03 February 2009

Washington State Elementary Chess Championship

Spokane Chess 2009

As luck would have it, I worked my way into a mammoth volunteer project. The seeds of the project were sown when a Spokane bid for the 2005 state elementary tournament lost by one vote. During the same meeting, the level of state organization took a jump in the creation of the WSECC Policy Board and detailed policies governing the state tournament.

In the wake of that meeting, I suggested to those responsible for the failed bid that we should bring the event to Spokane in 2009.

Two important related aspects of the expanded policies were that the site would follow a pattern of regional rotation among three vastly different areas of the state, and that bids from the hosting region must be presented two years out. Formerly, the next's year's tournament date, location, and organizers were selected at the event. That is, the 2005 event host was selected at the 2004 coaches meeting. Organizers had as little as eleven months to put together all aspects of the event.

This scholastic tournament has been growing rapidly in recent years. What once took place in a high school gym, now requires a larger facility. When I first attended in 2001, there were two sections, K-3 and 4-6. In 2003, there were seven sections--each grade level was a separate section. In 2007, two side events were added: Friday night Bughouse and I Love Chess 2. In 2008, a few adults participated in I Love Chess 2.

Two years out is a minimal time to start the process of reserving a facility that can accommodate 1200-1500 players and an even larger number of support personnel--parents, coaches, siblings. The bids for 2006 and 2007 were accepted at the 2005 coaches meeting in Lynden, Washington. The 2008 bid was accepted at the 2006 tournament. At that meeting I was elected as one of two eastern Washington representatives on the Policy Board. My term expired at the 2008 tournament.

In January 2007, I started working with the Spokane Regional Sports Commission and the Spokane Chess Club's Gary Younker Foundation to put together a bid for the 2009 Washington State Elementary Chess Championship. A key aspect of creating a bid was finding a venue that was available on a Saturday in late March to late April on a weekend that did not correspond with the dates of Nationals, Easter, and Passover. At the 2007 tournament in Vancouver, the coaches accepted the Spokane bid. The following week, I met with a sales representative at the Spokane Convention Center to get the rental contract drawn up.

In May 2007, the local organizing committee held its first formal meeting to begin planning the details. This committee was assembled through personal contacts and verbal commitments during the process of writing the bid, but the real work began after the bid was approved. I drafted and presented a preliminary budget at this meeting.

Through all of 2007, I might have put in twenty hours of labor preparing the bid and assembling a group of core volunteers. In March 2008, regular work began. Some weeks, I put in as little as a hour--talking with key personnel, making phone calls, reviewing priorities. In May 2008, the local organizing committee began meeting monthly, although we skipped one month in the summer. In October 2008, we secured a corporate sponsor. A second, Chess.com, came forward in December 2008 (and we still need more).

Yesterday, we officially opened registration. I am much relieved to have finally reached this critical stage of a long process. Now, I am putting in 10-20 hours per work each week. The Director of the Chess Enrichment Association, last year's organizer / host / tournament director, has told me that I can expect much longer days in April.

See our website at Spokane Chess 2009.


  1. Preperations always take much time, sometimes longer then the tournament last.

    Good luck with Spokane 2009!

  2. I saw 100 kids playing, can't imagine 1200-1500 , it should be crazy:). Caissa will like it, she will find a way to reward you. Good luck!

  3. CT, The first time I ran a local scholastic tournament with 100 players, the preparation and follow-up took more than twenty hours. Now, I spend closer to six, and that includes writing reports for local newspapers and the Spokane Chess Club website. Preparation for an event as large as a state tournament should be expected to dwarf the time of the event itself. Even so, I will probably cut my work in half if I ever do it again. There's nothing like experience!

    RP, I marveled at the efficient organization and wonder of the first scholastic tournament I attended that had 100 players. State in 2001 with 800 blew my mind. I've found no adequate description of the experience. Three years later, the state tournament had over 1000 competitors and was run by America's Foundation for Chess. The following year it set another attendance record. A photograph of the playing area assists the imagination: view it at Randy Kaech's excellent Northwest Washington Scholastic Chess website (scroll to the bottom of the page).

  4. I recently created a chess blog (found at www.exeterstreet.blogspot.com) that is a platform I use to create and operate projects based on reader participation. I currently have a couple new projects underway, and am looking to spread the word in order to improve the quality of the resources I offer to my participants.
    I am emailing you to ask if you would be open to exchanging links on our blogs. My blog is all about community, so I think it would be great to offer the readers of both of our blogs new places to grow and expand their chess knowledge.
    Also, I would love to work on some sort of project with you that we can post on both of our blogs. It is always good to reach across aisles and create strong unions that are beneficial to everybody, especially our readers.
    Thanks for reading my proposal; you can contact me at exeterstreet@ymail.com. I appreciate your correspondence.

  5. This is a case of be careful what you wish for! Good luck with the tournament.

  6. I wonder if the Spokane tournament has become the death of James Stripes.

    Is the eulogy to come?

  7. CT,

    Thanks for your concerns. The WSECC is keeping me busy, as are a few other enterprises. Blogging has been pushed back a bit, but not forgotten. February 21 was my last Saturday without a chess tournament--playing, directing, or attending for purposes of promoting state. April 18 is the next without an event.

    In my chess study and play, I'm still active. Indeed, after winning a game/45 event the last two weeks, my USCF rating reached its highest ever: 1764! But, this followed some setbacks. The winter club championship in January-February was my worst event in some time, and dropped my rating below 1700 for the first time in a year. Due to it being rated the same day as the Collyer Memorial, in which I had no losses, I dipped to 1698 for about three hours before popping back up to 1721.

    Several of the games during this roller coaster have contained elements I thought should become subjects for posts here. I expect that you will see them begin to appear here soon.

  8. Yeah, you weren't here for quite some time, glad you are back. Regarding rating: Lenin had a revolutionary pamphlet "One step forward, two steps back", at least you did vice versa :).