by Gerry Roberts,
On Saturday, December 3, 76 of the brightest young chess minds across the state descended on University Elementary School in Bloomington for the 10th Annual University Scholastic tournament. Players were divided into four sections based on grade level, but were welcome to “play up” in higher sections.
In last year’s edition, 3-year-old Solomon Crum became the event’s youngest-ever participant, managing to play legal moves throughout, but losing all of his games. As a 4-year-old participant in this year’s 1st/Under section, however, he flipped the script in a remarkable way, going an undefeated 4.5/5 points to win the section by a full 1.5 points! On the strength of his, and his older brother Joseph’s, performance, the 1st/Under team trophy was awarded to “Homeschool.”
In the 3rd/Under section, the only player going undefeated (4/5 points) was University Elementary’s own Duc Parker. Not only was Duc playing in his first-ever chess tournament, but he only learned how to play chess four weeks before the event. He tied for first place, but took the 2nd-place trophy on tiebreaks, with Jeffrey Chen after beating him in the final round. Duc did, however, lead his team a 1st place trophy.
In the 6th/Under Section, Martinsville Bell East’s Kevin Huang swept a competitive field, going 4-0 to take sole first place en route to breaking the 1000-rating barrier for the first time. Canterbury’s Ben Finkel was also undefeated, but due to a penultimate round draw with Yuxuan “Richard” Xun, finished a half-point behind to take sole possession of 2nd place. 11 players finished right behind them in a tie for 3rd place, including Martinsville Bell East’s Ryan Pilat, which helped his team to a narrow 0.5 margin of victory over Binford (who themselves had a trio of 3-1 players in Rawden Harris, Younghoon Jung, and Kiefer Kettenis).
In the 12th/Under Section, University Elementary 5th grader Bingrui “Tutu” Wang swept the field with a 4-0 score, breaking the 1400-rating barrier for the first time. Finishing a full point behind him were Bloomington High School North’s Alex Smith, playing in his first event in five years, and Martinsville Wooden’s Drew Pilat, whose team took the event’s 1st place trophy.
Special thanks go to Michelle Burns and the entire Burns family, and assistant tournament directors Bobby Goddin and Michael Douglas, without whose efforts the event would not have been successful.