkmate.
This checkmate was especially surprising because it was a GM and because I didn’t do as much preparation as I would like. I played chess like 30 minutes a day and only studied for like an hour or less a week prior. But if given the chance I would’ve loved to practice more. If I did, I probably wouldn’t have done so poorly in the opening. But unfortunately, I had AP tests the week before and the day after the charity event I had to take my AP Statistics test.
The full recording of the Spring Charity Chess Challenge is available online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WgLUI2I6Jzk
Elian’s game was featured during the event’s livestream.You can watch the interview with Elian as well as the event hosts’ commentary starting at 57:23.