Wrap-Up for the 2017 Prairie Chess Camp

posted Jul 22, 2017, 9:21 AM by James Hodina   [ updated Jul 22, 2017, 9:35 AM ]

Dear Prairie Chess Camp Families,

First, let me thank you for a wonderful week.  The kids and the parents were simply fabulous.  We enjoyed working with the students and watching them learn.  Parents, you were very kind in your feedback, prompt in responding to everything we asked of including lunch sign-up, drop off and pick up whether at Prairie or the bus at West High.  Second, a special thank you to our chess instructors Alex Betaneli, Erik Santarius, Dan Brashaw, and James Neal and their assistants Joseph Wan and Gokul Thangavel.  They were obviously well prepared and delivered some of the chess instruction that your students could receive.  Our goal is to make learning chess fun and they excelled!  Third, our staff did a fabulous job making everything run so smoothly including food, bus, recess and keeping the camp site clean and ready for the next day (which was no small task!).

We finished up Friday with our last set of lessons and the ever popular “bughouse” tournament.  After four days, I hope I have explained well the chess camp lessons.  So, the bigger questions may be, “Where to go from here?”

Continued improvement comes from a blend of studying, playing, and reviewing those games played.  So, let’s tackle each one of these separately.

STUDYING:  Of course, classroom instruction is not always available (at least in Iowa).  But there are some local resources that you can take advantage of:

  • Chess in Iowa:  During the school year, Chess in Iowa (sponsor of the Prairie Chess Camp) hosts Sunday afternoon chess clubs at our local libraries in Marion, Cedar Rapids, Coralville, and Iowa City.  There is no cost.  Last  year was our first year and we will very likely make some changes in the coming school year.  But check back at the website and look for announcement.

  • Private lessons:  All of our camp instructors provide private lessons.  Just like private lessons for a musical instrument or a private coach/trainer for athletics, nothing beats that one-on-one guidance and direction.  Of course James and Dan are local in the Iowa City-Coralville area, Alex and Erik are available via Skype, which has become a very popular option.

  • Internet: I will break this into two parts:  (1) Online Videos and  (2) Tactics Puzzles.  

Videos: While chess videos have been online for some time, it is my opinion that the quality of the online video lessons has made a huge leap the last couple years and are now a good source of content for learning chess.  I cannot begin to list all of the site, so I will mention just a couple that I am very fond of:

          • Chess.Com and  Both sites have free content, but you need to subscribe (as little as $5 a month) for advanced content.  ChessKid is great for players ages 12 and under.  I use this for our Prairie Chess Club and I believe Jess Fiedorowicz uses it at the Coralville Center Club as well.  The older kids may find the videos too”cartoonish” though and so you may move up to the “adult” version on
          • Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis (YouTube):  There are many YouTube sites I like, but this has the broadest content with Grandmaster instruction.  And it’s free!!!

Tactics Puzzles:  Both and have tactics (puzzles).  We strongly emphasize doing tactics puzzles frequently.  Other sites that provide great puzzles content are with and

PLAYING:  All of the chess websites listed above have great online chess playing applications and you cannot go wrong with any of them.  However, there is always the need to play “over the board” (a.k.a. Face to Face).  We have chess clubs that meet casually once a week and then we have chess tournaments scheduled on weekends (usually) throughout the year.

Chess Clubs: We have a great chess club at the Cedar Rapids Public Library, which meets every Wednesday from 5:30 pm to 8:00 pm (close).  All-ages are welcome and the typical turnout is about 50/50 among kids and adults.  The Hawkeye Chess Club meets on Thursday nights from 7pm to 9pm at Cafe Crema Coffee Coralville.  Both chess clubs have Facebook Pages:

Of course, many of our schools have great chess clubs, too.  And if you are fortunate enough to attend one of those schools, then you are in great shape.  However, if you don’t have a school chess club and would like to start one, Chess in Iowa has resources to help you get one started.  Contact anyone on our board ( including Eric Vigil and me and we will be happy to help.

Chess Tournaments: The place to find all chess tournaments, scholastic and all-ages, is the Iowa State Chess Association Website  You may follow our Facebook page at iowachess, too. The scholastic season starts in late October / early November and runs all the way through May.  There are a few free events, especially at the beginning of the year.  But most have a registration fee of about $15 and require US Chess Federation membership of $11 per year.  By virtue of being in this camp, you will likely receive a few emails throughout the year with additional information as well.  Please let me know if you do not want to receive these emails and you will be removed from the distribution list.

