Make The Right Move 2016-17 School Year: Year-End Report

Make The Right Move, in association with the Eastern New York Chess Association (ENYCA), has been offering opportunities for kids of all ages and levels of ability to enjoy chess, learning, and competition. Make the Right Move promotes the serious and continuous growth of youth using Chess as an educational tool through a series of free monthly competitions, for various skill levels, at multiple sites throughout the Greater Capital District. Chess mastery is achieved using the best methods of study and participation and the engagement of parents and educators. Groups and individuals are recognized for their achievement on a monthly and yearly basis. This article gives a summary of the 2016-17 school year activities along with next year’s schedule.

The 2016-17 School Year has been a great success with more than 1500 total participants (500+ individual players) and 40+ schools participating, with 10+ tournaments organized in the Capital District area. The Right Move assisted with the Bennington Spring Open in Vermont, the MLK Tournament in Kingston, the Harris Memorial Tournament in Newburgh, the PAL Tournament in Albany, and the Miller Tournament in Lake Katrine.

Chess Tables at Madison Avenue Fair with Brother John McManus and Sandeep Alampalli

Before the start of the tournaments this year, the Right Move had an opportunity again to showcase chess at the Madison Avenue Fair in Albany. The Right Move had several chess tables and scores of people stopped by to play chess and get more information. Some of the kids who came there also became regulars at the tournaments this school year.

The first tournament of the school year (TRM 109) was during National Chess Day on October 8, 2016, at the Bethlehem Central Middle School. We had a strong turnout with more than 100 players. Bethlehem Central Middle School and Albany High School each hosted two tournaments this year with Giffen Elementary School, MLK Magnet Elementary School, Wood Road Elementary School, Central Park Middle School, and LaSalle School hosting one tournament each. The last tournament of the year was at Albany High School on June 17, 2017, and had more than 160 players, the highest turnout of the year.

TRM 115 at Central Park Middle School
TRM 116 in Progress at the LaSalle School

Last tournament of the year (TRM 117) at Albany High SchoolFollowing tradition, the school year ended with a grand picnic on Wednesday, June 21, 2016, at the Christian Brothers Academy. At this picnic, the host schools, volunteers, tournament directors, top schools, top players, and individuals were recognized. The Coach of the Year award was presented to Mr. Patrick Bergin and the Hall of Fame award to Sandeep Alampalli. One of the highlights of the picnic was the presentation of the Sportsmanship of the Year award to Mary Livingston. Below are details related to top schools and individuals honored for their achievements during this school year.


During the 2016-2017 School year, more than 40 schools participated in the Right Move Tournaments. Below are the top 10 schools/clubs with the highest total points.

Consistent team attendance at all tournaments with at least four scholastic players is a key to be on the above list. Congratulations to all the players, parents, and their coaches. All team scores are posted here.

Bethlehem Central Middle School students receiving the Top School award at the year-end picnic


The Right Move congratulates Allen Crucetta, 2016-2017 Scholastic Player of the Year. Scholastic Player of the Year Award and Top Scholastic Players are based on combined scores in the numbered tournaments (TRM 109 through TRM 117) hosted by the Right Move in the Capital District area with both rated and unrated sections. All the top scholastic players also received their choice of a book from ENYCA. All individual scores are posted here.


This award is presented to an individual who has been a role model to younger players through coaching or participation in chess activities. Right Move presented the 2016-2017 Coach of the Year Award to Mr. Patrick Bergin. Mr. Bergin is a teacher and chess coach at the Central Park Middle School. He has been promoting chess as a teacher and chess coach at MLK Magnet Elementary School until moving to the Central Park MS last year. His team has consistently done well in the tournaments they participated in. He has also been instrumental in hosting Right Move tournaments at both schools. Congratulations Mr. Bergin!

Mr. Bergin playing with his students
Mr. Bergin with his students at a TRM award ceremony


The Hall of Fame Award is presented to an individual who provided exceptional service to accomplish the mission of the Right Move in the Capital District Area. The 2016-17 award was given to Sandeep Alampalli, a sophomore from the Albany Academy, in recognition of the leadership role he played in advancing the Right Move mission of promoting chess. He was a motivation to all scholastic players at the Right Move with his volunteering and fund raising efforts as the President for the last three years. He was the Player of the Year in 2010-2011 and 2011-2012, the only player to win back-to-back titles so far. Sandeep is a USCF certified Senior Tournament Director and helped with the organization of several tournaments. He is representing New York State as a 2017 delegate to the US Chess Federation.

