Tread carefully if you ever sit down for a chess match with Carson Swick. The kid’s thinking two moves ahead, and he goes for the jugular.
In a blink-of-the-eye win between friendly handshakes Saturday, the 10-year-old’s quick and calculated assault left an opponent checkmated before he knew it.
“I saw him make a really bad move with his queen,” said Carson, of Bethlehem. “I took it, and he had no defense.”
Carson, who ended up tied for first in the 10-year-old unrated division but lost in the tie-breaking process, was one of 62 competitors at Saturday’s ninth annual Fall Scholastic Chess Championships at Northampton Community College.
In one room were the less experienced competitors, children ages 5 to 14 competing in age divisions. Another room housed rated competitors between 7 and 18 years old who have earned points by playing against other players ranked by the U.S. Chess Federation.
If high school football playoffs don’t have enough drama, try chess. Teddy Willis, 14, upset four-time tournament champion and top-rated player Jacob Pfefer in the third round and earned a showdown with 2009 champion Daniel O’Brien, 16, in the fifth and final round.
That’s when things got controversial. Daniel and two competitors who were observing the match said Teddy moved his king, took his hand off the piece and moved it again all in the same turn â€” a violation of the rules.
Teddy said he never took his hand off the king, but tournament directors ultimately placed the piece back to the original spot. In the end, it wouldn’t have made a difference, said Daniel, who went on to win for the second straight year.
“Out of the opening he made some mistakes,” said Daniel, a student at Bethlehem Catholic. “From there I just kind of played solidly and didn’t give him anything.”
The day of chess wasn’t all about competition. Watching her son Michael, Maria De Luna said he was carrying on a family tradition.
Michael shared a special bond through playing chess with his grandfather, who died a year and a half ago, De Luna said. Michael, 13, learned on an old wooden chess board that his grandfather brought to America from Ukraine, the same board Maria learned on as a little girl.
Michael must have been taught well. Competing for the first time, the Coopersburg boy took home first place in the 13-year-old unrated division.
While Saturday was the first competition for some, it was the last for Polly Riddle. The 67-year-old has been a staple for the last few years, selling chess books and equipment at the competition, but says she won’t be coming back.
Polly’s husband, Dr. Ira Lee Riddle, was the competition’s founder and a former president of the Pennsylvania State Chess Federation. But since his death in July 2009, Polly says she doesn’t have the same passion for the game.
Staying true to chess strategy, Polly is thinking at least one move ahead.
“It was a way of being together and sharing his interest,” Polly said, clutching a tissue. “It’s time to move on.”