There are a couple tournaments coming up soon deserving of special mentioning. Details are online at:

  • Iowa Rated Beginners Open / Iowa Reserve / Iowa Open, August 19th in Coralville

  • Iowa Blank Park Zootacular Scholastic Tournament, September 16th in Des Moines

REVIEWING:  There are not many additional resources to provide you here other than to say that chess players should always go over their games to look for mistakes and to identify areas to improve.  That is why we stressed so much the need to record your games.  Every student brought home a scorebook with games they recorded at chess camp.  Keeping a record of the game may be required in a tournament, but having this record is a must for improvement.  This is where a coach or going to a chess club may really help in reviewed games played in a tournament.  But you can (and should ) do this yourself or with your opponent (time permitting).  Finally, when you get serious enough about the game, you will want to have database and computer engine software to record your games, store your analysis, and compare to the millions of master level games played.  That is perhaps beyond what many of you need now, but if you are interested, I would start with the gold standard for chess players, ChessBase, and do more research.  If you want free open source software, then checkout, which is one of a very few decent alternatives.

Okay, that’s it for the 2017 Prairie Chess Camp!  I hope to see you again soon as chess starts up this fall!

Take care,


Wednesday & Thursday Team Tournament Results

posted Jul 20, 2017, 5:04 PM by James Hodina   [ updated Jul 20, 2017, 5:05 PM ]

Place Name/Team         Rate Score
 1 Team MVL (8)         626   3.5
 2 Team Mamedyarov (6) 664   3.0
 3 Team Carlsen (7) 661   2.5
 4 Team So (1)         712   2.0
&5 Team Nakamura (3) 672   2.0
 6 Team Aronian (2) 681   1.5
 7 Team Kramnik (4) 667   1.0
 8 Team Caruana (5) 664   0.5

Place Name/Team                         Rate Score
Board 1
 1 Lodh, Anish, Team Carlsen         1750   4.0
 2 Chen, Nathan, Team Aronian         1780   3.5
 3 Fiedorowicz, Owen, Team MVL         1475   3.0
 4 Kozich, AJ, Team Kramnik         1561   1.5
&5 Pregon, Joseph Jef, Team Mamedyarov 1521   1.5
&6 Palaniappan, Arjun, Team Caruana 1531   1.5
 7 Ogrin-Cotarlan, Andrew, Team Nakamura 1437   1.0
 8 Thompson, Kian, Team So                 1380       0.0
Board 2
 1 Pieper, Justin, Team So                 1303   3.5
&2 Pieper, Eric, Team Nakamura         1296   3.5
 3 Lodh, Anjali, Team MVL                 1227   2.5
&4 Bergal, Timothy, Team Mamedyarov 1111   2.5
 5 Tivanski, Vlad, Team Kramnik         1173   2.0
 6 Vigil, Jacob T, Team Caruana         1193   1.0
 7 Copeland, Eli, Team Carlsen         1037   0.5
&8 Kumar, Aadarsh, Team Aronian         1052   0.5
Board 3
 1 Stumpf, Jared, Team Carlsen         741   3.5
 2 Fiedorowicz, Isabel, Team MVL         796   2.5
&3 Alarape, Joseph, Team Kramnik         861   2.5
 4 Gilbertson, Cameron, Team Nakamura 791   2.0
 5 Arbid, Hadi Talih, Team Aronian         871   1.0
 6 Sellon, Audrey, Team Mamedyarov         831   0.5
&7 Havens, Robi, Team Caruana         866   0.5
Board 4
 1 Kleiman, Benjamin, Team Mamedyarov 729   4.0
 2 Alaya, Yusef, Team So                 750   3.0
 3 Ji, Austin Yongqi, Team Aronian         611   2.5
 4 Yang, Catherine, Team Carlsen         612   2.0
 5 Acherkan, Lisa, Team Nakamura         736   1.5
 6 House Player, Team So                 700   1.0
 7 Pierre-Louis, Christian, Team Kramnik 653   0.5
&8 Harwani, Ishan S, Team MVL         735   0.5
Board 5
 1 Nixon, Niko, Team MVL                 467   4.0
 2 Reisinger, Nicholas, Team Mamedyarov 468   3.0
 3 Nixon, Nolon, Team Aronian         570   2.0
&4 Bujakowski, Stan, Team Carlsen         473   2.0
 5 Huynh, Kenton, Team Kramnik         469   1.5
 6 Houchins-Witt, Carter Birch, Team So 414   1.0
&7 Ajoykumar, Aarud, Team Nakamura         428   1.0
 8 Pierce, Benjamin J, Team Caruana 471   0.5
Board 6
 1 Bourgeous, Elliott, Team Mamedyarov 357   4.0
 2 Harwani, Aryan, Team Caruana         336   3.5
 3 Ajoykumar, Rishi V, Team Kramnik 345   2.0
&4 Paga, Thanvee S, Team MVL         361   2.0
&5 Kaczka, Benjamin, Team Carlsen         317   2.0
&6 Houchins-Witt, Waylon, Team Nakamura 394   2.0
 7 Huynh, Khuyen Kevy, Team So         411   1.0
 8 Vaddadi, Abhinav, Team Aronian         290   0.0
Board 7
 1 Tan, Yaomu, Team MVL                 200   4.0
 2 Hou, Albert, Team Nakamura         200   3.0
 3 Rebich, Holden, Team Aronian         277   2.0
&4 Ciha, Madelyn, Team So                 250   2.0
 5 Hoovik, Aidan Jame, Team Kramnik 178   1.5
&6 Shankara, Nithin, Team Carlsen         260   1.5
 7 Schmitz, Nicholas, Team Mamedyarov 200   1.0
&8 Postnikov, Sasha, Team Caruana         200   1.0
Board 8
 1 Ajax, Skylar, Team Carlsen         100   3.5
 2 Pierre-Louis, Canaan, Team MVL         150   2.5
&3 Ajax, Taylor, Team So                 150   2.5
 4 Li, Teresa, Team Nakamura         100   2.0
 5 Huynh, Kyla, Team Kramnik         101   1.5
&6 Sogur, Malick, Team Caruana         100   1.5
 7 Rajan, Vivek, Team Aronian         100   1.0
 8 Yang, Helena, Team Caruana         100   0.5
&9 Singh, Shivam, Team Mamedyarov         100   0.5
 1 Ogrin-Cotarlan, Sarah, Team So         1041   1.5
 2 Yang, Helena, Team Aronian         100   0.5
&3 Shabazz-Jones, Nassan, Team Caruana 615   0.5
 4 Rajan, Vivek, Team Mamedyarov         100   0.0

