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The Harlem Gambit
Franz Lidz
November 11, 1991
The Raging Rooks had what it took at the national junior high school chess championships
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November 11, 1991

The Harlem Gambit

The Raging Rooks had what it took at the national junior high school chess championships

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"Still won't make a difference."

"I'll tell you what," Gudonsky said magnanimously, "I won't think."

Washington pondered this awhile. "How will I know?" he asked.

Gudonsky grinned. "You'll know by all the stupid moves I make."

Gudonsky is a neat and tidy and straightforward man who remains idealistic despite 24 years in a singularly frustrating job. He has plastered the walls of his classroom with posters and pictures of unicorns. "I'm steeped in unicorns," Gudonsky says, with considerable understatement.

"Unicorns have strength and vulnerability, like these kids," he says.

Gudonsky's apartment in Queens is jammed with unicorn tapestries, unicorn paintings, even a unicorn shower curtain. "Sometimes I'll surprise myself by finding a unicorn I've never seen before," he says. "But when it comes to surprises, nothing has ever jolted me more than the way the Rooks performed in Dearborn." Which is not to say they lucked out. Says Robinson, "We were the best players there. We should have done better."

Gudonsky hadn't appreciated the Rooks' rage to win until he got to the tournament. "One of our eight boys, Brian Watson, wound up losing a match he should have drawn," he says. "Brian was so upset that he got up from the board and practically ran out of the room."

Gudonsky caught up with Brian and praised him for trying. "I told him that he had played a terrific game, and that he should be proud of that," Gudonsky says. "I told him you can learn from defeat. He looked at me and broke down and cried. His chest was actually heaving. I'd never seen anyone weep that way. It wasn't that he'd lost the match, but that he felt he had let down the team. That's how much these kids wanted to win."

The Rooks were in a three-way tie for third place going into the penultimate round, when they blundered into fifth. They trailed the leader, McClintock Junior High of Charlotte, N.C., by 2� points. But McClintock folded in the final round, as did the other teams, while the Rooks won three of their matches and drew the other. Suddenly, the Rooks were sharing the title with J.R. Masterman Laboratory and Demonstration Junior High of Philadelphia.

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