Sandeep with Brother John and then at an award ceremony

2016-17 School Year Tournament Sponsors

We thank all the schools and their teachers for hosting these tournaments. It’s not possible to organize these tournaments without schools taking the lead. We also thank all the sponsors of the 2016-17 school year tournaments. Their generous contributions make these scholastic tournaments possible. We also thank the ENYCA for generously donating books and chess sets to deserving players at various tournaments. If interested in sponsoring one of the upcoming tournaments, please contact us at

Officers and Tournament Directors

Numerous volunteers make the Right Move chess tournaments possible. All their efforts are greatly appreciated. Nothing is possible without the direction and hard work of Brother John McManus and Dr. Sreenivas Alampalli. We thank both for their dedicated service. We also thank all the officers and tournament directors, who worked hard to successfully plan and organize these events.

2016-17 School Year officers

President: Sandeep Alampalli
Vice-president: Dr. Laurie Miroff
Secretary: Santhosh Abraham
Treasurer: Mahadevan Balasubramaniam

Elected Officers for the 2017-2018 School Year

President: Sandeep Alampalli
Vice-president: Santhosh Abraham
Secretary: Dr. Christine Zhao
Treasurer: Mahadevan Balasubramaniam

Tournament Directors

Brother John McManus
Dr. Sreenivas Alampalli
Santhosh Abraham
Sandeep Alampalli

2017-18 School Year Schedule

Below is the tentative schedule for the 2017-18 School Year. Get the up-to-date information and registration details at If you have any questions, send an email tomoc.l1501260606iamg@1501260606ssehc1501260606evomt1501260606hgir 1501260606

2017-18 School Year Tentative Schedule

By: Sandeep Alampalli, President, Right Move
edited M Walter Mockler, President, ENYCA

Register for the Peter Henner Memorial Tournament July 28-30

The Peter Henner Memorial Tournament will be held next weekend, July 28-30, at the Best Western Sovereign Hotel in Albany. More info can be found here:

I strongly encourage everyone to register for this tournament.

Firstly, and most importantly, playing in this tournament shows our gratitude and remembrance for Peter and his efforts to promote chess in our community. He was our dear friend and colleague, and he deserves a big turnout for his memorial tournament.

Secondly, if we want to have more local tournaments we NEED to attend these events. This is a tournament held by Continental Chess in our area – something many people have expressed interest in seeing more of. Continental Chess does not routinely hold many tournaments nearby, so we need to make it appealing to them. The larger the turnout the more appealing it is for Continental Chess to set up annual tournaments here.

A small speech about Peter is being prepared for the start of the tournament. I hope we can get a strong local turnout to show our support. Please consider registering for this tournament.

Your Move,

Simultaneous Exhibitions and Fundraisers

The dates and locations for Deepak Aaron’s two simultaneous exhibitions this week have been finalized.

Wednesday, July 12th at the East Greenbush Chess Community beginning at 6:30 PM, 14 Hays Rd, East Greenbush, NY

Thursday, July 13th at the LaSalle School in association with Make the Right Move, beginning at 6:00 PM, 391 Western Ave, Albany, NY

Both of these events are fundraisers for Deepak’s younger sister Deepti. Good cause. Bring your wallet.

Save the Date[s]

Just a short note that two events are being scheduled on a rapid schedule for this week, Wednesday July 12th and Thursday July 13th. Deepak Aaron is flying in to hold two benefit events to support charitable endeavors for worthy causes in Guatemala. These are currently planned to be simultaneous exhibitions at the East Greenbush Chess Community on the 12th, and at LaSalle on the 13th. Deepak is currently competing in major events over the summer, striving to attain his FIDE norms, so this break in his schedule might be our only chance to say hello, and for those optimistic souls to try their hand at competing against one of the strongest players to come out of the Capital District. Details about times and preferred donation amounts to follow. Leave your calendar open for one or both days.

Upcoming Tournaments

A short update of three events in the near future.