Day 4 Summary at the Prairie Chess Camp

posted Jul 20, 2017, 4:51 PM by James Hodina   [ updated Jul 20, 2017, 4:51 PM ]

Dear Prairie Chess Camp Families,

This is a reminder that I will not be at the camp on Friday until later in the afternoon. Eric Vigil is stepping in for me on Friday. If, on Friday, you need to contact the camp, you may reach Eric at 319-621-3116.

Each of our amazing instructors bring a variety of teaching techniques to their lessons.  James, Dan, Erik, and Alex are all amazing chess players.  But being able to communicate this to young learning chess players is another skill altogether.  The instructors usually provide a very specific chess position to the players and ask them questions.  

  • What are the strengths and weaknesses in the position for each player (called imbalances)?  Can you list them?  

  • How can we make a plan to take advantage of our strengths and the opponent’s weaknesses?  How do we defend against our own weaknesses.  

  • Are there tactics present that allow us to win a piece or checkmate our opponent?

After helping the student make the assessment, we ask them to actually make moves from the given position: sometimes against the instructor, sometimes against each other, sometime as a team, or sometimes simply writing out the next 1, 2, or 3 moves that they can visualize forcing a highly favorable outcome. And always, we keep it light and fun with friendly competition on finding the right answers or letting students having a “redo” on a move that didn’t work out well.  In the end, the spirited competition between teams or with the instructors always brings excited cheers in the classroom.

Today was both rainy and hot.  We did use our small gym for recesses in the morning (because of the rain) and afternoon (because of the heat), but did sneak in an outdoor recess at lunch.  For lunch, we had Culver’s hamburgers, chicken tenders, grilled cheese sandwiches, or corn dogs.  French fries and a side salad were available, too.  Snacks included Chex Mix, Go-Gurt, popcorn, and fruit.  Alex and Erik kept up their tradition of bringing cake one day to camp (we have a little left over, so there will some for tomorrow, too :-).

We concluded our team match today by playing two more one-hour games in the afternoon.  The results are posted on the camp webpage.

Tomorrow is amazingly the last day.  We have many things for the chess campers to take home with them included their folder with their chess tactics worksheets (puzzles), their scorebooks that they recorded their games in, and a chess camp certificate of achievement signed by all four instructors.  All of this will be packed together at the end of the day. For those picking up on Friday, please make sure that they take this home with them - especially if you arrive early.

My final camp email will likely come out Saturday as I will be cleaning, packing, and unpacking Friday.

Here are photos from today:

Take care,


Day 3 Summary at the Prairie Chess Camp

posted Jul 19, 2017, 4:41 PM by James Hodina   [ updated Jul 19, 2017, 4:48 PM ]

Dear Prairie Chess Camp Families,

Before I get into my daily update, I need to let you know that I will be gone a good part of the day on Friday as I have a funeral to attend. I will be back before the end of the day, though. We have arranged for Eric Vigil to step in for me on Friday.  Many of you may already know Eric as the Iowa State Chess Association President and is very active with scholastic chess, particularly in Iowa City. So, I doubt the camp will miss a beat. If, on Friday, you need to contact the camp, you may reach Eric at 319-621-3116.

Wow! We have made it past the halfway point.  Students are now thinking and playing very sharply and silly mistakes are fewer and farther between.  The instructors are responding with more critical analysis and higher level lessons for the students.

