2004-2012:  A concise history of scholastic chess in the Greater Capital District of New York State (Albany and the surrounding regions, Syracuse-Conn., Newburgh-Canada!!).

This is an attempt at a short history of scholastic chess in the Albany area since 2004. I am counting on the coaches, parents, and clubs in the area to add fill in more gaps and to help establish an up-to-date all-inclusive edition.

In September 2004, Phil Ferguson invited Brother John McManus to serve as the scholastic coordinator of The Right Move in the Albany area. The Right Move held three free scholastic tournaments that school year, with the College of Saint Rose hosting two and Giffen Elementary School hosting a third. Trinity Elementary School had held a rated tournament earlier that year. In the Kingston area, Kingston High School and St. Joseph’s had also previously offered tournaments. In addition, a Capital District Championship had been held in Coxsackie.

A plan for a chess league was introduced, using the model of the Mid-Hudson League (Tom Neppl, with supervision and website by Larry King). In mid-February of 2005, parents, players and coaches held a meeting define the first divisions, (High School, Junior High School, and Elementary). This structure was implemented in October 2005. St. Catherine of Siena (Becky Bell) hosted the “Playoffs and Pizza Celebration” to conclude the fall season and award its winners, Shaker High School, Coxsackie Middle School and Trinity Elementary School.

For the 2005-6 season, The Right Move had added four tournaments and introduced a new format of six sections. Tournament #6 was held on February 18, and #7 on March 4, returning to Giffen. #8, held on May 20, 2006 at the New York State Library, The Right Move’s new partner, was our first four-round tournament. The Winter League 2006 ended very successfully, with 16 teams in three divisions. Coxsackie won the HS/Junior HS section, Trinity won the rated Elementary section, and School 16 won the Fun Elementary section. Shaker HS hosted the rated Pre-Winter 3-man team tournament on January 21, 2006, with 9 games for each player, many previously unrated. Also in 206, we established the Make the Right Move website (www.maketherightmove.org) which featured links to learning tools and information-gathering for parents, players and coaches. Kingston HS and St Joseph’s MLK tournament were held again in the Kingston area, keeping alive a very long tradition. The Capital District Championship continued, offering fine competition in Coxsackie. Many more schools joined our resources list, as having players in need of instruction/interaction/fun/ competition.

In 2006, much work remained to be done. A first Coaches’ Dinner was held on Wednesday, March 22, 2006 at Maggie’s Restaurant in Albany. 19 coaches, as well as parents and friends of chess, attended. An election was held, with ballots tabulated on the spot. Eduardo Valverde-Salas was elected Coach of the Year, and Brendan Lee won Player of the Year. Br John McManus was nominated and seconded to continue as Scholastic Coordinator for the ENYCA, as many indicated they would help as needed. Plans for the summer league were discussed, and we hoped a first draft for the Fall 2006 Scholastic Chess League could be finalized by May 30, 2006. Unfortunately, this league concept failed to get off the ground and remains dormant, waiting for a new impetus to get started. Schools tend to get on board with tournaments only on a monthly basis, and when a coach or interested parent makes it most possible.

In 2007, the number of tournaments grew to nine. The College of Saint Rose was joined by Menands School (2 tournaments), and along with the New York State Library, continued to bring quality scholastic tournament play to students in the ENYCA area. FREE scholastic tournaments were now available in the Capital region every month during the school year. Doug Bellizzi (President, Marshall Chess Club in Manhattan, NYC) was the speaker at the NYS Library tournament in May. At the Awards Dinner held at Martel’s Restaurant in Albany, Deepak Aaron won Player of the Year, while Dan Carroll of Menands won Coach of the Year.

2007-2008 year saw the establishment of FREE monthly scholastic tournaments for the first time in the Capital Region. Through the generous and tireless work of Ashok Aaron and the Schenectady Chess Community (City Mission, etc.), we were able to provide a regular site for tournaments on the first Saturday of each month at Proctor’s. Two FREE public Simuls held at Proctor’s, where GrandMaster Ronan Har-Zvi invited the public to compete, garnered significant publicity and attention. By January, a monthly FREE Scholastic Chess Tournament at Proctors was a regular and well attened even. Current adult USCF members were invited to compete in the Open section as a way to challenge and encourage our young developing players. The NYS Library and the Menands School continued to host tournaments. July 7-11 featured the first MATCH (Maurice Ashley Teaches Champions) chess camp at Proctors. Thanks to many players, parents, coaches and friends there is an abundance of opportunity.