First, on Saturday, May 6th, 2017, the Bennington Spring Open, offering 4 games [g/60 d/5] with an attractive $30 EF. This event will be directed by Sreenivas Alampalli, who has a reputation for excellence and calm which will be tested by the expected strong turnout for the significant guaranteed prizes [$1130] relative to such a low entry fee.

Second, on Saturday, May 13th, 2017 the Right Move has changed location for TRM 116 to the LaSalle School in Albany. As always, additional details about this great organization can be found at the Right Move website. A free event, as always.

Lastly, the weekend of May 19th – 21st, 2017, 25th annual New York State Open will be held in Lake George. This is usually directed by Steve Immit for Continental, another excellent arbiter for our area. As usual, this event offers the rare opportunity for a Senior section, allowing aging boomers a chance to enter into battle amongst themselves. Last year saw the tourney move out of the basement restaurant space, making this a fine alternative to the windowless halls that so frequently host events.

If you want there to be Over-the-Board chess, please find time to support these local events. Thank you.

Why USATE is the perfect tournament

There exist a variety of tournaments that chess players can participate in, ranging from heavily monetized events, such as the Millionaire Chess event, which had three iterations before quiescence, or the long-running World Open, to the completely non-monetized local events, such as those run for scholastics by the Right Move. Within that broad spectrum of money versus not money chess lives a unique event, an annual affair that has been hosted in Parsippany, NJ for ages, featuring an affordable chess weekend of team play that draws players of all levels to participate for trophy, status, and joyful competition. This year’s event boasted 1167 participants inundating the two hotel complex of the Parsippany Hilton. Wandering the festival atmosphere leads players to stumble into games and analysis happening on any surface that will hold a chess board, with discussion ranging from the most basic to the most arcane. It is a huge festival of chess, where opportunities abound to compete against every level of player. It is the most cheerful event that I have had the opportunity to attend. Everyone should find a way to make this journey sometime in their career.

The Capitol District sent multiple teams this year, including two teams from the Schenectady club. Today’s game features the efforts of my teammate on the chess league team Geezers, playing here for the Schenectady B team. John Phillips is a previous champion of the club, and is capable of turning out a game that most of us only dream of playing, filled with unusual stratagems and tactical ripostes that overwhelm an uninspired opponent. In this particular game John features an opening that I have been playing for decades. While I have moved on to other passions, John raises the flag in support of the Leningrad Dutch, showing in exemplary fashion the attacking possibilities that this line offers the aggressive player. Enjoy!

Play Like a Patzer; Think Like an Expert

The 2016-2017 Albany Chess Club Championship came to a close on Wednesday, February 1. The runaway victor was, once again, Jeremy Berman. Congratulations Jeremy!

This year a trophy was offered to Second Place as well, providing the rest of us something to vie for beyond “mere” rating points.

I’ve been playing rated, competitive chess for over twenty years, starting when I was in high-school. My first rated games were in a scholastic trophy tournament, run by the ubiquitous CCA Tournament Director, Steve Immitt. That started a 500+ games journey through the D-A rating classes.

In my youth I played every tournament I could possibly get to: a 12-round US Open in Virginia; consecutive World Opens in Philadelphia; multiple team championships in Parsippany; too many NYS Championships in Saratoga; random CCA tournaments all over New England; all-night tournaments at the Marshall Chess Club in Manhattan; and countless games cutting my teeth at the Vassar-Chadwick Chess Club, in Poughkeepsie, NY, my hometown. I had some decent wins, but mostly mediocre results. As an under-employed student, I got caught up in trying to win money over rating points, stunted my chess growth, and saw a high-school rating peak of 1770 foolishly brought down to the 1600’s. So I walked away from the game to focus on life.

And I did. But I missed the game. Even more so, I missed the carefree days of youth, when the young conscience is free of those pesky adulthood burdens – careers, bills, marriage. It’s not easy justifying playing chess as an adult. “How can you take time away from what’s important in life to play a game?” – is how the responsible-adult rationale goes. So now, I’m down to less than ten rated games a year. But I know this all-work-no-play attitude ultimately can’t compete with Caissa, my first love. If you’re reading this blog, then you too have been seduced by her. She’s my lifelong affair; no matter how determined I’ve been to leave her – and I’ve tried – she enchants me back. 