As I described yesterday, each instructor focuses their lesson on a specific subject of chess (tactics, middlegame, endgame, and instructional games).  Within each subject, they have broken it down further into specific lessons and a very focused concepts.  In the endgame, this may be how to checkmate with a King & Queen (or Rook) vs. King then building up to more complex positions with additional pawns and minor pieces (a Knight or Bishop) on the board.  In the middlegame, the lesson may focus on finding the be placement of the pieces or arrangement of pawns (pawn structure) and how that then forms the basis of forming a plan.  If the plan is “what you want to do” then the tactics are the move by move calculation of “how you are going to do it.”  Finally, the instructional games show how this all comes together.

That is why we play tournament style games in the afternoon.  So that our students can learn about all the different facets of the game and they try to put it together for themselves.  By writing down their moves and reviewing the game afterward with the instructor, we can assess what the students are picking up on well and where we need focus more attention on the next day….and so it goes each day :-).

Our afternoon tournament was a team match.  We were able to get in two games today and will finish up tomorrow with two more games. So, I will post those results tomorrow when the tournament is completed. I often compare a team match format to a tennis match where individuals on each team play head-to-head with the top player on each team facing each other, the second players facing each other, and so forth.  The team with the most individual victories wins the match.  In our case, this afternoon, we made eight teams of eight players each. The kids really get into it.  They are as excited to watch their teammates battle it out as they are in their own game.  I had some players tell me that it was “more stressful than playing their own game” or that they accepted a draw in a better position “for the team.”  Chess has its own way of building camaraderie and this is just one of them.

Lunch today was pasta from Fazzoli’s.  The kids had either spaghetti with marinara sauce or meat sauce or fettuccine alfredo.  Salads and breadsticks were also provided.  Morning and afternoon snacks included cheeseheads, chex mix, and licorice.  Fruit was in abundant supply, too, including grapes, bananas, and apples.  (We may very well consume 50 pounds of apples this week :-)

Finally, I have posted today’s pictures online once again online at the following web address:

Do not hesitate to contact me with any questions or concerns.

Take care,


Tuesday Tournament Results

posted Jul 18, 2017, 7:03 PM by James Hodina   [ updated Jul 18, 2017, 7:12 PM ]

Tuesday Prairie Chess Camp -- Section 1                       Cross Table, Page 1

  No.    Name(Team)                   St Rate 1   2   3   4   5   Score

   1. Chen, Nathan .................  IA 1780 x   W   W   -   W     3.0
   2. Lodh, Anish ..................  IA 1750 L   x   D   -   W     1.5
   3. Palaniappan, Arjun ...........  IA 1531 L   D   x   -   W     1.5
   4. Ajax, Taylor .................  IA nnnn -   -   -   x   -     1.5
   5. Kozich, AJ ...................  IA 1561 L   L   L   -   x     0.0

Tuesday Prairie Chess Camp -- Section 2                       Cross Table, Page 1

  No.    Name(Team)                   St Rate 1   2   3   4   Score

   1. Pregon, Joseph Jef ...........  IA 1521 x   L   W   W     2.0
   2. Pieper, Justin ...............  IA 1303 W   x   W   L     2.0
   3. Fiedorowicz, Owen ............  IA 1475 L   L   x   W     1.0
   4. Lodh, Anjali .................  IA 1227 L   W   L   x     1.0

Tuesday Prairie Chess Camp -- Section 3                       Cross Table, Page 1

  No.    Name(Team)                   St Rate 1   2   3   4   Score

   1. Thompson, Kian ...............  IA 1380 x   D   W   W     2.5
   2. Pieper, Eric .................  IA 1296 D   x   W   W     2.5
   3. Bergal, Timothy ..............  IA 1111 L   L   x   W     1.0
   4. Tivanski, Vlad ...............  IA 1173 L   L   L   x     0.0

Tuesday Prairie Chess Camp -- Section 4                       Cross Table, Page 1

  No.    Name(Team)                   St Rate 1   2   3   4   Score

   1. Stumpf, Jared ................  IA  741 x   D   W   W     2.5
   2. Vigil, Jacob T ...............  IA 1193 D   x   D   W     2.0
   3. Havens, Robi .................  IA  866 L   D   x   W     1.5
   4. Gilbertson, Cameron ..........  IA  791 L   L   L   x     0.0

Tuesday Prairie Chess Camp -- Section 5                       Cross Table, Page 1

  No.    Name(Team)                   St Rate 1   2   3   4   Score

   1. Copeland, Eli ................  IA 1037 x   W   W   W     3.0
   2. Kumar, Aadarsh ...............  IA 1052 L   x   W   W     2.0
   3. Alarape, Joseph ..............  IA  861 L   L   x   W     1.0
   4. Sellon, Audrey ...............  IA  831 L   L   L   x     0.0

