Being considered for a Level III Coach requires at least 5 years experience. This story covers the last 10. Sometimes you really don’t know how much you’ve really accomplished until someone asks you for the documentation.
29 June 2021
Submission of information for Level III US Chess Certified Coach:
There are a few important things you need to understand about our mission. We help chess families earn scholarship, job, and entrepreneurial opportunities based on the fact that someone in their family plays chess!?! (strange) We are a full time tournament chess and business school. Our 1st goal for every student is to help them understand that there are no age requirements for college and no age requirements for having a business! We offer a buffet of opportunities to make what used to be, “Hobbies and Interest”, “Accomplishments”, on their school applications and resumes!
Pulling this information has been no easy task. I verified my data, using emails, agreements, Virginia Scholastic Chess Association,(VSCA) results, and the US Chess player histories. Since there is a lot of latitude here, I’m just going to tell my story as best I can and hope it meets or exceeds the requirements for the title I’m asking for.
For years, Kate Brown and Peter Hopkins had called on me to do simuls, classes, etc. It was mostly as a volunteer with an occasional gas stipend. I didn’t mind, I’d started a club in every city I lived in since returning from Germany in 1986. When Peter passed in 2011, I knew that he was really the source of most of the field work. Kate Brown kept nudging me to be the secretary. I was the highest rated person in the room and it just seemed that with all the other experience I had, if I didn’t step up, sooner or later I would regret it. My 1st act was to create the, “It’s Your Move” free game analysis service. Technically speaking, that’s coaching, right? In conjunction with the free analysis, I began offering free simuls, classes, and workshop to any school or organization that contacted the VSCA looking for help. I tend to be a, “little” aggressive. So when the games and the help requests weren’t coming fast enough, I decided to start doing free, post round analysis meet the players, collect the games, meet the coaches, and meet the parents myself. The rest shall we say is history!
My count for the number of rated tournament chess players I’ve coached directly or as a team is 127. If I’d kept better records, there’d be more, but 127 of them are all I can remember or document. Between September 2011 and April of 2021 these 127 and the players I can’t remember or document participated in 101 Scholastic individual and team events. The VSCA does not hold team events in June, July, or August! So please keep in mind that it’s 90 months, not 120. We put together 163 team appearances. 77 by teams where I actually taught chess at their school or the teams were made up solely of my students. Then there were 86 team appearances where at least one of my current or former students was on the team.
Before we discuss the results, it important demographically and statistically for you to understand that I serve at all ends of the socioeconomic spectrum. Within the Richmond City Limits, if you were not getting any help, it was because you had not asked for any! Ability to pay was not an issue. The accumulative total of stops peaked at 14 per week!! The Richmond Public Library and Richmond Public Schools were only promising to pay us at that time. I was paying Bill Keough and Jason Morefield. We were at 4 libraries a week for 18 months before the new library master told us he would never pay us. It took 3 years to understand that Richmond Public Schools has no after school programs, just “contract service providers that they allow to use the schools to provide their programs”!? There words, not mine.
The 77 I coached directly finished; 1st – 24%, 2nd – 28%, 3rd – 18%, 4th – 14%, and 5th – 7%!
The 86 that had 1 or more of my current or former students finished; 1st – 51%, 2nd – 19%, 3rd – 16%, 4th – 6%, and 5th-3%.
The difference you are witnessing is the difference between exposure and proficiency programs. Richmond Public Schools’ paradigm is exposure with no measurable standards of performance, and no expectation or encouragement to pursuance. A chess class for them was 1 hour. The county programs have an expectancy of a change in performance and they encourage team tournament participation. A chess class for them was 75-115 minutes! With the help of the VSCA, the VCF, and US Chess, I was able to get sets, memberships, and entry fees for the under-served, “exposure” families that wanted to take it to the team participation level! In addition to that, I, my restaurant sponsors, and the parents all chipped in to ensure our teams had meals, snacks, and return transportation home if needed. I picked up a lot of people and gave a lot of people rides home. lol
Players that participated in national events; Again, I’m putting this together as best I can.
