My Legacy For Long Island Chess

Liran Zhou (standing) and Vincent Tsay (sitting), both wearing U.S. team uniforms, exchange ideas with a challenger.

Another boisterous, yet astonishingly successful, Chess-in-the-Park celebration was witnessed on Oct. 1 when CHESSanity’s fourth annual event was once again held at Allenwood Park of Great Neck.

Although the main goal is always to promote chess among Long Islanders, this particular event also gathered to commemorate a recent phenomenal showing by a few select Long Island chess players.

As always, the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Observing the occasion on that day, I’m pleased to say that the camaraderie so prevalent among my veteran Long Island chess players has been passed on to the new generation.

Though I am heading to college next year and, most likely, I will miss the fifth annual Chess-in-the-Park event (Who knows? Maybe I’ll make a surprise showing!), I’m very proud of the legacy we have created at CHESSanity.

We hope that Chess-in-the-Park will continue to cultivate and inspire young chess players for generations to come. It’s not too early to start dreaming about the next event, is it?

Ellen Wang (left) plays a friendly game with Evelyn Zhu.

Vincent Tsay, Liran Zhou and Ellen Wang were among the honored at this event: The three brilliant youngsters brought home chess glory to Long Island and America from the 2017 World Cadets Chess Championship, held in Brazil in late August. Tsay and Zhou won gold in the Under 12 Open and Under 10 Open sections, respectively, while Wang took bronze in Under 10 Girls. Evelyn Zhu, Katherene Qi and Lisa Jin were also commended for their outstanding achievements—being named official U.S. reps at this year’s championships.

This year’s Chess-in-the-Park was sponsored by the Long Island Chinese American Association (LICAA), Syosset Chess Mates and Long Island Chess Mates, assisted by international Grandmaster Gennady Sagalchik.

Since its debut in September 2014, Chess-in-the-Park has become an annual gala for Long Island chess players, veterans, rookies and parents alike, most of whom seem eager to pick the brains of other parents who have had previous scholastic chess success.

From the time I first started to shuffle the chess pieces around more than a dozen years ago, I have witnessed firsthand the rise in overall enthusiasm for the noble game throughout the country. Long Island, specifically, has been a major hub for the chess fever that has swept the country, with the increase in numerous national and international titles serving as hard evidence. There is no doubt that the growing popularity of chess is here to stay.

Volunteers include high school students and international grandmaster, Coach Gennady Sagalchik.

At the event, everyone was genuinely excited to see the excellent showing of so many veteran competitive players. In an unfrequented sight, these normally serious, reserved personalities meshed together to gather for fun and play without concern over ranking or rating.

Conversely, everyone was equally pleased to see many fresh faces.

At the 2016 event, the Lam sisters, Koiip and Kuipi of Jericho, were just beginners. The chess fervor on Long Island has since inspired them to travel across America to play competitively. A year of hard work has paid off. Both are now ranked among nation’s top 30 in their age group for girls.

Thomas Li of Williston Park is another avid player. His unusually quick progression in the past year exemplifies the boundless ceiling of a hardworking student. When Li returned home right after this year’s event, he began Googling a few Long Island chess “celebrities” whom he had met or played at the event.

June Guo, his mother, summarized it nicely when she said, “It is such an encouraging event for the new chess players. It gives them examples to look up to.”

Overall, the community’s support on Long Island for chess is healthy. In fact, the volunteer turnout surpassed my expectations. High school seniors and good friends of mine Oliver Liu and Brian Fong set aside their college applications and worked as tournament directors. Andrew Chen rescheduled his music lesson and Luca Johnson left early from a tennis practice. All came to support our annual tradition.

Leading by example, Gordon Zhang, president of LICAA, has been advocating for students and parents alike to go beyond their busy academic studies and share and do more for the community.

“The Wang brothers have done an amazing job promoting chess,” said Zhang. “They have managed to parlay their expertise and passion into servicing the community. I highly commend their dedication.”

Warren Wang and his brother, Wesley Wang, were at Chess-in-the-Park representing the organization they cofounded, CHESSanity.

Read a feature about Vincent Tsay here.

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