Tuesday Prairie Chess Camp -- Section 6                       Cross Table, Page 1

  No.    Name(Team)                   St Rate 1   2   3   4   Score

   1. Fiedorowicz, Isabe ...........  IA  796 x   W   W   D     2.5
   2. Alaya, Yusef .................  IA  750 L   x   D   W     1.5
   3. Acherkan, Lisa ...............  IA  736 L   D   x   W     1.5
   4. Ji, Austin Yongqi ............  IA  611 D   L   L   x     0.5

Tuesday Prairie Chess Camp -- Section 7                       Cross Table, Page 1

  No.    Name(Team)                   St Rate 1   2   3   4   Score

   1. Harwani, Ishan S .............  IA  735 x   W   W   W     3.0
   2. Kleiman, Benjamin ............  IA  729 L   x   W   W     2.0
   3. Arbid, Hadi Talih ............  IA  871 L   L   x   W     1.0
   4. Shabazz-Jones, Nassan ........  IA  615 L   L   L   x     0.0

Tuesday Prairie Chess Camp -- Section 8                       Cross Table, Page 1

  No.    Name(Team)                   St Rate 1   2   3   4   Score

   1. Yang, Catherine ..............  IA  612 x   W   W   W     3.0
   2. Nixon, Nolon .................  IA  570 L   x   W   L     1.0
   3. Paga, Thanvee S ..............  IA  361 L   L   x   W     1.0
   4. Ajoykumar, Rishi V ...........  IA  345 L   W   L   x     1.0

Tuesday Prairie Chess Camp -- Section 9                       Cross Table, Page 1

  No.    Name(Team)                   St Rate 1   2   3   4   Score

   1. Pierre-Louis, Christian ......  IA  653 x   L   W   W     2.0
   2. Bujakowski, Stan .............  IA  473 W   x   L   W     2.0
   3. Huynh, Khuyen Kevy ...........  IA  411 L   W   x   D     1.5
   4. Pierce, Benjamin J ...........  IA  471 L   L   D   x     0.5

Tuesday Prairie Chess Camp -- Section 10                      Cross Table, Page 1

  No.    Name(Team)                   St Rate 1   2   3   4   Score

   1. Reisinger, Nicholas ..........  IA  468 x   L   W   W     2.0
   2. Ajoykumar, Aarud .............  IA  428 W   x   W   L     2.0
   3. Nixon, Niko ..................  IA  467 L   L   x   W     1.0
   4. Harwani, Aryan ...............  IA  336 L   W   L   x     1.0

Tuesday Prairie Chess Camp -- Section 11                      Cross Table, Page 1

  No.    Name(Team)                   St Rate 1   2   3   4   Score

   1. Huynh, Kenton ................  IA  469 x   D   D   W     2.0
   2. Houchins-Witt, Waylon ........  IA  394 D   x   D   W     2.0
   3. Bourgeous, Elliott ...........  IA  357 D   D   x   W     2.0
   4. Vaddadi, Abhinav .............  IA  290 L   L   L   x     0.0

Tuesday Prairie Chess Camp -- Section 12                      Cross Table, Page 1

  No.    Name(Team)                   St Rate 1   2   3   4   Score

   1. Rebich, Holden ...............  IA  277 x   L   W   W     2.0
   2. Hou, Albert ..................  IA nnnn W   x   W   L     2.0
   3. Kaczka, Benjamin .............  IA  317 L   L   x   W     1.0
   4. Hoovik, Aidan Jame ...........  IA  178 L   W   L   x     1.0

Tuesday Prairie Chess Camp -- Section 13                      Cross Table, Page 1

  No.    Name(Team)                   St Rate 1   2   3   4   Score

   1. Houchins-Witt, Carter Birch ..  IA  414 x   X   W   D     2.5
   2. Postnikov, Sasha .............  IA  200 F   x   D   W     1.5
   3. Shankara, Nithin .............  IA  260 L   D   x   D     1.0
   4. Schmitz, Nicholas ............  IA nnnn D   L   D   x     1.0

Tuesday Prairie Chess Camp -- Section 14                      Cross Table, Page 1

  No.    Name(Team)                   St Rate 1   2   3   4   5   Score

   1. Ciha, Madelyn ................  IA nnnn x   W   W   W   -     3.0
   2. Tan, Yaomu ...................  IA nnnn L   x   W   D   -     1.5
   3. Sogur, Malick ................  IA nnnn L   L   x   W   -     1.0
   4. Ajax, Taylor .................  IA nnnn L   D   L   x   -     0.5
   5. Ajax, Skylar .................  IA nnnn -   -   -   -   x     0.0

Tuesday Prairie Chess Camp -- Section 15                      Cross Table, Page 1

