2nd Tommyland Chess Tournament: Tears, Triumph, and One Big-Ass Wig…

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I have this theory that people in general (or maybe just me) are capable of doing only one thing perfectly in a single day. Any more than one, you may be able to do a good job, maybe even great, but perfectly? Nope, don’t think so. You gotta leave juggling to the jugglers.

Anyhow, I’ve definitely tried to apply this rule in my own life to keep my sanity and the stress levels down. I periodically remind myself to take satisfaction in doing one thing a day right and not aim for much more than that. The single daily mission may be small, it may be big, but whatever it is, it should be enough to make me feel happy and productive.

Today’s task was the undertaking of one of the grandest events in Tommyland History: the 2nd Tommyland Chess Tournament at Cheonggye Elementary School. And I’m proud to say that it went off without a hitch. After my Willie Wonka get-up the first time around, I decided to portray a Korean icon this time, in the form of Goo Joon Pyo, the main character of the hit TV show “Boys Over Flowers.” So it was off to the Halloween store once again (that store has been such a life-saver), and a permed wig and a school uniform later, I was transformed to MC Goo Tommy. Catering was again provided in the form of Costco cookies, and the tournament was off and running.

The kids’ chess levels were a lot higher than the last tournament, and I was really proud of the kids, both in their gameplay and also their behavior. There was (almost) no screaming, whining, complaining, and trash-talking. One boy named Brian did end up in tears, but it wasn’t the bratty, not-getting-my-way kind. It was actually rather understandable, since he was destroying his opponent throughout the match but made a bad move and ended up in a stalemate. Since the rules–outlined clearly at the onset–stated that the winner of a stalemate game would be determined by the old-reliable method of a rock-scissors-paper game, that’s what happened, and Brian–in a cruel stroke–lost, allowing his dazed and confused opponent to advance. Wow, and you thought Andy Roddick’s Wimbledon loss was cruel; that was nothing compared to this (interestingly, Brian’s opponent’s English name was also Andy).

Don’t worry too much about Brian–a really sweet kid, by the way–I’ll make it up to him one way or another, probably by making sure he gets a Sticker Champion gift pack next week. In Tommyland, the team of students with the most stickers at the end of the semester is declared the Sticker Champions; however, I also include one boy and one girl–the ones with the best class participation–as “Bonus Boys” and “Bonus Girls” who also get the gift pack (Sound complicated? Well, it’s not easy running an empire). If Brian’s team doesn’t win, he is SOOOOO getting the Bonus Boy prize.

Anyhow, after four grueling rounds, it all came down to David and James, two great players with contrasting styles (Vincent and Robinson, the two finalists from Chess Tournament I were both upset early, showing the greater depth of players this time around). David is all about attacking right off the gate, while James is more methodical and reactive. David was prone to overconfidence at times, while James’s problem was just opposite, questioning himself too much at times to be sufficiently aggressive.

They played each other absolutely even all the way throughout the final, until they both ended up with a king and one rook. After they moved around each other for an interminable number of moves, I called a draw and requested a second match. David started off hot, hot, hot, and soon captured James’s queen. He was also bringing on the trash talk, checking and saying “You have one option” when it wasn’t true (I quickly corrected him, and he mumbled “Sorry.”). But David succumbed to his own hubris moving his king forward in order to push James’s king to a corner, and James, after much consideration, moved his rook to the side, and he had gotten a checkmate. I was absolutely shocked as were the kids watching. Hollywood couldn’t have written it better (in fact, even the AMAZING chess film “Searching Bobby Fischer” was slightly marred by the fact that the final moves in the climactic game are a bit erroneous–refer to Wikipedia for details). It was an amazing, out-from-nowhere move for a truly dramatic, come-from-behind win.

Both kids received a watch with a Chess design on the face (thank you, eBay!) for their efforts (as did a sweetheart of a kid named Tom who won the Manner Award for helping me throughout the event; he’s the one who loves to sing “You’re My Inspiration,” and I chose the prize with him in mind, because he was always asking me “What time is it?”). After all the kids had gone home, I went to the restroom, took off the wig, and just smiled at myself in the mirror. My daily mission was accomplished, and I thought to myself–at the risk of sounding arrogant–‘Tommy, you did good.’ So did the kids, of course. God, I’m going to miss these kids. But hey, we’re both going to have some awesome memories, I believe. Just like today, I hope.

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