New Hampshire Scholastic Chess

May 1,  2021  Update

Dear New Hampshire Scholastic Chess Players:

As you know, the pandemic has effectively halted over-the-board chess activity, as social distancing and chess tournaments generally don’t go hand-in-hand. However, the success of observing Covid protocols in schools (and other places) has led chess organizers to resume some chess events.

Typically, as many of you know, the New Hampshire Chess Association selects nominees to represent our state at four national scholastic invitationals held alongside the U.S. Open. This year’s U.S. Open will take place in late July and early August in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. As of the time I am issuing this email, my understanding is that the U.S. Open is to be held in-person, albeit with precautions. Naturally, this is subject to modification as conditions warrant, but this is how things are right now.

Ordinarily, the NHCA does not simply choose the highest-rated eligible players to represent the state at these events. Instead, a player who wants to represent the state must earn his or her spot through a top-notch performance at the New Hampshire Scholastic Individuals, an event typically held each year in March.

Currently, it is the feeling of the NHCA board that holding our scholastic championships would be unwise. We typically get 60-80 players for such events, and the extent to which these players could be distanced from one another is questionable at best. However, the board still wanted to have some manner of qualification for the national invitational events.

This is our idea. If you want to represent New Hampshire at either the Denker Tournament of High School Champions (for high schoolers), the Barber Tournament of Junior High Champions (for grades 6-8), the Rockefeller Tournament of K-5 Champions or the Haring Tournament for Girls (open to students of all ages), I would invite you to email me to let me know. My intent is to select the four most-qualified candidates in each of these four categories and to hold a round-robin event to determine New Hampshire’s nominee.

The 16 players who will compete for nominations will be asked to attend a 3-round qualification event to be held on June 12, 2021 at Epping High School (probably starting at 10 a.m., but details will be shared with interested parties as the event is finalized). The winner of each group of four will qualify to represent New Hampshire this summer. No entry fee will be charged for this event, nor will any prizes be awarded. This will be rated chess designed to produce New Hampshire’s national invitational nominees, no more and no less.

Now, to be clear, there are two important factors that anyone playing this event must keep in mind. First, whoever wins these events will be expected to represent New Hampshire at the Denker, Barber, Rockefeller or Haring, whether these events are held in person or online. If you do not want to do so, please don’t apply. Second, we live in a Covid world, meaning that anyone playing in this event (and frankly, any chess event) will be asked to abide by certain rules. I am attaching to this email a Covid Acknowledgement and Waiver form that the parents of all players will be asked to sign (save for those who are 18+, in which case the player himself or herself will be asked to sign). This form outlines player responsibilities. It also outlines what we will do to make this event as safe as we can. Finally, it acknowledges that absolute safety from Covid is impossible and thus immunizes the NHCA and its representatives from liability in the event that, despite our best efforts, someone should contract Covid.

At bottom, I think this is a good chance to ease our way back into over-the-board chess. Limiting the field to 16 players in a room as large as the Epping gym allows for social distancing on a level superior to what the kids are seeing in school each day. There will be masks, hand-sanitizer, distanced tables (that will be cleaned between rounds), and a limitation on attendees, as parents and coaches will be asked to stay outside the playing room. All-in-all, I think the CDC would approve.

If this sounds interesting to you, please let me know. It is my hope that, before too long, our management of the pandemic will permit a return to more scholastic events that will include every player, not just those seeking national invitational honors. This is merely the first step in a progression to that desired end.

John Elmore
NHCA President



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