Mechanics' Institute
Scholastic Chess Highlights
News & Updates --
Issue #6 - October 20, 2021
Monthly Scholastic In-Person Tournament
Report with Special Player Highlight:
Justyn Klot from Francisco Middle School Chess Club
Early in October we had another in-person scholastic tournament at Mechanics' with 17 players competing in two sections. Congratulations to section winners: Vidyuth Harish and Justyn Klot for winning their sections with a perfect 4/4 score.
Player Highlight: Justyn Klot
from Francisco Middle School Chess Club

Justyn played his very first in-person, over-the-board event in August. At that event, he lost every single game. His passion for chess and his resilience helped him come back strong, and this time, and in his second ever in-person tournament, he managed to win all his games, winning his section with a perfect 4/4. We sat down with Justyn to talk about chess, what the royal game means to him and what his message is to others:

Q: Tell us about your chess background: when did you start playing, how did you learn and what have you been doing to practice?

Justyn: I learned how to play chess from my dad when I was about 4-5 years old. We played chess at home, and I enjoyed playing. We do not play any more because I beat him every time. I rediscovered chess again during the mid 7th grade, I watched a lot of videos on YouTube, like Levy Rozman.

Q: How was your first tournament experience?

Justyn: In August, Coach Wilson arranged a USCF tournament, and I lost all my game. Yes, I was sad, but I have to keep playing. I set a goal to get better. I studied some basic openings like Queen's Gambit and Caro Kann for black and learned more lines to be more prepared. I used and game tactics, and also practiced a lot of endgame tactics. I'd say I played 10-15 games a day, and used almost all my free time for chess.

Q: Why do you think this tournament went so well? What's your advice to others who are sad that they lost a few or all their games at a tournament?

Justyn: It went well because I practiced a lot and never gave up. My advice to others: stay strong; losing a few games doesn’t matter in the long run, especially if you are in the beginner/intermediate level. Keep a positive mental mindset, losing a few games doesn’t matter, you can come back next time. Learn, study, practice and do a lot of tactics, puzzles, and study endgames and your work will help you win games.

Q: What does it mean to you that you belong to a chess club at your school?

Justyn: I belong to Francisco Middle School Chess Club coached by our teacher, Wilson Skinner.
I joined as a beginner, mainly to test my ability against others and to see where I am at compared to others. I suggest everyone should join the chess club at their school because you never know, sometimes a master will join, like Mr. Wilson, and we can learn from them, and get better in chess.
Also, not only can we learn, but we can also help out others, give our knowledge to someone else who is more beginner than we are.

Congratulations, Justyn!

Your story is a prime example of the following quote:
"The ability to work hard for days on end without losing focus is a talent." GM Kasparov
Scholastic Chess Enrichment Classes
October Special Highlight -- Chess Club at Alta Vista School
This Month's Special Highlight: The Chess Club at Alta Vista School in South San Francisco

The Alta Vista School school has been doing organized enrichment classes for their students called the BookEnd sessions, and we are happy to provide chess classes for them. This Fall, the interest were so great that we hosted two classes for their first 6-weeks session: a beginner class in which students learn the values of the pieces, their movements, set up on the chess board, what constitutes check, checkmate and stalemate; and an advanced class with IM Elliot Winslow covering interesting positions, tactical concepts, and mating patterns. Students enjoy playing against each other in person and over-the-board. The Mechanics' Institute team is encouraged by their enthusiasm, which is reflected in them completing the extra work we assign them for the week.

We would like to thank Sarah McNutt for her amazing support and great organization skill. Her and her staff's help is greatly appreciated!

Are you interested in starting a chess club at your school? Reach out to us and let us work with the school administration to start a chess session. Email us to
October Holiday Camps
In-Person and Virtual Chess Camps
Mechanics' Institute held the first set of camps in the new school year on October 11, in recognition of Indigenous People's Day. Students enjoyed camps both inside the historic building of the Mechanics' Institute at 57 Post Street in downtown San Francisco, and online via zoom utilizing the ChessKid platform for online play.

