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May 7, 2013 > Weibel chess girls win national championship

Weibel chess girls win national championship

Submitted By Alan M. Kirshner, Ph.D.

The United States Chess Federation held the 2013 All-Girls Nationals in Chicago, April 26-28. Sponsored by the Kasparov Chess Federation, the tournament drew 280 girls from all over the nation. The Renaissance Knights Chess Federation of Illinois organized the record-breaking event at which Garry Kasparov, former World Chess Champion and human rights activist came from his home in Russia to sign his books and be photographed with individual and team trophy winners. A number of girls from the Tri-City area competed. However, Weibel Elementary School of Fremont was the only Tri-City school to send a team.

Weibel is known nationally for its exceptional chess program. Weibel teams have won a section or more at the California Chess Girls State Championship every year since inception. In 2011, Weibel teams won both the under 8 and under 10 divisions of the All-Girls Nationals. This year, Weibel entered seeded third in the under 12 section behind strong teams from Intermediate School 318 from New York and Bull Run Elementary School from Virginia. Both teams won sections of the All-Girls Nationals in 2012. Weibel placed second to Bull Run in 2012 in the under 10 section. IS 318 was the subject of an award winning documentary last year titled "Brooklyn Castle." The film highlighted how IS 318, an inner city school, successfully incorporated chess in its curriculum and culture.

The girls played six games of chess over a period of three days. Each game can last as long as three hours and 15 minutes. Yes, the Nationals are often an endurance competition along with chess. The tournament started Friday night with the Mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emmanuel, welcoming all the players to his city. Round one followed the Opening Ceremonies. For the first three rounds, the three top teams remained tied for first place. After round four, the scoreboard showed Weibel in the lead by one point. The Weibel girls knew they would have a tough fifth round as they would have to play very strong opponents. While they lost all but one of their games, the players from the other top teams did not fair much better.

At the end of the fifth round, all three teams were once again tied for first place. The Weibel girls' spirit remained high. Ted Castro, owner of the NorCal House of Chess in Fremont and a chess teacher, who the Weibel girls affectionately call "Teddy Bear," appeared unannounced at our team room - a large suite one of the Weibel parents, with her usual kindness, provided the players. Ted had decided to fly to Chicago not only to help the Weibel girls but also to cheer on his other students from the Bay Area. I believe Ted Castro, through his NorCal House of Chess has worked with all but two of the Bay Area girls that attended the Nationals. He has become known as "Teddy Bear, The Trainer of Champions."

Dr. Alan Kirshner, the Weibel Team Coach, gave a hard hitting and moving "locker room" talk to the girls as they went into the sixth and final round. The Weibel girls left the team room energetic and confident of victory. Serafina Show, Weibel's top ranked player, was facing a player from IS 318. Her victory there would assure the team of at least second place. Serafina, with her usual joie de vivre, bounced into the Team Room to announce her victory. Now we had to await the final results. One of the Weibel parents did some reconnoitering and announced victory. The cheers went up and cartwheels appeared. Dr. Kirshner asked the parents what their impression of the upset victory was and they exclaimed almost in unison: "Unreal!" The Weibel girls who created this successful outcome were: Serafina Show (5th grade), Desiree Ho (6th grade), Sara Kaushik (6th grade) and Anvi Surapaneni (4th grade). Serafina and Desiree also won individual trophies.

This upset victory increased Weibel's victories at chess nationals to five. All have occurred in the last three years. Added to the other national titles mentioned earlier, Weibel won the Primary School Nationals in 2010 and the Elementary Nationals in 2012, Weibel has the distinction of having won more chess national titles than any other school in California.

Other Tri-city players also won trophies at this record-breaking event. Annapoorni Melyappan tied for sixth place in the under 8 section. Chenyi Zhao from Chadbourne Elementary School tied for second and Antara Garai from Ardenwood tied for eighth place in the under 10 section.

Other Tri-city girls travelled to Chicago to compete in the All-Girls Nationals. All played very well but missed out on winning one of the 15 trophies in each section. Tri-City competitors included: Kavya Sasikumar (Mission San Jose ES) in the under 10 section, Sara Kaushik (Weibel) and Anvi Surapaneni (Weibel) in the under 12 section and Veronica Show (Horner) in the under 14 section.

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