I decided to commit to playing in the Albany Chess Club Championship. But I quickly regretted that decision. I lost my first game. A close, contentious battle with Jeremy Berman, being ultimately decided on one move: if I make the right move, I gain a solid positional advantage; if I play incorrectly, then I’m saddled with a losing disadvantage. I missed the strongest move, and didn’t recover. I say there’s no luck in chess – just weak moves. He who makes the final weak move loses the win.

My first round opponent (Berman) and last round opponent (Dean Howard) were the only players rated higher than me entering the tournament. So sandwiched between those two games, I’d be playing rating-roulette: anything can happen in these late-evening midweek battles. My starting rating: 1998. Two points away from achieving the Grandmaster-equivalent-for-club players, the elusive rank of National Expert. So after that loss, I began the tournament instantly down 12 points. But I slogged my way through the next ten games (dropping a game to Gordon Magat, who simply outplayed me), and entered the last round 9-2, to Dean Howard’s 9.5-1.5. I’m now up eight rating points: sitting unofficially at 2006. The battle is on not just for Second Place, but also to secure my rating. I need a win to earn Second Place, but would also be happy with a rating-saving draw. A loss would be horrific. Twelve games, around 36 hours of intense chess, all for naught rating-wise. A loss would mean zero rating points gained, and a fitful night of chess-loser-regret tossing-and-turning. The reward from five months of laborious chess-work is earned or lost with this one game.

In prepared openings, it takes two to stay on course, and only one to go off trail. I always joked I’d make it to Expert without knowing any opening theory. Every game is a new adventure – I ignorantly blaze my own path, and quite often enter thorny thickets. One can say this is the hallmark of a chess swindler – frequently fighting back from losing positions.

My game with Dean predictably soon had me in the briar patch, and we arrived at the following position.

Playing for equality, I decided to trade down. I should have exchanged queens first. Instead, after a good think, I play 16. Nc5. Which immediately turned into 16. Nc5??


Only now, AFTER I played the move, did it become clear: he can simply take my knight, and my planned recapture of 17. Rxc5 utterly fails to black simply moving his queen to c7 or e7. If I play 17. QxQ first, after 17… RxQ, I’m basically forced to play 18. RxR, and then black recaptures with the knight, solidly protecting the hanging bishop. There is no recourse. I’M LOST! JUST. LIKE. THAT. Of course, Dean takes the knight. 16…Bxc5.

I saved my worst move of the tournament for my last game. Quite possibly the worst blunder I’ve made in three hundred rating points. Completely unforced. No tricks. No tactics. No traps. No zaps. A wholly unnecessary move with zero advantage gained, and no saving grace. I’m down material and position, with no counter-play. This is resignable. Just put your hand out; abscond; soothe your sorrows with Wendy’s; go home and kick the dog.

Now I’m staring at the board, suffering through the five stages of grief. Is this REALLY over? I’m searching and analyzing the position. There’s nothing. My clock is ticking down. Ahh, ok. Forget it. I’m done. I’m going to resign. I’m not going to sit here and play hope-chess, where one hopes their opponent sinks to their level. I’ll spare myself the humiliation.

But Dean isn’t at the board. He’s walking around. Predicament: how do you resign with no opponent? So I sit there and keep studying the position, accept it’s hopeless, and have a full-on internal dialogue, that goes something like this:

What just happened? I made a horrible move. Why? Because I’m an idiot. Ok, but you ARE rated around 2000, which means you’re a good chess player. True, relatively speaking, I am a good player. I just made a bad move. So if I’m a good player, and I’m capable of making a bad move, then logic says my opponent, who is also a good player, is also capable of making a bad move. Good point. Wait. This is just like the Superbowl from a few days ago. The Patriots are a good football team – had the best record in the league, but they played a horrible first half. Then the second half, they played great, and the Falcons played weak. So just because the Patriots played a weak half first, doesn’t mean they are the weaker team. The Patriots were down 28-3. Down 25 points. In the third quarter. That’s a loss. But somehow, they came back. They didn’t give up. They didn’t quit. They waited for their opponent to make weak moves.

