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  • James Neal

Thunder Team Challenge #01

The first of many Scholastic Team Events.

We had a good 14 players participate in this weekend’s Thunder Teams Event. This special competition was aimed to encourage collaboration. If my students make a habit of challenging each other’s suggestions, it should increase the strength of their decisions.


I started each round by explaining the general strategies of the pawn structure. The explanation allows them to best adjust their pieces to achieve the structural objectives. As I expected, the first round was a disaster for the entire field (or a humbling experience). I confidently understood that most of my students have a serious case of tunnel vision when they are calculating their own plans. They pursue these ambitious goals without the consideration of their feasibility. Since their variations are scored based on a computer evaluation, bias suggestions are immediately punished with a low score. It is basically the computer’s way of saying, “what if black or white were to play this way?” I saw many moves that were outright mistakes, only making sense if their opponent didn’t capture the free piece along the way. In short, the first round had all teams scoring 1 point for the attempt.

Rounds 2 and 3 were a work in progress but along the way we started getting some impressive responses. Anirudh’s team had achieved a strong variation that put them clearly ahead (8 points). The other students began to pressure me into making it a bit tougher for the leading team (nice try though). We went into the 4th and final collaboration round and something incredible happened; something I did not expect to happen in the entire event, the stacked team calculated a variation that scored 10 points! That put them up to 19 points with the other teams trailing 12, 11, and 6.

The final round was the bonus round where the teams would play a head-to-head match that had the potential to add a 25% bonus to their score if they won or a 10% bonus to both their scores if they drew. Aydan’s team swept their opponents (Anirudh’s team), but an interesting situation was unfolding between Leon and Adrian’s teams. I told the group, after the second round, if there were two teams in contention for a medal, and their final scores were within 2 points of each other, they would select one of their members to playoff against the closer team. This addition served two purposes: it accounted for the margin of error with computer grading software and it would be fun. If Adrian’s team were to lose or draw, they would have a playoff against Anirudh’s team for second place. The tiebreak scenario was a little farfetched considering Leon’s team was missing a member, but it would have been fun to watch.


The result of the event had Aydan’s team (Mega Knights) taking first place while Adrian’s team (Mega Minds) took second.

Nice Job Guys. Look forward to seeing you at the next event.


-Coach James

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