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Young Mamaroneck Chess Player Competes in Tarrytown

TARRYTOWN, N.Y. — Cheering on your kid in chess isn’t like cheering on your kid in sports: you can’t watch them play and you have to be silent.

In a way, though, Long Island resident Derrick Bryant said it is similar, especially if you understand chess. Bryant’s 15-year-old twins both play chess at near-professional levels.

“You do cheer,” he said. “You sweat. As a parent, you get nervous, you get scared and also you cheer. When you see a kid come out with a sad face, you’re sad; [if they] come out with a smile, you cheer with everyone.”

It’s not the same as football or basketball, according to Bryant, but “they give you the same heart pain as anything else.”

Bryant was one of the many parents who gathered at the Tarrytown DoubleTree hotel on Wednesday as hundreds of young chess players gathered to compete in the final rounds of the North American Youth Chess Championship.

Two hundred seventy kids from 20 states and several countries were there competing for the chance to go to the next level of competition: the Pan American Youth Festival. Top players from each country competed in sections grouped by age.

Girls had the opportunity to compete in the girls’ section or the open section. According to event organizer Beatriz Marinello, many chose to eschew the girls-only competition and compete with the boys.

In the ballroom and several smaller meeting rooms, children as young as five sat down at long rows of tables and took their positions at one end of the chessboard, sitting quietly with their faces screwed up in concentration. Every so often one of the players would make a move and then reach over to hit a clock.

“You know what’s so incredible?” asked Pamela S. Brown, associate director of sales at the Double Tree. “You walk into the room and you go, well, these are our future CEOs, our president, our secretary of state. This is our future … I’m looking at these five-year-olds and they’re strategically sitting there thinking.”

Parents stood guard outside the rooms, waiting in silence to see the outcome of the game.

One of those parents, Lisa Lawless, didn’t mind the wait today: she started up a conversation with another woman who came with her son to the tournament from Florida. The woman originally came from China, and Lawless said they’d been talking about the differences between the two countries.

Yesterday, however, was a different story for the Mamaroneck resident.

“I was very bored,” she said. “You have to sit here for hours. But it’s usually my husband who spends almost every weekend sitting at these chess tournaments. For the parents, it’s kind of a pain in the neck. You can’t watch or anything.”

Lawless’ son Morgan, 14, has been playing chess since first grade, when his class learned how to play the game.

“Someone came in to his classroom to teach the first graders how to play chess and he just really liked it,” Lawless said.

Morgan started playing—and beating—others, including his dad. He got signed up for chess lessons and then began entering tournaments. He said he came to the Wednesday’s tournament because it was so close to home.

Lawless said they missed the first day of the tournament because they had to go to a wedding. On the second day, Morgan lost both games. Despite the setback, he kept on going.

Lawless said Morgan’s chess teacher has explained how chess teaches its players to persevere. Even if a player is doing well and sees his rating go higher and higher, inevitably it will drop down again.

“You just have to keep going,” she said.

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