By Jon Naser
Alessandro and I started playing in Pittsburgh area youth chess tournaments in February 2006. We were in 7th grade. Over the next several years we both won many individual and team awards for our middle school and later our high school. One accolade had been just out of my grasp. I had won several section championships, but had never won the top prize in the Championship division. Three times I came 1 game short, and I had three third place trophies to prove it. My goal had always been to take the top prize before I aged out of these tournaments.
It all came down to my last shot. A final tournament in June 2011 in my senior year of high school. The field was pretty strong. I was rated 1487 at the time, and I was outgunned by several players as strong as 1727. The tournament started well for me with a win. In round 2, I had a hard fought draw with one of my main competitors. In round 3, I bounced back with another strong victory.
My score was 2.5/3 and my last game was against the strongest player remaining. He was playing very well and was undefeated. I had the black pieces. We played a great, even game. In the final moments, I grabbed the initiative by capitalizing on a mistake by my opponent, and I won the game!
The final tournament standings saw my round 2 opponent and I tied for 1st place. I won the tiebreaker and finally accomplished my task. When my name was called as top of the Championship division, my round 2 opponent graciously shook my hand, and even though the organizer misstated my high school, I was elated.
In the end, persistence paid off. Setting and reaching goals is an important part of success in chess and in life. See the results of that youth tournament here.