2011 OHSCTA Championship Notes
From James Horton, Executive Director, OHSCTA
Kris Field-Eaton and her staff did a remarkable job preparing beautiful Sherwood High School for the tournament. Thanks to them, the check-in process was among the best ever, allowing compeition to start before 6:00pm. Directed by veteran TD Norm May and his son, it went smoothly forward, staying on schedule and free from delays and disputes. The tournament ended on time, and the awards ceremony was over by about 6:30pm on Saturday. Our new tournament format and tiebreak system saw their shakedown cruises. There is more analysis to be done, but both performed fairly well; both might need a little tweaking based on our experience.
The tournament format was expected to run like normal Swiss the first two rounds and then give priority to pairing teams from schools of the same classification to ensure those teams had the opportunity to play their key, head-to-head matches. As it turned out, by the time the first two rounds of normal Swiss were played, the computer was unable to make several key, expected classification pairings because of problems this would have caused with other pairings. It was not simply a computer problem; even when the TD personally evaluated whether he could use manual pairings to make those classification pairings, he found he could do no better without causing worse pairing problems for other teams. The impression at this writing is that we need to analyze the Swiss files and see what minor changes we should suggest to effectively accomplish our objective of conventional Swiss early and key classification pairings thereafter.
With respect to the new tiebreak system, it performed smoothly and worked remarkably well, but there are questions about it and whether the subject needs to be revisited before next year. Moving into the final round, for instance, there was a distinct possibility that we’d see and have to break a four-way tie for 1st place. In theory, the system’s logic would have worked, but we didn’t know whether it actually would have been compelling enough to satisfy the four tied teams with its results. It looked like a possible train wreck. Happily, this was avoided when the four-way tie did not materialize and there were clear winners in 1st and 2nd. But the question remains to be explored–would the system effectively and fairly (and without disputes) break four-way ties? Further, new questions have arisen. For example, the US Am Team portion of the tiebreak system placed Clackamas above Pleasant Hill. Pleasant Hill played stonger opponents as measured in Solkoff points (19 vs. 15.5), but Clackamas won more boards (17 vs. 13) against its opponents. Looking at this information in the absence of any formula to apply, one could rightly ask at what point does strength of opponents trump board dominance and vice versa? Applying the US Am Team tiebreak system formula to this question, Clackamas had a tiny edge in US Am Team points (49.25 vs. 48). Without question, reasonable people could disagree on whether that was the most fair and accurate call and whether or not there is a different system and formula available that could have done better.
Thanks again to Kris Field-Eaton and her crew at Sherwood High and Norm May and his son. And a special thinks from me to all the coaches. It is because of you and your dedication that high school team chess exists in Oregon and that this valuable and educational sport is available to and played by so many of our students. Because of you and the lessons they learn from you about logic, thinking ahead and good, old fashioned sportsmanship and manners, whether they win, lose or draw, those lessons remain and will have a lasting and beneficial influence on their lives.
In closing, to give a sense of the color and drama of the events, I will include this newspaper article that ran in the Cottage Grove Sentinal. Enjoy!
Lions Chess Team wins Oregon State Championship!
By Steve Kilston and Taylor Wilhour, CGHS Chess Team co-coaches
It all came down to one pawn. But, as former CGHS coach Mike Wolfe correctly predicted three years ago when this year’s senior players were talented freshmen whom he had trained superbly, if they all stayed with the team they could be the state champions in their senior year.
Entering the concluding round of Oregon’s high school state chess tournament held at Sherwood H.S. last weekend, Cottage Grove’s was the only varsity team that had won in all previous rounds, beating Willamette, Clackamas, 5A champion Crescent Valley, and 3A champion Pleasant Hill.. To get first place they needed only a tie, 2.5 points out of the 5 games, against their final opponent, the powerful 6A champion team from Lake Oswego H.S. that had been last year’s state champion in the tournament held at CGHS. Senior Megan Goossens finished her game first, getting her half-point after both players quickly traded off their pieces to end up in a draw at 4th board. Then, at 2nd and 3rd boards, seniors Eric Bridges and Jon Reeves both lost tough struggles involving attacks that didn’t quite succeed against their very strong opponents. At 5th board, sophomore Christopher Goes played excellently and methodically to gain a material advantage, ensuring that he would get a full point from a checkmate.
The entire tournament now hinged upon the result at 1st board, where senior Jared McReynolds, the Lions’ team captain, had to find a way to get a win against his highly-ranked Lake Oswego opponent. Early in the game McReynolds let his bishop get trapped and taken, getting only a pair of pawns in return. But he found a way to get back much later, trapping and capturing a knight. At the end, each player had a king and one bishop, but McReynolds also had a pawn just two squares from promoting to a queen. Most times the other player’s bishop could be sacrificed for that pawn to prevent any chance at checkmate and end up in a draw, but McReynolds forced the opposing bishop to retreat and pushed his pawn forward toward queening and the full point victory that cemented Cottage Grove’s hold on the overall state title, keeping the team undefeated for the season, and electrifying all its overjoyed players and their coaches.
This fantastic victory was a true team effort, with all the varsity players winning critical games against the top teams in the state. McReynolds had to play against all the best players on each team, but still lost only one game, to the highest-ranked player at the tournament. Bridges played the best game of his life to ensure the close 3-2 team win over Clackamas. Reeves had a superb record, winning 4 of his 5 games, including deceptive traps and creative ways to get out of danger. Goossens and Goes also lost only one game each. Goossens helped steady the team with her rock-solid performances that often confused her opponents, and Goes ended a few of the rounds with remarkably close but inescapable victories.
This has been the best season for Cottage Grove chess in almost 40 years, and the Lions players deserve everyone’s praise for accomplishing a final grand triumph in winning the overall state title!