The 2008 school year began with another full schedule of 9 FREE scholastic chess tournaments plus many additional opportunities for scholastic chess. Traveling from site to site became the norm for teams and individual players. In December at the NYS Scholastic Championships in Saratoga, Deepak Aaron won the invitation to Kansas in August to compete in the tournament of state champions. The May Picnic at Christian Brothers Academy acknowledged all our active scholastic players. We celebrated once again, American style, with hot dogs, hamburgers, chips, ice cream … and awards. In October, Deepak Aaron was invited to Mazatlan to represent us at the Under-16 Age Group Championships, which he won.  Dr. Liz Gialanella (Albany HS) was chosen “Coach of the Year” and Naren Manoj won “Player of the Year”.

2009 officially began with the State Championships on Sept. 3-5 in Saratoga. “A Taste of Madison” and Columbus Italian-American Day Quads in Washington Park provided much needed opportunity for learning and improving one’s game. Sue and Tom Pacuk were inducted into the Cyber Chess Hall of Fame, as they announced their retirement (1996-2009 at Coxsockie) from chess. The Capital District Championships, formerly held at Coxsackie, came to an end. Bill Townsend furnished The Right Move with a Best Game Prize for November in honor of the Capital district tournaments. It was won by Dilip Aaron. Deepak Aaron, then already the NYS Scholastic Champion, had earned the Candidate Master norm at Mazatlan (Mexico) and went on to represent the US in the Pan Am Games in Brazil in 2010. Another 9 FREE scholastic chess tournaments were offered by The Right Move.

2010 began with a flourish with National Chess Day on Oct. 9.  (In 1976 President Gerald Ford established this day with some fanfare.)  The scholastic schedule of FREE TRM tournaments rose to ten. Henry Johnson Charter School hosted and won this first event. Make the Right Move Capital District Chess Tour 2010-2011 was introduced with cumulative postings throughout the year for both team and individual leading scorers.  PAL programs were announced, and the Guilderland Public Library on Western Ave. and Proctor’s in Schenectady were again offering gathering places for learning/playing chess on Friday evenings.   Ashok Aaron was honored as the Hall of Fame recipient 2010 for his consistent training and promotion of chess throughout Schenectady and the surrounding areas. Bill “Everything” Matters won Coach of the year 2010 for his East Greenbush club, which posted 108 points for their season winning total.  Player of the Year 2010 went to Sandeep Alampalli from Woodlandhills, fifth grader with a total of 30 points for the year.  Picnic at CBA took place on June 29 with about 50 participants. Plans and programs were announced and made ready to be acted upon. A tentative schedule of dates was provided, with places to be determined as soon as schools could act upon their new programs (September, 2011?) Happy summer!

2011. Officials were selected during the June 29 Picnic at Christian Brothers Acadey for the 2011-2012 Chess Season with extremely optimistic goals.  President Sreenivas Alampalli, Marie Gemmill, Samantha Giknis and Puvi Dakshinamurthy joined with Brother John to ensure the continuity of FREE Chess for Youth,  providing hope for the 20 Capital school districts with  excitement and added growth throughout the region, to go along with the enthusiasm from Kingston, Newburgh and other chess Capitals. Yes, these tournaments still remain all FREE, thanks to generous donors. Ten tournaments completed the schedule with seven sections in each at game/30, 4SS.  Games began at 10:00 and awards were given by 3:00. June 20, 2012 saw the new Hall of Fame Inductee, Player of the Year, and Coach of the Year.

2012. The new officers took office on May 5, 2012 at Henry Johnson Charter School: Sreenivas Alampalli, Puvi Dakshinamurthy, Paul Wilson, Samantha Giknis and George Ladouceur.  Sponsors ($2000/yr., $200/tournament) and opportunities for help offered through use of our website, with active sollicitation.  After ten wonderful and successful tournaments CBA hosted the Family Celebration Picnic where we saluted, among others, Hall of Fame inductee Bill Townsend, Coach of the Year John and Vanessa D’Alonzo and Player of the Year Sandeep Alampalli. The Journal included a draft of the proposed ten tournaments for the coming year, as well as the RPI Fundraisers on June 30, July 21 and August 11.