Arvind Chava; 2013 Super Nationals K-12
Akhil Chava; 2013 Super Nationals K-3
Arvind Manohar; 2017 US Open Scholastic Championships, Jr High/High Under 1200. 1st Place
Rahul Palani; 2017 US Open Scholastic K-8, 2016 National K-12 Championships K-12, 2013 Super Nationals K-5 Under 900
Ritvika Palani; 2019 All Girls National Under 1200, 2018 All Girls National K-12 Under 12, 2017 Super National K-5 under1200, 2017 All Girls National under 10, 2016 National K-12 Section 4.
Santosh Dasari;2018 National high School Championships K-12 Under 1600, 2017 Super Nationals K-12 Under 1600, 2016 National High School Championships K-12 Under 1600, 2015 National High School Championships K-12 Under 1600.
Ankith Laichetty; 2017 Super Nationals k-12 Under 1600, 2016 National High School Championship K-12 Under1200.
Vishnu Pulavarthi 2016 National High School Championships K-12 under 1200, 2015 National High School Championships K-12 Under 800.
Andrew Rousseau 2016 National K-12 Championships Section 8/5, 2016 National Elementary School Championships K-5, 2015 National Elementary School Championships K-3 (13th).
Natasha Rousseau; 2019 All Girls Championship Under 12, 2018 KFC All Girls National Championship Under 10, 2017 All Girls National Under 10, 2016 K-12 National Championships Section10-3, 2016 National Elementary Championships K-5 Under 900.
Virginia Scholastic Championships: Richmond Public Schools is an, “underserved” school system. The School System 2013, a car dealer 2015, and Anna Julia Cooper School 2019 all promised us a bus or large capacity van and in each of those years, they backed out 2 weeks before the Championships. Maggie Walker High School is located in the city limits, but it’s a Governor’s School. The teams in bold are made up solely of my students. The others had 1 or more of my current or former students on that team.
River’s Edge 19th, Academy of Academic Excellence 21st
G. Guruvelli 1st Under 800 Echo Lake Elementary 21st
Moody Middle School 1st, Short Pump Middle 14th, Hungary Creek 26th
Henrico High School 7th
Akhil Chava 11th, Ronit Jain 16th, Adya Batta 3rd Under 600.
Shady Grove 6th, River’s Edge 8th, Colonial Trail 14th
Springfield Park 12th,
Daniel Jones Top Unrated
Moody 5th, Short Pump 17th, Hungary Creek 20th, Thompson 21st,
Hired by Chess.com to provide post round analysis and commentary at their membership booth!
Shady Grove 7th,
Moody 6th, Hungary Creek 13th,
Andrew Rousseau 9th, Shriharsha Sambangi 16th,
Twin Hickory 7th, Kaechele 17th, Rousseau Home School 16th,
Jackson Kennedy 1st Under 600, Nitin Kanuri 15th,
River’s Edge 11th
Moody 5th, Albert Hill 21st
Maggie Walker 2nd
Contacted by Mike Klein and Danny Rensch of Chess.com to do post round analysis at their membership booth again!! (They double my fee from 2014!!)
Ritvika Palani 2nd Under 800, Natasha Rousseau 18th
Maggie Walker 6th
Natasha Rousseau 19th,
Maggie Walker 5th, Glen Allen High 14th,
Ritvika Palani 2oth,
Maggie Walker 3rd, Glen Allen 11th
Colonial Trail 10th
Ritvika Palani 3rd, Arvind Manohar 7th
Maggie Walker 1st, Glen Allen 6th
Shady Grove 8th
K-5 Under 1000
Camden Nguyen 1st Under 400
River’s Edge 6th
K-12 under 1400
Ritvika Palani 9th Top Girl, Cora Lewis 1st Under 800
Coach Anagha Sinkar 1st Place
Number of Schools Served: That’s a hard one. I’ve been the field liaison for the VSCA since 2011. I came up with 10 plus schools that I visited on behalf of the VSCA. Volunteering to do notation lessons, post round analysis, and games follow up at more than 40 tournaments for kids all over Virginia isn’t something I know how to specifically characterize!? It was needed and it’s coaching, so I’m mentioning it. Directly I documented 21 elementary, 16 middle, and 8 high schools. I got as many as I could to come participate in as many rated events as possible.
