As the year 2012 was wrapping up on a warm December week in Hawaii, people were either worrying about last minute Christmas shopping, planning for the end of the world, or attending to the Event of the Century… GM Timur Gareev’s First Annual Polynesian Chess Workshop. But with something as monumental as a visit to Hawaii by the "Uzebek Dragon", we should wind the story back to the beginning.
Close to five million years ago, the earth’s core waged an epic battle with fire against the vast depth and volume of the Pacific Ocean. As the eight major Hawaiian islands were born and continue to grow to this day, the archipelago itself has become a haven of techtonic superlatives.
The Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii is the home of Pele, Hawaii’s goddess of the volcano, and is the most active volcano in the world. Hawaii is the remotest island mass on the planet, as it sits perched on the largest mountain range which also forms the tallest mountain (from base to peak) in the world, Mauna Kea.
In Hawaiian belief systems, the descendants of Goddess Pele as well as other deities in the cosmogonic pantheon of Hawaiian gods populated the islands and established a vibrant society of industrious farmers, resourceful hunters and gatherers, robust Pacific navigators, and skilled warriors and chiefs. Two thousand years of almost complete isolation developed a uniquely Polynesian system of traditional practices and cultural beliefs. Prior to regular Western contact (circa 1778), the ruling chiefs of Hawaii had begun the process of unifying all the islands into a single kingdom under the rule of Kamehameha the Great. This kingdom lasted nearly a century before the sovereign government was illegally overthrown by a group of western business leaders who had the backing of the much larger United States military forces present in Hawaii at the time. Hawaii has never been the same.
A remnant of this monarchy is Iolani Palace, the only royal palace in the United States. In 1959, Hawaii was admitted as the 50th State. It is the most western state as well as the most southern state. Hawaii has now become a premier tourist destination for nations across the globe. And with the presence of GM Gareev, it may well now become the premiere chess destination of the Pacific.
On any given quiet weekend, most people would recognize a vacation in Hawaii as one with cool breezes wafting through stands of palm trees along warm sandy beaches washed by tropical tides. In such an intoxicatingly exotic surrounding the casual tourist might be oblivious to the fact that Hawaii has a long and arduous history of transpacific seafaring, survival on isolated islands, and generations of ensuing warfare. This is an almost forgotten cultural foundation for those born and raised here and who call Hawaii home.
However, chess “combatants” who continue to believe in such traditions were all called to arms by GM Timur Gareev to his First Annual Hawaiian Warrior Chess Camp, 2012. The Hawaii Chess Federation sponsored this rare opportunity which brought together master chess competitors in close proximity to hungry chess learners. The experience was organized by Guy Po'olanui Ontai, Scholastic Director of the Hawaii Chess Federation and avid chess coach. All of this excitement and tactical learning was held at an ideal yet indiscrete location called Washington Middle School in Honolulu.
While most people were fighting the Christmas mobs at shopping malls, over thirty motivated students and adults dedicated an entire week in December to conduct intensive chess combat training under the tutelage of GM Gareev (2756), chess gladiator Cornelius Rubsamen (2239), and chess warrior Chet Gionson (2100).
The participants were of all ages and from all walks of life. There were pre-schoolers to professors, engineers to English teachers, physicians to fishermen. But the one common denominator was an unquenchable warrior spirit for chess stemming from Hawaii’s long history of hand-to-hand battles, turf war, and kingdoms. It added a whole new Hawaiian mindset to the chess board turf, kings and queens, and chess strategy. It is not often that such exceptional chess instructors are able to converge to and train so many warrior chess students in the surroundings of such a paradise backdrop.
The lessons were atypical but based on time-tested methods to strengthen mind, body, and spirit. There were didactic presentations, peer instruction, strategy analysis, game debriefings, and of course a lot of intense chess playing. The five-day chess camp also included life lessons in health, nutrition, career goal planning, and the importance of planning “several moves ahead” with everything in life.
The crescendo of excellence occurred as GM Timur Gareev offered to break the Hawaii State record for blindfolded chess simul. He agreed to challenge 27 simultaneous players while blindfolded. It was an impressive feat to behold by any measure of mental acumen and cerebral sophistication.
In keeping with this penultimate polynesian program, there was the highly-competitive Warrior Chess Jeopardy Challenge.
Tanner Siu's (in black) chess may be head and shoulders above most others, but
NM Cornelius Rubsamen's expert coaching has clearly taken it to the "next level."
Though an astute PhD student and graduate assistant at the University of Hawaii, "Kumu" (teacher)
Cornelius has not forgotten how to reach deep and get down and dirty into the center of strategic chess tactics.
It is has been proven time and again in the sport of chess that physical size doesn't always matter. However, with the 6-Time State Chess Champion looming over your every move, Cornelius has become a giant in the eyes of these Hawaiian budding chess champions. The lesson is that though there may be a three-foot height difference, in chess, opponents can still battle toe-to-toe!
And then we wrapped up all the intensively deep learning and chess growth with a "no-holds barred", "everything-goes" Hawaiian talent show.
This eclectic event was punctuated with ukulele music, rasta rapping, classic keyboard concertos, mathemagical manipulations, and some unusual talents which were beyond normal public consumption. It suffices to say, chess players clearly have several other hidden talents. But as the chess coach of Washington Middle School, Mr. Eric Floro leads the extravaganza by ripping chord progressions in his mesmerizing voice and melancholy melodies of the workshops most memorable moments... and quite a few jokes thrown in.
As this first annual event was wrapping up, plans were already in the offing to make next year's event more novel, more native, and profoundly more Polynesian. In time, people will no longer think of Hawaii as just a paradise destination of sun, sand, and surf... but it will go in the annals of ChessBase.com as a culturally historic place where unprecedented chess warfare took place on the 64-squares. See everybody next year.
Keahi Renaud is a native Hawaiian who is a mechanical engineer, Hawaiian cultural professor, a youth mentor, and an avid supporter of the Hawaii Chess community. Through Guy Ontai, Keahi was introduced to and has been helping support the multiple chess tournaments going on six years now. He also works with a number of the chess students in cultural enrichment opportunities, paid summer work programs, and currently career counseling and scholarship planning.
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