But I’m not the Patriots and this isn’t football. But okay, I’ll let myself make ONE move, then I’ll resign. What move gives my opponent the best opportunity to make a weak move? I exchange queens. 17. QxQ. Dean comes back to the board.

He makes his move. 17…Bxf2+. WHAT THE??? UNBELIEVABLE! I’M BACK IN IT! JUST. LIKE. THAT. I felt like the Patriots.

Forget the pawn. I KNEW I’d get it back. Suddenly it’s a game. And just like the Superbowl after regulation, it was a tie score, stopped one move before bare kings. Draw.

But really a win-win.

Dean earned Second Place in the ACCC, and I finally, on game 543 of my chess life, became a National Expert.


1) No one has ever won or drawn by resigning. If it’s a draw, then the game will play to a draw. The endgame experience gained playing until the very end is worth the effort. If you make a blunder, don’t give up. Weak moves can be contagious.

2) Stay at the board. Think on your opponent’s time. We’re not grandmasters, calculating while we wander the aisles. The more you look, the more the board reveals. In post-game analysis, I’m always amazed to see what I missed. “How did I not see that??” Also, you never know when your opponent will prematurely resign.

3) Study tactics. I use Solving tactics puzzles is the most efficient way to study. You can make Expert without knowing deep opening theory. Patzers love openings. Makes them sound like a chess player. They’ll show you all the sidelines. Then they’ll drop a piece to a tactic.

ENYCA Player Spotlight: Phil Thomas

Welcome to ENYCA’s Player Spotlight on local expert and all around good guy Phil Thomas. Phil is a friendly up-and-coming local talent known for his sharp and accurate play, and stone-faced positional objectivity. A staple of the Capital District tournament circuit since 2006, each year has seen Phil improving his game, inspiring his comrades, and dispatching his opponents with sparkling play.

(Interview conducted by Rob Fusco)

Rob Fusco – Firstly, Phil, thanks for offering us some insight into you. Please tell us a little bit about where you come from, what you do, etc.

Phil Thomas – You’re welcome. Well I was born and raised in Albany, NY to a Nigerian father and American mother. I work locally for a distribution company.

RF – What brought you to chess to begin with, and what keeps you hungry to progress? Who inspires you? Favorite players? What about their games inspire you?

PT – When I was very young my aunt showed me how the pieces moved. Though I really fell in love with chess when I played some local chess hustlers (The late Daryl Perkins). It reminded me of something Former World Champ Mikhail Tal said in his book. I was infected with the chess microbes and didn’t even know it. What inspires me about chess is the constant ebb and flow. The ability at each turn to respond with an eximious rejoinder. The constant search for the truth. The look on an opponents face when you play a great move, and put them into difficult position. My favorite players are Mikhail Tal, Capablanca, Rashid Nezmetdinov, and Garry Kasparov just to mention a few. I love the the great attacking prowess of Tal, Nez and Kasparov. I also love the effortless positional masterpieces displayed by Capablanca.

RF – Congratulations on your performance at the NYS blitz championships, and congratulations on a very nice draw against GM Michael Rohde. Lets start with your impressions of that event and the participants.

PT – Thanks. I felt it was a great tournament with a strong field filled with plenty of masters. I felt very good going into this tournament. I was ready to play.

Phil puts the pressure on, GM or not.

RF – GM Rohde offered you a draw in a position which seemed equal or very slightly worse for him. You had over thirty seconds on your clock and he was well under the fifteen second mark. Why would a player known for his speed accept this offer?

PT – Yes he was very low on time. I knew I could [have] easily flagged him. In the moment though I choose to take the road of integrity and not flag a man of his stature in a seemingly drawn position. Who knows in the future if I’d do it again, or if he’d do it for me. In that moment though that’s how I felt.

RF – Your improvement over the board since you began in 2006 with an over the board rating of 1367 has been steady and consistent. As of this interview your last standard rating is 2028, and your blitz rating sits at 2069. Where do you see yourself both ratings wise and title wise over the next five years? Moreover, how important is your rating to you? Is it the be-all, end-all, or is it just a number that chases you around as you chase good moves?

PT – Well In the next 5 years I plan to be 2350 and a solid FM. Ratings are not super important to me. They are like batting averages.