  No.    Name(Team)                   St Rate 1   2   3   4   Score

   1. Yang, Helena .................  IA nnnn x   D   W   Z     2.0
   2. Huynh, Kyla ..................  IA  101 D   x   D   Z     1.5
   3. Ajax, Skylar .................  IA nnnn L   D   x   W     1.5
   4. Singh, Shivam ................  IA nnnn Z   Z   L   x     1.0

Tuesday Prairie Chess Camp -- Section 16                      Cross Table, Page 1

  No.    Name(Team)                   St Rate 1   2   3   Score

   1. Rajan, Vivek .................  IA nnnn x   D   Z     2.0
   2. Ajax, Taylor .................  IA nnnn D   x   Z     2.0
   3. Li, Teresa ...................  IA nnnn Z   Z   x     2.0

Day 2 Summary at the Prairie Chess Camp

posted Jul 18, 2017, 7:01 PM by James Hodina   [ updated Jul 18, 2017, 7:07 PM ]

Dear Prairie Chess Camp Families,

We had another great day.  Everyone is getting into the groove and we stayed on schedule with all of our lessons and afternoon tournament.

In yesterday’s update, I explained that we broke up into groups and that students rotated through instructors.  Each instructor has a specific area that they focus their lessons on throughout the week and with each group, they adjust the difficulty of the lesson to the level of the students.  We actually have this mapped out throughout the week, but in general: James takes on the middle game, Dan the endgame, Erik is the tactics (calculation) instructor, and Alex integrates it all with instructional games.

In the afternoon, we have been holding tournaments with the purpose to apply the learning from the morning lesson into practice over the chess board.  Of course we want all of the games to be competitive learning experiences and try to match up students equitably.  

  • On Monday, we had students play only others within their lesson group using a traditional tournament pairing system called “Swiss Pairings” where a player who wins their first game is paired against another player who won their first game and a player who lost their first game is paired against another player who lost their second game.  This process continues in the third round with players who are 2-0 play each other, those who are 1-1 play each other, and those who are 0-2 play each other.

  • On Tuesday, we built upon the results from Monday and make 16 groups of 4 and in some cases paired students across lesson groups.  This pairing system is called a Round Robin and is very popular with the top chess tournaments in the world.

Results of the tournaments are posted on the chess camp website.  A few results (primary our younger kids) were left undecided and the results are not fully shown (rest assured they did play).  All students are doing a great job with writing their moves down and reviewing them with the instructors afterward.

We did have food and recesses today :-).  Our friend, Jim White, brought his giant chess set, which was a big hit.  The weather continues to warm up but we were able to make the most of the outdoors.  We will continue to monitor the temperature and if it gets too hot, we may find ourselves in the gym later this week.  It was Taco Tuesday for lunch where we had tacos, bean burritos, cheese quesadillas, chips, and drink.  For the morning snack, we had GoGurt and Chex Mix and in the afternoon we served fruit snacks and Cheez-its.  Of course fruit was served again throughout the day including bananas, grapes, and apples (the apple slicer is a big help!)

I took more pictures in the classroom today.  Here is the link to the photo album:  Enjoy!

As always, please let me know if you have any questions.

Take care,


Monday Tournament Results

posted Jul 18, 2017, 4:07 PM by James Hodina   [ updated Jul 18, 2017, 4:07 PM ]

PCC Monday Tourney  -- Yellow Group                               Cross Table, Page 1

  No.    Name(Team)                   St Rate Rd 1  Rd 2  Rd 3  Score

   1. Chen, Nathan (1) .............  IA 1780 W10   W5    W4      3.0

   2. Lodh, Anish (2) ..............  IA 1750 W18   D8    W3      2.5

   3. Kozich, AJ (3) ...............  IA 1561 W14   W13   L2      2.0
   4. Palaniappan, Arjun (4) .......  IA 1531 W11   W6    L1      2.0
   5. Fiedorowicz, Owen (6) ........  IA 1475 W17   L1    W8      2.0
   6. Ogrin-Cotarlan, Andrew (7) ...  IA 1437 W7    L4    W14     2.0
   7. Lodh, Anjali (11) ............  IA 1227 L6    W18   W13     2.0

   8. Pregon, Joseph Jef (5) .......  IA 1521 W15   D2    L5      1.5
   9. Pieper, Justin (9) ...........  IA 1303 L12   D15   W17     1.5
  10. Pieper, Eric (10) ............  IA 1296 L1    W17   D11     1.5
  11. Tivanski, Vlad (13) ..........  IA 1173 L4    W12   D10     1.5
  12. Havens, Robi (18) ............  IA  866 W9    L11   D15     1.5

  13. Thompson, Kian (8) ...........  IA 1380 W16   L3    L7      1.0
  14. Vigil, Jacob T (12) ..........  IA 1193 L3    W16   L6      1.0
  15. Bergal, Timothy (14) .........  IA 1111 L8    D9    D12     1.0
  16. Copeland, Eli (17) ...........  IA 1037 L13   L14   W18     1.0

