Searching for the next champion

1/9/2003 – What is a nine-year-old doing ceremoniously executing the first move at the 2003 US Championship? Well, he was sent to do it by the Mayor of Seattle, who had to cancel his own appearance due to an urgent City board meeting. Rather than send another official to deputize for him Mayor Greg Nickels prefered to nominate a child from one of the scholastic programs for chess. More

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In officially opening the 2003 US Chess Championships in Seattle, Erik Anderson, the president of America's Foundation for Chess, highlighted the theme of this year's event – forwarding the Foundation's mission to strengthen the minds and character of young people by advancing chess in our schools and culture. "By hosting this tournament of elites," said Mr. Anderson, "we establish chess as a valued component of American culture."

"Young children learning chess across the country have something to strive towards – holders of the US Chess Championship title, like our defending champions Larry Christiansen and Jennifer Shahade. You, the competitors for this year's title, offer these children role models to emulate and a reason to continue playing."

Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels was to have joined Erik Anderson on officially opening the tournament and making the opening move for defending champion Larry Christiansen. Unfortunately a few days ago, the Mayor had to cancel due to an urgent City board meeting. In sending his sincere apologies, he strongly recommended to the AF4C that, rather than sending along a City official to deputize for him as would usually happen under such circumstances, he would prefer to nominate as his 'official deputy' for the day, after reading about the aims and objectives of the AF4C, a child from one of the eight Washington State schools that has benefited directly from one of our scholastic programs.

This is a superb gesture from Mayor Nickels as it publicly acknowledges from his office the continued support for the aims of the AF4C. Therefore making the opening move for Larry Christiansen was the Mayor's Deputy – 9-year-old Cesar Lomeli, a 3rd grader from Bailey Gatzert Elementary School here in Seattle. Not only did Cesar get to become the Mayor's Deputy for the day, he also had the honor of performing the chess equivalent of being asked to throw the opening pitch at the World Series by making the ceremonial first move of the 2003 Championships.

And maybe even one day in the future, as the AF4C expands across America, we will see children, such as Cesar Lomeli, coming through our scholastic program to win the title of US Chess Champion.

About America's Foundation for Chess

Founded in 2000, America's Foundation for Chess (formerly the Seattle Chess Foundation) is committed to bringing chess into every U.S. classroom. By first making chess a larger part of America's cultural fabric – accessible in schools and in popular culture – AF4C hopes to elevate the profile of chess in America. To this end, AF4C is providing chess instruction materials and training to teachers, who have little or no chess background. In addition, by sponsoring high-level competitions such as the U.S. Chess Championships, AF4C is cultivating chess role models and a venue for chess excellence in America. By forging partnerships with schools and corporations, AF4C plans to make chess a part of every classroom experience.

John Henderson


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