RF – Let us in on the secrets to your success. How and how often do you study? Do you prefer books or computers? Favorite authors/coaches?

PT – Well I study tactics everyday. I like books and software. Some authors who helped me a ton are Aron Nimzowitch and Vladimir Vukovic.

RF – What do you consider to be the primary determinant of success in tournament chess and for a chess player?

PT – Patience.

Phil was focused and in top form.

RF – You adopted a very stringent physical training regimen in recent years and enjoyed a perhaps not-so-coincidental boost in chess performance. Do you think physical fitness is important to OTB play?

PT – Yes, I wholeheartedly believe that there is a direct correlation with being fit and a boost in chess performance. Fitness teaches me patience, discipline, concentration, and focus – which I directly apply when playing chess.

RF – Some players marvel for hours over endgame compositions, some are lit up by brilliant sacrificial tactics, and some are content to pore over reams of opening theory. What phase or aspect of chess excites you the most?

PT – I personally love the middle game. I feel it’s the phase of the game where I’m most creative. I think of it as your opponent with each move is challenging you with a math problem with difficulty ranging from simple addition and subtraction to advanced calculus. If you answer correctly you maintain the balance or get an advantage. With an incorrect answer you do the opposite.

RF – Share one or two of your favorite tournament stories or chess anecdotes.

PT – Two stories that resonate in my mind are Mikhail Tal when in deep calculation he randomly thought about a hippo in a pond. The other story is where Frank Marshall played an amazing move and people showered the table with gold coins.

RF – The tournament scene in Upstate NY is often hot and cold. What events would you like to see more of, and what might local promoters do to attract larger player numbers and keep people coming back consistently (besides double and triple booking OTB events on the same day)?

PT – I think it will take time to build up the local chess scene. I feel that activity is a must though.There has to be at least a monthly or bimonthly event. As the old saying goes. “Build it and they will come”.

RF – Any favorite local players we should keep our eyes on?

PT – Yes the local players I like are Martha, Patrick, and of course the swashbuckling, risk taking, attacker Michael Mockler.

RF – What are your five favorite chess books and why?

PT – My System, The Art of Attack, Think Like A Grandmaster, The Life and Games of Mikhail Tal, Forcing Chess Moves. These books all helped me greatly and caused me to look at chess differently.

RF – I’d like to end this interview with a game of your choice. Please give an example of one of your favorite games with light notation and impressions.

PT – Well not a game but a particular move stands out in my mind. It was a league game several years ago against Arthur Alowitz. I played the A-bomb of a move Rf6!!. I can remember the position. The move was actually published in Bill [Townsend]’s tactics section of the Schenectady Gazette. At this point I knew my chess game was improving.
Thanks for the interview. All the best and good chess.

Christmas Seals

Let’s talk about a dirty little secret in chess. Sometimes people think that their ratings define their strength as a chess player. Occasionally, stronger players, by rating, will look down upon weaker players, by rating. There have even been instances where the weaker players were referred to as seals, and the stronger player might refer to the upcoming game as “going clubbing.” In the rare event that the weaker player upsets the stronger player, much merriment ensues, wherein the stronger player is described as having been clubbed by a seal.

Earlier this year, during the Capital District Chess League competition, a match between the Siena College team and the Geezers was played. The board 1 contest was between Mr. Bryan Niebanck of Siena, and myself, playing for the Geezers. Based on rating, no one thought that this game would be a serious challenge. I have refrained from publishing this game to allow young Niebanck an opportunity to surprise other players with the quality of his play, perhaps gaining some victories over other over-confident opponents. Time’s up.

An exceptionally well played game by young Bryan Niebanck. He deserved a better fate than having old age and treachery winning out over youth and skill.

Near-upsets at the AACC Championship

On November 30, two games from the Albany club championship could have ended in big upsets, but did not.

Gordon Magat was a Rook down against Kun Park in a Q+R vs. Q+RR position. It wasn’t simple, especially with less than a minute on both clocks. Kun lost his Queen for a Rook trying to avoid perpetual check, and Gordon won the ending that followed.

My game with Paul Moore was almost a routine win for me. I won the exchange in the early middlegame. His attacking position was insufficient, but he had more CP (Cheapo Potential) than I realized, and it could have ended badly for me.