  17. Kumar, Aadarsh (15) ..........  IA 1052 L5    L10   L9      0.0
  18. Ogrin-Cotarlan, Sarah (16) ...  IA 1041 L2    L7    L16     0.0

PCC Monday Tourney  -- Blue Group                                  Cross Table, Page 1

  No.    Name(Team)                   St Rate Rd 1  Rd 2  Rd 3  Score

   1. Gilbertson, Cameron (5) ......  IA  791 W13   W11   W4      3.0
   2. Stumpf, Jared (7) ............  IA  741 W14   W12   W8      3.0

   3. Alarape, Joseph (2) ..........  IA  861 L11   W15   W10     2.0
   4. Sellon, Audrey (3) ...........  IA  831 W16   W10   L1      2.0
   5. Fiedorowicz, Isabe (4) .......  IA  796 L12   W13   W11     2.0
   6. Alaya, Yusef (6) .............  IA  750 L8    W14   W12     2.0
   7. Acherkan, Lisa (8) ...........  IA  736 D15   D8    W9      2.0

   8. Ji, Austin Yongqi (14) .......  IA  611 W6    D7    L2      1.5

   9. Arbid, Hadi Talih (1) ........  IA  871 L10   W16   L7      1.0
  10. Harwani, Ishan S (9) .........  IA  735 W9    L4    L3      1.0
  11. Kleiman, Benjamin (10) .......  IA  729 W3    L1    L5      1.0
  12. Shabazz-Jones, Nassan (12) ...  IA  615 W5    L2    L6      1.0
  13. Yang, Catherine (13) .........  IA  612 L1    L5    W15     1.0
  14. Nixon, Nolon (15) ............  IA  570 L2    L6    W16     1.0

  15. Huynh, Kevy (16) .............  IA  411 D7    L3    L13     0.5

  16. Pierre-Louis, Christian (11) .  IA  653 L4    L9    L14     0.0

PCC Monday Tourney  -- Green Group                                 Cross Table, Page 1

  No.    Name(Team)                   St Rate Rd 1  Rd 2  Score

   1. Ajoykumar, Rishi (11) ........  IA  345 W22   W5      3.0

   2. Paga, Thanvee S (9) ..........  IA  361 D18   W13     2.5

   3. Bujakowski, Stan (1) .........  IA  473 W8    W11     2.0
   4. Pierce, Benjamin J (2) .......  IA  471 D13   D17     2.0
   5. Reisinger, Nicholas (4) ......  IA  468 W14   L1      2.0
   6. Nixon, Niko (5) ..............  IA  467 W19   W15     2.0
   7. Ajoykumar, Aarud (6) .........  IA  428 W20   W18     2.0
   8. Harwani, Aryan (12) ..........  IA  336 L3    W20     2.0
   9. Vaddadi, Abhinav (14) ........  IA  290 L10   W21     2.0

  10. Huynh, Kenton (3) ............  IA  469 W9    D12     1.5
  11. Houchins-Witt, Waylon (8) ....  IA  394 W21   L3      1.5
  12. Bourgeous, Elliott (10) ......  IA  357 W16   D10     1.5
  13. Kaczka, Benjamin (13) ........  IA  317 D4    L2      1.5
  14. Rebich, Holden (15) ..........  IA  277 L5    W22     1.5

  15. Hoovik, Aidan Jame (18) ......  IA  178 W17   L6      1.0
  16. Hou, Albert (20) .............  IA nnnn L12   W19     1.0

  17. Houchins-Witt, Carter Birc (7)  IA  414 L15   D4      0.5
  18. Ciha, Madelyn (19) ...........  IA nnnn D2    L7      0.5

  19. Shankara, Nithin (16) ........  IA  260 L6    L16     0.0
  20. Postnikov, Sasha (17) ........  IA  200 L7    L8      0.0
  21. Tan, Yaomu (22) ..............  IA nnnn L11   L9      0.0
  22. Schmitz, Nicholas (21) .......  IA nnnn L1    L14     0.0

PCC Monday Tourney  -- Red Group                                  Cross Table, Page 1

  No.    Name(Team)                   St Rate Rd 1  Rd 2  Score

   1. Ajax, Skylar (2) .............  IA nnnn W5    W9      2.0
   2. Sogur, Malick (9) ............  IA nnnn W9    W4      2.0
   3. Pierre-Louis, Canaan (5) .....  IA nnnn W6    W7      2.0

   4. Huynh, Kyla (1) ..............  IA  101 -B-   L2      1.0
   5. Li, Teresa (4) ...............  IA nnnn L1    L6      1.0
   6. Singh, Shivam (8) ............  IA nnnn L3    W5      1.0
   7. Ajax, Taylor (3) .............  IA nnnn W8    L3      1.0
   8. Yang, Helena (10) ............  IA nnnn L7    -B-     1.0

   9. Rajan, Vivek (6) .............  IA nnnn L2    L1      0.0

Day 1 Summary

posted Jul 17, 2017, 6:09 PM by James Hodina   [ updated Jul 17, 2017, 6:09 PM ]

Dear Prairie Chess Camp Families,

We got off to a fabulous start today.  Everyone arrived ready to play. The school bus pickup and drop off went right on cue (thank you Crissy Vigil and parents!).  Spielman’s Event Services arrived early and set up pipe and drape to add three classrooms to the cafeteria.