During the In-Person camp, Coach Colin went over pins, forks, and mates, as well as covered games and supervised play. Players enjoyed playing on the historic wooden tables with the triple weighted pieces donated by the Dean of Scholastic Chess, Dewain Barber.
Our online campers were welcomed by Coach Andrew.
With the 2021 US Championship currently underway, Coach Andy reviewed some of the fun attacking games from the tournament! Students were able to see some quick games from some of the strongest players in the country including Ray Robson vs Jeffery Xiong, Fabiano Caruana vs. John Burke, and Daniel Naroditsky vs. Jeffery Xiong! Daniel Naroditsky is from the Bay Area and frequently played at Mechanics' Institute.
Upcoming Camps:
November 11 - Veterans Day
November 22-24 - Thanksgiving Break
Dec 20-24 & Dec 27-31 - Winter Break

Chess camps will be in-person at Mechanics' Institute or online via Zoom.
For information about the levels and camp types, please visit our website:
ChessKid Style
by Andrew Ballantyne (special contributor)
If you feel that your ChessKid screen is looking a bit boring and you want to change the look of things, then you might want to change the board style, piece style, or theme. A couple of months ago, I was looking through all the ChessKid settings. I found two cool menu items: play and theme. You can find them by clicking the cog button and looking to the top of the page.

In play, you can change the look of the board and the pieces; I like the combination of Neo-wood for the pieces and Walnut for the board.
In theme, you can change the color pallet, the image behind the board when you are playing, and sometimes the ChessKid logo!

Enjoy your online play!

Editor: Andrew is a key member of our Mechanics' Chess community. He has been playing at our scholastic and regular (open) tournaments for many years now and have been the most active player during the pandemic. His passion for chess and never ending enthusiasm for tournaments have been a shining example to many in our club! Thank you Andrew!
Special In-Person Halloween Tournament on Saturday, October 30
Join us for some Halloween Fun!

We are excited to host our upcoming live Halloween Special Scholastic Tournament on Saturday, October 30. Put on your best costume, come to Mechanics' Institute, and play some chess while having fun with others!
* Swiss tournament with 4 games and three different sections
* Best costume competition with a celebrity judge panel
* Special tour of the library with fun prizes and games

Date and Time: Saturday, October 30 at 10AM
Tournament Format: Four rounds of G/30;d5 games.
First round starts at 10AM and the rest of the rounds are on a rolling schedule.
Special break between Round 2&3 to conduct the costume competition and tour library.
Awards: trophy ceremony at the end of the tournament.

Understanding Chess Tournaments - Part 5

Tiebreak points and methods

You have the same point at the end of the tournament as someone else? How do we decide who's getting the bigger trophy?

aka: Why you should always wish good luck to the player who you beat.
by Senior TD & FIDE Arbiter Dr. Judit Sztaray
At the end of the tournament players are listed in order of the final score. This is also called the "score-group." Tournament organizers and directors have to decide, however, within the same score-group who is ranked higher and thus who's getting the bigger trophy. There are several different ways to rank the players, and these are called tiebreak methods. While methods differ, all methods calculate a score that will be the tiebreak point for the players within the same score group. Tournaments can have one or more tiebreak methods and a good organizer lists the methods on the event page or announcements.

US Chess has an annual scholastic regulation published in September, and in that the standard scholastic tiebreak methods are listed as following:
  1. Modified Median
  2. Median
  3. Solkoff
  4. Sonneborn-Berger
  5. Cumulative
  6. Coin flip
We usually go by this tiebreak method when dealing with in-person events. If you are interested in how these tiebreaks are calculated, please read the following wikipedia page carefully:

Online tournaments: ChessKid uses the Sonneborn only and it's automatically programmed, so we adapted that and assign the tiebreak scores based on that criteria.

What do these scores really mean and represent? They represent within the same score group which player was playing the strongest relative to their competition. If you beat a player who beat everyone else except for you, that win will have a bigger weight in the scoring than if you win a game against a player who lost every other game in the tournament. Makes sense, right? Basically the stronger the player you beat, the higher the tie-break score you'll have.

This is why it's not just nice but important to wish good luck in the remainder of the tournament to the player over whom you just scored a victory since you may need them to play well against others so that your tiebreak score will be higher.
Upcoming Tournament Schedule - Oct 2021

Upcoming USCF-rated Tournaments

In-Person at Mechanics' Institute @ 10AM:
October 30 and November 13

Online on every weekend:
October 17, 23 and 31, November 6, 14, 20 and 28

For more information and to register:

Free online practice tournaments - every day @ 4PM
To get more information on the tournaments, including links, please visit:
Tournament results & Featured Games
Weekend USCF Online Rated Tournaments

