Tuesday, August 15, 2006
Wonderful Friends and Memories
Above is Rachel and her Mom
Wonderful Friends and Memories
By: Rachel Farell
This year, I was fortunate enough to represent Oklahoma in the GM Susan Polgar National Invitational for Girls. It was an amazing experience that taught me invaluable lessons that not only related to chess, but also to life. Above all, I learned to "win with grace, lose with dignity", as GM Susan Polgar says. I was able to see in person the importance of diligence, effort, and sportsmanship involved in chess. Although the tournament has ended, the lessons I learned, the friendships I made, and my overall experience will remain with me for years to come.
I remember vividly the day I was to compete for the opportunity to come to the Polgar tournament. I had realized I was eligible only a few months before, and as I entered the auditorium where we were to be playing, a mix of pressure and excitement entered with me. After several long battles over the board, I was congratulated by family and friends on being the top-finishing girl in the state. I breathed a sigh of relief and smiled. I was the Oklahoma representative for the Susan Polgar Invitational.
I couldn’t believe how soon I was boarding the plane, headed for Chicago. When we arrived, we were taken by taxi to the Double Tree Hotel in Oakbrook. I chuckled when our taxi driver shook his head at the thought of girls playing chess. He had no idea! The hotel atmosphere was completely taken over by chess. The lobby was full of chess players discussing pairings, going over games, playing blitz, or preparing for the first round of the U.S. Open. I saw a few familiar faces, and tried to catch a glimpse of their games during the tournament.
The entire week was phenomenal. I had never faced tougher competition in a chess tournament. GM Susan Polgar was wonderful to talk to, and a great inspiration to me to continue playing chess. I can’t begin to express what an honor it was to learn from her. Paul Truong was also excellent. He was so friendly, and I particularly learned from his comments during the training session.
The girls who participated in the tournament were some of the smartest, sweetest girls I have ever met. I am thrilled with the friendships I made during the week, and will definitely make an effort to stay in touch. I was impressed with the humility I found, especially with the higher-rated players. Only later did I realize that two of them had been written about in Chess Life, several had placed very well in the previous years, and one had the opportunity to represent New York in the Denker tournament.
It was amazing to be in the presence of such great chess players. I made a mistake with WGM Jennifer Shahade in the elevator the first day, when I told her, "You remind me a lot of Jennifer Shahade." Only later did I realize that it actually was her!
On my last night in Oakbrook, I went down to the tournament room just before the U.S. Open began. With the help of Chuck Unruh and Paul Truong, I was able to get the signatures of several Grand Masters on my chess board. As my friend and chess instructor, Chuck Unruh, said, "The weight of the chess world was now off her shoulders."
This event has made me further realize the potential God has given each of us, and the role that diligence and perseverance play in unleashing this potential. I would like to thank GM Susan Polgar and Paul Truong for all the time and energy they exerted into making this event memorable, and also for the small things, such as posing for a picture or signing a chess board. I would also like to thank the Oklahoma Chess Association and the Oklahoma Scholastic Chess Organization for the work and preparation it took on their part to send me to this tournament.
My family was wonderful and very supportive, and it was an amazing feeling to know that Oklahoma was behind me. It was an honor to represent Oklahoma, and I hope that next year I can once again participate in the Susan Polgar National Invitational for Girls, with new memories and the chance to see old friends.