The 2022 Castle Chess Camp Quilt

The Castle Chess Camp

was once again held at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, culminating with the 2022 Castle Chess Grand Prix (OTB). (

The Master section was won by Grandmasters Alex Lenderman

and Julio Becerra

Grandmaster Julio Becerra (

with each scoring only 3 1/2 from the 5 rounds played. Both players earned $1500 for their efforts.

Venkata Pullabhotla, playing out of Texas, took clear first in the Expert section, and took home $1000 for his effort. He finished with 4 1/2 points after drawing with Kevin Zhang Li, from Pennsylvania, in the final round to finish in clear second place with 4 points. The former took home a cool grand, while the latter pocketed $600.

The class A section was taken with 4 1/2 points by Michael Porcelli of Alabama. Alice Wu of Florida and Luke Anatol of New Jersey each scored 4 points to win $400.

Georgian Hank Deslaurier won all five games to take clear first in the class B section and win $800. Sherlock Grigsby of Maryland, and Cody Smith of Alabama, each scored 4 points while earning $350.

Class C was won by Robert Webb of South Carolina. After taking a half-point bye in the first round, he ripped off four straight wins to finish with 4 1/2 points, and take home $500.

Christopher Selby of South Carolina, Navek Leonard, from Maryland, and Kevin Pryor, from Florida, each scored 4 out of 5 to take home $167.67, when tying for second place.

The class D section saw New Yorker Eric Wang,Nihal Kabir of Georgia, and Shenghao Yuan of Pennsylvania all scored four points to take home $333.33 inflated US greenbacks.

Georgian Noah Winter took clear first in the Under 1200 section by winning all five games, and $500. Two more Georgia players, Caspian Beard and Anvika Kore, tied for second place, earning $250 along the way.

In a first for the AW blog, what follows is from my friend Michael Mulford, aka “Mulfish”, one of the truly “good guys” involved with Chess.

David Hu and Mulfish

The Mulfish decided to write in the third person in the event I wanted it to appear the words were mine, but they are all from the fertile mind of Mr. Mulford, a long-time ‘mover & shaker’ in Chess politics, and the Castle Chess Camp. What follows was written by the Mulfish:

“Castle Chess Camp is a nationally renowned program of chess instruction bringing together some of the top teachers and some of the best young players in the country. The original Castle Chess Camp was started by Dr. Robert Ferguson in 1977 in Bradford, Pennsylvania. That camp ran for 29 years. In 2001 David Woolf started a second Castle Camp at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia using the same proven formula as the original Castle Chess Camp. David ran the camp in Atlanta for seven years before stepping aside. Beginning in 2008 a group of volunteers recruited by Marshall Jaffe took over and established Castle Chess, Inc., a certified non-profit – 501 c3 – registered in the state of Georgia.

This introductory paragraph, taken straight from the Castle website is accurate, but it certainly does not capture the importance of the recently completed 2022 edition of the annual week-long camp and tournament. After two years without camp because of Covid-19 restrictions, the camp returned triumphantly with 72 campers. That’s a bit smaller than normal; 2018 had 84 and 2019 a whopping 120. But 72 has to be considered a success under the circumstances. Emory University did not know for sure whether they would permit summer camps until quite late, much less what their rates would be. The late start led to uncertainty within the market as to whether Castle would indeed be able to hold camp. On top of that, Emory required vaccinations for all campers and staff. No doubt some parents who didn’t want to vaccinate their offspring chose to look elsewhere.

Nevertheless, slowly the camp did fill up. Despite the decision to lower both the minimum age and the minimum rating, the camp boasted an average rating of 1717, well in line with past years. By contrast, the average rating in the first Atlanta camp in 2011 was 1147, with 12 unrateds. Castle is a camp for SERIOUS students!

This was the first camp in many years without Jennifer Christianson

at the helm. While this post will focus on honoring her, we would be grossly remiss to ignore the work of new President and Camp Director Ricardo Fiorillo. Ricardo has been involved with Castle since 2012 and has been Vice President for 9 years as well as Assistant Camp Director. He worked tirelessly to develop a new website and registration system (our old one was maintained by Jennifer’s husband Fred), working with Emory to set up all the specifics and doing almost all the pre-work to put the camp together. The volunteer base had eroded after three years; indeed the majority of the airport runs to pick up or drop off travelers were done by his wife and sons. Camp would not have happened without him. The other three board members (Grant Oen, Bryan Tillis and Michael Mulford) contributed, as did former board member Scott Parker, but Ricardo made it possible. Once camp started, the outstanding instructors provided great chess teaching and the dedicated counselors, most of them former campers, made it fun.

But as I said, this post is about Jennifer. She served for 15 years, 11 as President and Camp Director, and she really made the camp what it was. She was the face of the camp to the parents, and believe me, before a mom sends her child to camp, they want to be comfortable with the folks running it. Every year Jennifer ate, drank and breathed Castle for several months before camp. The week before was always crazy for her, and she started camp week exhausted. And trust me, you didn’t catch up on rest once camp started. When she publicly announced she was stepping down, many questioned whether camp would ever come back. Ricardo and the team made sure it did. I think it was a combination of the chess player ego to prove they could do it, the commitment to the kids who are the reason they do it in the first place and the desire not to let Jennifer’s legacy die that drove them.

A lot of Castle stuff was stored at the Christianson house, and when they moved to Florida, there was no room for it. Ricardo and Scott took custody of all of it. One thing Scott found was a boatload of t-shirts from prior years. He mentioned this to the board and asked if he could dispose of them. This triggered an inspiration in Treasurer Michael Mulford’s mind. “Let’s make a quilt out of them as a gift for Jennifer”, he suggested. The board readily agreed, and Scott sent several to Mike. His wife Becky, who had never made a quilt in her life, assembled it, practicing first by making a quilt out of her old Southwest Airline t-shirts. She then took it to the pros at Missouri Star Quilting to get the stitching right. It was a true labor of love for someone Becky had barely met and didn’t even know. What Becky did know was what Jennifer had meant to the Castle Chess Camp.

Neither Becky nor Jennifer could be there when the quilt was presented in absentia at camp orientation. The camp photographer Margaret Yang captured the moments, which are on the Castle Chess Facebook group page. At Mike’s request, she delayed posting pictures until Jennifer could receive the quilt. Mike shipped it on Tuesday (Monday was a holiday) and Jennifer received it on Thursday. She texted Mike, saying “I am speechless. Please tell Becky that she brought tears to my eyes. The perfect gift. I will treasure it always”. Exactly the reaction one would hope for! Reaction on the Castle Facebook group page was similarly positive.

The Castle Chess Camp Quilt

A great honor for an amazing lady. Jennifer, the Castle Chess Community salutes you!
On top of that, Emory required vaccinations for all campers and staff. No doubt some parents who didn’t want to vaccinated their offspring chose to look elsewhere.”

My Mother’s mother was called “Mama.” She made quilts for every member of our extended family. I loved the woman dearly, which is what makes this the most personal post I have put together. This one is for “Mama”. After writing the above, and it being read by Mulfish, he wrote in an email, “My mother was an avid quilter and we sleep under a quilt she made every night. Except for using the name “Mama”, I could just as well have written that paragraph too.”

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