Our weekend USCF online-rated tournaments continue to draw solid numbers, and offer players a chance to play rated games from the comfort of their homes.
Saturday or Sunday afternoon starting at 3PM scholastic players log into ChessKid and join the scheduled tournaments.
9/26: 6 games of G/10+2
ChessKid results: Click here

10/2: 6 games of G/15+2
ChessKid results: Click here

10/9: 6 games of G/5+2
ChessKid results: Click here

10/17: 4 games of G/20+10
ChessKid results: Click here
USCF Cross table: coming soon

Game Analysis
by Three-Time US Champion GM Nick de Firmian

Mikhail Kosau (MeltingGravel) (1468) - Ethan Ma (EthanM30021432) (654) [C46]
Live Chess, 09.10.2021
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Bc5 4.d3 [4.Nxe5! Nxe5 5.d4
is the famous fork trick that wins back the piece with a more active position for White.] 4...d6 5.Be3 Bg4 6.Be2 Both sides are developing their pieces and chances are even. 6...Nd4?! 7.h3?! [White had the chance for 7.Nxd4 exd4 (7...Bxe2? 8.Ndxe2 wins a piece) 8.Bxd4 winning a pawn 8...Bxe2 9.Nxe2 Bxd4 10.Nxd4] 7...Bxf3 8.Bxf3 Qf6 [8...Nf6! (Development!)] 9.Bxd4 exd4 10.Nd5 Qd8 11.0-0 c6 12.Nf4 g5?! This move is aggressive, attacking the knight, but it leaves some holes in the black pawn structure. 13.Ne2 [13.Nh5] 13...d5 14.exd5 cxd5 15.Re1 Ne7 16.c3 dxc3 17.Nxc3 d4?! It was better to castle, which would defende the d-pawn as the black knight wouldn't be pinned anymore. 18.Nd5 Kf8 19.Nxe7 Bxe7 20.Bxb7 Rb8 21.Be4 Rxb2 22.Qf3 Bb4?!
EthanM is good at attacking things, but it would be better to first get the black king to saftey with 22...Kg7 23.Bd5! MeltingGravel goes straight for the black king, which is now in real trouble. 23...f6 24.Qh5?
[24.Reb1! Rxb1+ 25.Rxb1 a5 26.a3! gets everyone attacking the black king] 24...Bxe1?? [24...Qxd5! 25.Re8+ Kg7 would be a piece up for Black. This looks scary but would win. Instead EthatnM misses the big threat.] 25.Qf7# MeltingGravel won by checkmate 1-0

Mathew Ma (OldLumpyBean) (1586) - Ethan Ma (EthanM30021432) (821) [C50]
Live Chess, 09.10.2021
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.d3 The Giuoco Pianissimo. A centuries old opening that is still very popular today. 4...Nf6 5.Bg5 [5.0-0 is most popular among the chess masters] 5...h6 6.Bh4 g5 7.Bg3 g4?! EthanM miscounts the attackers and defenders of e5. Simply 7...d6 is an equal position. 8.Nxe5 Bd4?
9.Nxc6? This is quite good for White, but the fork with [9.Nxf7! Qe7 10.Nxh8 wins a rook] 9...dxc6 10.c3! at least White has an extra pawn and a strong pawn center 10...Bb6 11.0-0 Be6 12.Bxe6 fxe6 13.e5 Nd7 14.Qxg4! Qe7 15.Bh4 Qf7 [15...Nxe5? 16.Qh5+ Qf7 17.Qxe5 wins a piece] 16.Nd2 [16.d4 would keep the second pawn and keep the black knight and bishop away] 16...Nxe5 17.Qe4 Qf5?
17...Ng6!] 18.Qxf5! exf5 19.d4? [19.Rae1! pins and wins the black knight on e5] 19...Ng6 20.Bg3? f4! EthanM has made a great comback and should end up ahead on material if he plays it right. 21.Rfe1+ Kd8?! [21...Kf7! stops the white rook from invading] 22.Re6
22...Nf8? [22...Rg8 forces white to either lose the bishop on g3 or sacrifice the exchange with 23.Rxg6 Rxg6] 23.Bh4+! Kd7 24.Re7+ Kd6 25.Nc4+! Now OldLumpyBean is in the groove. All the white pieces are attacking the black king. 25...Kd5 26.b3 Ne6 27.Re1!
There is no decent way out. The black king in the middle surrounded by white pieces is too much for anyone, including Carlsen. 27...Rae8 28.Re5# OldLumpyBean won by checkmate 1-0