With this kind of activity there are many great stories about the impact of, “tournament chess” on kids!! The thing is, the greatest stories are sometimes happening away from the board!? Sometimes it’s a lesson for the coach, sometimes it’s a lesson for the player, and the parents need all the off the board lessons they can get. I’ll share with you a few examples;
S. I met S just after the subway games in July of 2016. During the orientation while I was talking to the parents, S kept moving the pieces around into obviously bad combinations , taking the queen and then giggling. His father told him to stop, saying, “That will never happen. Don’t waste your time with such foolishness?!”. I told the father that he was playing, that he wasn’t serious. To settle the argument we set up the board and after 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 d6, I began checking him with 3. Bb5. He played …c6. I took away the c pawn and checked him again, he played …Nd7. I took away the knight and he played …Bd7. I took away the bishop and checked again and he played Ke7! His father asked why didn’t you block with the queen. He giggled and said, “Who would give up their queen just to get out of check?!” S’s mom was a totally different story. I’d place her in the top 3 chess mom’s ever for being able to follow instructions. S had played 10 games and was at 107 when we started. This was how he progressed; 15:307, 18:451, 23:566, 26:580, 30:772, 34:891, 38:879. Over the holiday break, Mr S broke the rules and entered S into the 43rd Annual Eastern Open. I say broke the rules because it is expressly forbidden for parents to enter their child into any tournament without my consent! It was a heritage event. The lowest section they had was an Under 1300 section. A 1300 around the Maryland belt is like a 1500 in Central Virginia! It was his 1st adult tournament, it was the 1st time he’d ever earned a bye, and he got crushed. He hadn’t been dropped in the deep end of the pool, they’d thrown him off a boat with water on every horizon!! He dropped to 798 and lost confidence and was losing interest. S’s father apologized but the damage was done. I told them that S would need a break to forget about what had happened. In June we began preparation for the US Scholastics. I changed his entire regimen. He went to 812, then 838, then 880, then 929, and finally to 1010. Once he broke 1,000, against he and his mother’s wishes , the father decided it was time for a break. I saw S at a couple events but his eyes were never the same. Lesson; There is no good time for any competitor to just go compete. Every tournament deserves it’s proper preparation. Parents have to let coaches determine what tournaments kids go to.
K. K was a classic case of just wanting to get more attention at home. Sometimes it’s the younger sibling sometimes it’s the older one. I recognized this and knew that if I didn’t improve the whole family, he wasn’t going to work. I explained this to his father, he was surprised I’d picked up on it. So he sat in on all the lessons and also got lessons for D. This was K’s progression; 636, 749, 885, 891, 1016, 1013, 1026, 1012, 1047, 1055, 1081! 10 tournaments he went up 445 points. D went from 1289-1428, and dad went from 1274 to 1466. I brought the whole family up 776 points. Against my advice, dad put K in the amateur section of the Cherry Blossom Classic! There were 31 players in that section. K was number 31. After that tournament he retired from chess. When I asked him why he wasn’t playing any more, he said it was too much work. He volunteered as a score keeper for his community service hours but never played another tournament. Lesson; Don’t dump players with only scholastic experience into strong heritage events unless they are prepared for and briefed about the difference in the ratings strength.
A and N. I met dad at the 2014 VA Scholastics. Dad had been taking advantage of the free games analysis on the VSCA website. In April he decided to get A some lessons. N was there but A was gloating that she didn’t need any lessons, that he was the one playing in tournaments. She looked him dead in the eye and said, “I’ll be as good as you some day!” Dad and A just shrugged her off, but then she looked me right in the eye as if to say, “You believe me, don’t you?”. I’d been having enough conversations with 5, 6, 7, and 8 year olds to know she was 100% serious!! When I got home I put a set together for her. New pieces, new board, and a pink camouflage quiver. I didn’t warn them it was coming and mailed it the same day! Dad said she was so happy that she slept with it and took it everywhere they would let her. As N started developing better study habits and got closer and closer to the 1st time she was going to beat A, he decided he didn’t want to go to tournaments any more. I told dad, that if he wanted to keep both of them playing, when A said he didn’t want to go, leave him and take N anyway. Dad and 1 other parent have been the only ones to follow this advice. Dad told me that at the tournament, N kept saying, “I love you daddy”. When he asked her why she kept saying it, she said when A said he didn’t want to come she thought she wouldn’t get to go to tournaments anymore!! In April of 2019 A’s rating was 1181, N’s was 1178!! Close enough!! Lesson; while it may drive the family in different directions, each child is just as entitled as the other to their own unique potential. Never let one of your children be the reason you don’t do something for and with the other. For coaches, if you see something do something!
