Corte Madera student wins top honor at state competition
Fourteen-year-old Gabe Gordon of Corte Madera is a 10-year chess player who is fairly set in his ways. His first move in a game is typically pawn to E4.
"I just consider it the best move," said the Marin Country Day School eighth grader.
Gabe played that move often during the 29th annual CalChess State Scholastics Championship in Santa Clara, believed to be the largest scholastic chess tournament in the western U.S. More than 1,400 students from kindergarten to high school attended.
Gabe won the CalChess Blitz Championship in the junior high school section. In blitz chess, players have to move quickly, because they have just five minutes to play the entire game.
"It is more exciting because it is faster paced, but I like longer chess better because there is more thinking involved," Gabe said.
He played his preferred type of chess in the tournament as well, taking second place in the regular chess championship, junior high school division, by winning five out of six games over two days. Each game lasted about two hours. Some 119 seventh and eighth graders participated in the category.
"As you win, you play another person who won, so the competition gets harder," Gabe said.
Gabe is a veteran of the CalChess tournament. He has participated every year, except one, since he was in second grade and earned top placements almost every year. "It feels good to know other people respect my playing abilities," Gabe said.
He learned how to play from his father, Jeff Gordon, an investment adviser who has been playing chess for more than 40 years.
"When Gabe was four, my wife was on the phone and he wanted her attention, so I distracted him by teaching him a new game," Gordon said. "That was chess."
He caught on fast and has earned 50 trophies in various state and local tournaments. He plays on the Marin Country Day chess team as well as on the Berkeley Chess School team.
"When my dad first taught me, it seemed really complicated," Gabe said. "After a week, I just had it down but I am always learning new things when I play stronger opponents."
Chess runs in the family, as mom Lanette Gordon has been a chess player for more than 30 years.
Gabe said his game is a melding of both his parents' best chess skills, but he has also been taught by several master chess players over the years.
"His mom has the natural ability to see the board and what is going on," Gordon said. "So he gets the ability to see tactics from his mother and the ability to strategize from me."
In addition to being a fun and challenging mental exercise, Gabe said chess teaches a valuable life lesson - decisions you make have consequences.
"In chess, children see the results of their planning and actions, for better or worse," Gordon said.
"It taught me to plan ahead," Gabe said. "You have to think of your moves and anticipate your opponent's moves before he even makes them."
Gabe, who likes science and has played basketball and guitar, will enroll at Tamalpais High School next fall. While he wants to continue playing chess, he does not plan to become a grand master, the highest title for a chess player.
"A lot of people who become grand master do nothing else in their lives," Gabe said. "Chess is a hobby for me. I want to keep up with my schoolwork; go on to college."
Contact Carla Bova via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org