Allston-Brighton TAB
by Logan Ritchie

School Chess Festival has all the right moves

On Sunday afternoon, more than 80 people flocked to a Jewish Day School in Brighton to attend the Shaloh House’s first chess tournament. Even a famous chess master from Russia, Boris Gulko, couldn’t miss this day of strategic game play.

Forty-eight children, age 4 to 13, and 32 adults played the royal game for five hours at the school. In the first several hours of the tournament, a four-round system in which players competed against those in the same skill bracket, children and adults earned one point for every match won.

Shaloh House sixth-grader Valerie Abelis of Newton took home the top prize. She won four points, the maximum number of victories, and took home a Civil War chess set complete with Confederate and Union soldiers.

The youngest player, 4-year-old Sean Chang from Newton, took fifth place in the competition. “That child is obviously going to be a tournament champion some day”, said Rabbi Dan Rodkin, Shaloh House head of school.

Proud of the first time event, Rodkin said, “It was a fun day and we got a great turnout.” According to school officials, the Orthodox school’s tournament attracted players from Allston, Brighton, Brookline, Newton, Wayland, Ashland, Needham, Natick, Chestnut Hill, Acton and bow, NH.

After the first leg of the tournament, United States and Russian chess champion Gulko lectured about the importance of learning a strategic game.Gulko went on to play 21 games simultaneously against adults and children, jumping from one table to the next and carefully plotting his moves. Gulko won 19 matches, tied one match and lost one match.

Gulko, who has been playing chess for 47 years, was born in East Germany and is a two-time U.S. chess champion. He immigrated to the US from the Soviet Union in 1986 with his wife Anna Akhsharumova, a former championship holder in women’s chess. His longest game was 144 moves, he said. He is the only person to win national chess championships in the US and Soviet Union.

Rodkin and Gulko agreed that chess is a game with many lessons. Rodkin added, “Chess is important to develop critical thinking. Every move is important. This game teaches discipline and exclusiveness. It is a great lesson for kids: The pawn is just a small piece, but it can become everything, it can overcome. The children know that they start small, but they can become something bigger. They can become everything.”
Chess Champs:

Top five child winners:

1. Valerie Abelis, Newton, 12 years old
2. Daniel Genzelev, Norwood, 8 years old
3. Jonathan Patsenker, Wayland, 9 years old
4. Barry Lisak, Newton, 8 years old
5. Sean Chang, Newton, 4 years old

Top three adult winners


1. Alan Safran, Newton
2. Tie – Igor Taksir, Ashland and Leon Suker, Brighton