can be done, is always a work in progress. I try to inspire mostly by showing how important and fun chess is to me. If I love it, others who are around me have a better chance of becoming passionate about it as well. One needs to also be curious, and this is best done by presenting chess as a problem to be solved. Chess is such that many different types of problems can exist. You develop trial-and-error skills, tinkering, exploring and sometimes just brute force, and learn when each of these is best. Dedication is the final ingredient in the development of passion. This applies to most things I believe; this dedication can be externally
presented and required, but has to be internally accepted. Otherwise, it qualifies as routine and not passion! Each year a child ages, his or her ability to learn increases. It seems that the first gigantic leap is from kindergarten to first grade, and even though the development is still growing each day, the rate of growth slows somewhat on average after this. This, in a way, makes learning and playing chess even more convenient for the under-12 set. You feel internally like you are doing great and you are, because the breadth and depth of knowledge seems unrecognizable and abstract, and any increase feels like progress. By the time puberty kicks in, the intellectual curve sharpens yet again and the ability and potential to learn becomes enormous. Around age 12 to 14, the young chess player can develop very fast and, as appealing as this sounds, it actually has practical downsides. If you are learning quickly, then you get to your ceiling of knowledge and ability much faster than you did when you were 7 or 8. This fuels the need for more and more time
to be spent, because you now have the equipment (more brain power!) to keep developing. You can get to the next level faster than before, but now to get to the next level requires more and more effort and time and dedication coupled with a time in your life when time becomes less and less. Durham Academy’s No. 1-ranked player of all time is Connor Labean ’10. He had the very unique situation of learning chess as a rising eighth-grader during a DA summer chess camp in June 2005. Labean would break our all-time record less than three years later as a 10th grader, showing he was a talented player who combined his “perfect age for fastest improving” and spent the required time needed to get there. Above all the great successes we have in competitions, I wish that the students of Durham Academy take with them the lifelong ability to appreciate, communicate and express themselves in the chess sense of logic and data-driven solutions. The level of calculation required, the organization of thought, the vast information pool to draw from and the frustrating search for truth — which we never find while playing — all are priceless memories and also intellectual advantages to take with you.
LEFT: Craig Jones, Veronica Quiett and Maya Dolan wait to see what play Maddie Moore will make in the Lower School’s after-school girls-only chess club.
DA CHESS THROUGH THE YEARS • DA competed at Spring Nationals in 2003 with nine players and only five weeks of chess classes under their belts. Eight had never played in a single chess tournament! • The following November, 51 DA students played in a chess tournament at Davis Drive Elementary School in Cary, marking the beginning of large numbers of DA chess players competing. Forty-two of those 51 kids had never played in a single event! • About 175 DA kindergarteners have played at least one rated game of chess since 2003. Three of the four highest-rated kindergarten players of all time were in this year’s class: Wolf Martin, Luis Pastor-Valverde and Tyler Barritt. • Rising third-grader Pete Crowley’s successes are many. He is a former national champ and had back-to-back, perfect 7-0 state
championship performances. He was the highest-rated first-grader, by a wide margin, in North Carolina history. His record stands nearly 200 points above the second-highestrated N.C. player ever. • Chess Coach Craig Jones is a longtime friend and mentor to current U.S. No. 1 and top-10-ranked player in the world Hikaru Nakamura. He spent nearly the entire 2006 Spring Nationals in the DA team room hanging out, commenting on games and conversing with parents and players. Nakamura would later make three visits to DA. • Getting girls to participate more is a problem everywhere — the same low percentages at DA exist worldwide, and girls’ participation needs to be higher. The highest rated Lower School chess player of all time was Natahja Graddy. She moved to Florida, but in her two-and-a-half years here she left a permanent mark on Durham Academy chess.
• DA chess first competed as a team at the state level in 2004, and the best team result was fourth place. DA won four state team titles in 2005 and has won 28 team titles from 2005 to 2013. No other school is remotely close. DA’s K-1 team has competed 19 times, taking first place 18 times and finishing second the only time it didn’t win at states. • DA has won three national team titles. • Matthew Novak ’12 was 2006 National K-9 Under Champion. • Indira Puri ’12 was the 2011 National All Girls Champion and a three-time state all girls champion. • Rising sixth-grader Christopher Chaves has played more rated chess games than any player in DA history. He is the 2013 N.C. State K-5 Champion and the youngest DA student by far to ever cross the 1500 rating mark.
DURHAM ACADEMY RECORD | SUMMER 2013 | WWW.DA.ORG