We let the kids settle in this morning by playing some casual chess games before starting with our morning lessons.  Our 64 students are split out into four groups based on age and US Chess Federation rating.  Each group has three morning lessons, rotating to a different instructor with each lesson.  By rotating, all our students get to work with each of our amazing instructors (Alex, Erik, Dan & James with Joseph and Gokul) equally throughout the week.  Each student has a folder that they will keep their tactics worksheet and scoresheet of any games they played and recorded.

In the afternoon, we played a tournament among students. We played three games at 40 minutes a piece.  All students recorded their moves in a scorebook provided as part of the camp registration. After each game, the students then reviewed their game with one of our instructors to get direct feedback on their play.

Snacks, lunch, and recess went smoothly, thanks in large part to our high school student volunteers and staff (Regan, Trevor, Andre, Teresa & Sanmati).  Morning snacks included Chex Mix and Nutri-Grain bars.  Lunch was catered by Subway and afternoon snacks included popcorn and cheeseheads with apples, pears, and bananas also available.

I was able to take some pictures today although, with all of the setup today, I did not take a lot. Here is a link to the online photo album:

I will definitely showcase more of the lessons in tomorrow’s camp summary.

As always, please let me know if you have any questions.

Take care,


Newsletter #2, July 8, 2017

posted Jul 8, 2017, 2:16 PM by James Hodina   [ updated Jul 8, 2017, 2:18 PM ]

Dear Prairie Chess Families,

I have three things to communicate in this email:  Lunch Sign Up, Drop Off / Pick Up Information, and Bus Transportation to/from Iowa City West High.  T

Lunch Sign Up

I have posted a signup for lunch each day at the Prairie Chess Camp at   Please follow this link to complete your choices for the week.  If there are reasons that any of the meal choices do not work for your child, please let me know and we will see if accommodations can be made.  Obviously its easier if we can stick to the menu, but I would much rather take the additional time to find a meal option that works for your child.  Brains will be hard at work this week and we want to make sure they are fueled and ready to go.

Drop off / Pick Up

The camp is held in the cafeteria of the Prairie Point Middle School.  The street address is 8015 Kirkwood Blvd SW, Cedar Rapids, IA 52404, and is immediately south of The Hotel at Kirkwood.  You should enter the school through the North Entrance, also known as the Activities Entrance.  Attached is an aerial photo showing the school and a map to the cafeteria.  The camp program will start at 8 am and end by 4:30 pm.  You may drop off 30 minutes early and pick up 30 minutes late (7:30 am to 5:00 pm).

Bus Transportation to/from Iowa City West High

We have many students signed up for the College Community School District school bus transportation to/from Iowa City West High School.  The bus will depart at 7:30 am sharp so that all of our students can get to Prairie by 8 am.  It will return by 5 pm each day.  It is very important that you are there on time to pickup and drop off your child by these times.  Signup are shown with the registration list as well as in the attachment.  Please double check your reservation and contact me with any corrections or changes.  There is plenty of room on the bus, so everyone will have the ability to ride the bus if they need.  We also have many of our camp staff that will be on the bus, too.  If your child is not accustomed to riding the school bus, please make sure that you discuss with him/her appropriate behavior.  There are no seat belts on school buses, but that does not mean students can get out of their seat.  They must be respectful of the bus driver at all times and follow the driver's instructions.  Crissy Vigil is also our camp staff bus monitor.  Crissy will be taking attendance on the bus and reinforce these instructions.  The drop off location is in the west parking lot of the high school as shown below.  It is not in front of the school building.


West High Tranportation Drop Off Location.jpg

​​As always, please contact me with any questions.

Take care,

Jim Hodina


Lunch Sign-Up

posted Jul 8, 2017, 12:38 PM by James Hodina   [ updated Jul 8, 2017, 12:46 PM ]

All 2017 Prairie Chess Camp Participants and Staff,

Please complete the online form to sign up for lunch each day of the week.  Please contact Jim Hodina for alternatives should the menu options do not meet your dietary needs.  Please enter your email on the form if you would like a confirmation email regarding your order.
  • Monday: Subway
  • Tuesday: Taco Bell
  • Wednesday: Fazoli's
  • Thursday: Culver's
  • Friday: Domino's

2017 Chess Camp Lunch Signup

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