5th grader

Fifth-grader tops high school senior to capture Mayor’s Cup
Posted: Wednesday, December 2, 2015 9:00 pm | Updated: 11:05 pm, Wed Dec 2, 2015.
By Daniel J. Chacón

Around the time he was in kindergarten, Asher Nathan proved to be an unusually good checkers player.

“That made me think that he was maybe ready for chess,” said his father, Fred Nathan, who started to show his son the basics of the two-player board game when he was around the age of 5.

“I played with him until he started beating me, and it was crushing my self-esteem,” Fred Nathan said, smiling.

Now a 10-year-old fifth-grader at Rio Grande School, Asher crushed the competition at the second annual Santa Fe Mayor’s Cup chess tournament Wednesday, beating even the Santa Fe Preparatory School chess club captain, who finished first last year.

“I played to win,” said Asher, who is ranked 61st nationally among 10-year-olds by the U.S. Chess Foundation. “I wanted to win, and I played more aggressively.”

Still, beating 16-year-old Harsh Bhundiya, a senior at Santa Fe Prep who hopes to study aerospace engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was bittersweet. Asher considers Harsh, who also took up chess around the age of 5, a friend and mentor. Leading up to Wednesday’s final game, the two were within a half-point of each other.

“He’s a really nice guy,” Asher said of Harsh.

Mayor Javier Gonzales, who presented Asher with the mayor’s cup after the tournament at the Main Library downtown, congratulated all the students who participated in the competition, a protracted tournament that takes place over two and a half months in the fall.

“It means a lot to our city that you’re active in really fun organizations,” Gonzales told the nearly two dozen students and their family members. “Tonight, we get to celebrate the success of the tournament, but all of you are winners in our community.”

Tournament organizer Mark Galassi, a scientist and tournament chess player who has been coaching children in Santa Fe, said the Santa Fe Mayor’s Cup happened by coincidence.

“It was kind of funny,” Galassi said.

“What happened is we run our chess club at the library every Wednesday evening, and then one Wednesday, the library calls me to tell me the mayor is doing a meet-and-greet at the library and so we can’t have the big room,” he said. “So, we took the small room. … But I wrote to the mayor saying, ‘Dear Mayor Gonzales, since you’re displacing us, I hope you’ll accept a challenge from our elementary school players to come and play a game of chess with them.’ “

The mayor did stop by, Galassi said, but he declined the challenge, saying, “I’m sure any one of you would beat me.”

“It would’ve been even better if he’d played a game,” Galassi said, “but I guess he doesn’t know much chess himself.”

After that, Galassi approached Gonzales “with the idea of awarding an annual prize to the top scholastic kid in town,” which the mayor accepted.

Gonzales may have had a difficult time playing the kids.

“Do you know how to play chess?” one of the kids asked him.

“No, I don’t,” Gonzales responded. “But I’d love to learn.”

Asher told him that learning the game isn’t too difficult.

“I think you just have to have some coaching,” he said.

Source: http://www.santafenewmexican.com