IM Altounian on Chess Fest

May 21, 2009


Many thanks to IM and Arizona State Chess Champion Levon Altounian for participating in this year’s Chess Fest. Not only did Levon and Mayor Walkup congratulate winners during the awards ceremony, Levon also hosted a question and answer session for chess parents and coaches. Please read his write-up of the event below.



The 2nd Annual ChessFest took place on May 2nd, 2009 at the Congress Hotel in Downtown Tucson. The event was organized by 9 Queens, a non-profit organization headed in Tucson by Jean Hoffman. Going into the event, I had a general idea how it would all be scheduled and what events would take place. I was instantly impressed by a welcoming atmosphere and liveliness that evaked memories from the not so distant past when I lived in Los Angeles and attended such events several times a year. There were chess games going everywhere I looked, and I saw many familiar faces. Kids of all ages would compete with each other, show puzzles, play Bughouse and Blitz games and frequently challenge bystanders and parents.

What made this event truly unique was the fact that almost every strong player from Tucson was present and either helped with the event organization or participated in the event. FM Robby Adamson was the Tournament Director, and some of the best young Arizona players were present too. Arizona Scorpions manager Leo Martinez volunteered to do blindfold chess with 3 great players, and High School and National Champions Jon Cox, Ben Marmont, Amanda Mateer and Warren Harper were involved with the tournament organization and other logistics. Jenelle Wallace was doing chess lecturing and I volunteered to answer questions from the audience, students and parents.

The event was planned to encompass many activities and cater to as many adults and children as possible: there was a tournament, blindfold chess, lectures, live chess, a questions and answers session, an auction and even a face painting!

The main event was the tournament. It looked like there were roughly 100 players in the tournament where all ages and experience levels were mixed.  It was common to see a pairing when a 1st grader had to play an Expert right in round 1. Some players and their parents were nervous about it, however all ended well and without tears.

The final event was live chess. Each piece on the board was represented by a chess player. The 2 best performers of the tournament (Brian Hu and Fred Duren) played a game on a demo board, which instantly got translated to the Live chess board and pieces. After an incredibly complicated and exciting game, it ended in a draw.

And finally, there were some Arizona celebrities present too: I was very excited to have a small chat with Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and Tucson Mayor Bob Walkup. I think it was a great event and I  hope it will grow each year with the support of more organizations and players. Congratulations to Jean and all who made this wonderful event possible.


International Master Levon Altounian


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