V and H. A High. They’d gotten a grant and wanted to have chess. This school borders a low income housing community. Only 1 other Richmond High School has as many or more kids that actually walk to school every day. This was H’s 2nd time in the chess class and V’s 1st. All the kids kept saying they were going to come to a tournament but hadn’t. V said she wanted to come. H says if she comes I’ll come. After some digging, H’s dad is disabled and can’t drive and his mother works every Saturday. V’s mom works nights and doesn’t get off in time to get them to a tournament. So I called and verified the kids story and got their parents permission to take them to the tournament. They lost all of their regular games, but H won his house game that he had taken instead of the bye. That was 4/81/7… 0-4 and 1-3. It still got us a team trophy by default. 3 teams 3 trophies. Lol Fast forward to 5/20/17. This time V puts in a 3-1 and H puts in a 3-1. Her rating goes from 101-287, his goes from 314-480. This time they come in second for team honors. We actually had 3 teams there that day. It was Richmond Public Schools against everyone else. We team huddled together, we ate lunch together, and we took 8 of the 10 trophies given out that day. Word of V and H’s success spread through the school and got back to the grant monitors. More kids came and H and V were given the opportunity to lead them. Lesson; Talent is where you are, not where they are. Sometimes they really would if they could!!
Disorders: Bi Polarism, ADHD, Dyslexia, Anger, and Autism.
I’ve witnessed with my own eyes and been told by many parents and teachers the affect that tournament chess has on these disorders. Regardless of socioeconomics, kids have IEP’s(Individual Education Plans) and the need for counseling. There are 2 examples that stand out.
When “A” came to our team, he was not new to me. His behavior at the tournaments I’d seen him at was rude and very disrespectful. When I looked him up his record was 1-14. At 1st my attitude was, with that attitude I can see why. As I observed his behavior I could tell from his self-depreciating comments that he didn’t like the way he was behaving either. Come to find out, even though he said he loved chess, the coaches at his last school had never once sat down and tried to help him. So I would set a little bit of time aside for him at the beginning of every session and I refused to allow him to say bad things to himself in front of everyone. 3 weeks later on 12/13/14 He scored 3-1 and took 3rd place at the Hopkins tournament. He actually led the team to it’s 1st place finish. He stopped cold! No more bad self talk, no more anger. At the end of the year his mother came to me and teared up as she thanked me for finally giving her son what she had been hoping for from chess all along. Before they left, he hugged me and told me that I was the best coach he ever had!
When “G” came to our team I had no idea what was going on in his family. It was mostly bullying by the other siblings because he was intelligent and worked hard at school. We had a summer jobs camp that year and I took him because he called me 2 and 3 times a week to let me know his progress and said he really wanted to be a coach. He for many reasons was the only one to make it actually working. Before I could take him to work, I had to clean him up. I got him a company shirt, tooth brush and tooth paste, a new pair of tennis shoes, a belt, eyeglass wipes, and a haircut. When his mom picked him up that day, she cried. When he went to his next counseling session, his mother said the counselor asked where he was when he was right in front of her watching TV. When she told the counselor what he’d been doing without being told for the last 2 weeks, she said it was the most dramatic change she had ever seen!!
Chess has a place in the DNA of my life! It’s truth!! It doesn’t lie, cheat, steal, or discriminate. No human act can diminish my efforts or prevent my rewards as long as I continue to work. Success or failure is entirely up to me! I will share that with as many people as I can, all the days of my life!
Thank You for your consideration,
Michael A Callaham