chess club nationals

Photo by Stephanie Berk

Freshman Brandon Chen, sophomores Nathan Mulugeta and Stanislaw Blizniuk, junior Jordi Revilla, and senior Ben Shoykhet analyze games after a long round to learn and improve.

For the first time in its history, this school brought a chess team to a scholastic nationals tournament. The 2022 National Chess Grade Championship was held in Maryland, Dec. 9 through Dec. 11, in National Harbor. With 2,461 players total from grades K-12 around the nation, competing here was a leap of a first step for the Chess Club.

The tournament was seven rounds (seven chess games) total, lasting three days. With each game able to be played continuously for roughly five hours, the effort, focus, and commitment from all of the players was admirable. The five players from this school who played performed just as admirably, with multiple medals won, and a top-10 finisher.

The first Chess Club team to play in a national tournament consisted of five members, including this writer , junior Jordi Revilla, sophomores Nathan Mulugeta and Stanislaw Blizniuk, and freshman Brandon Chen. Due to team awards being split up by grade, this school’s team was one of the sophomore grade, with the two aforementioned sophomores competing on it.

Among all sophomore teams with two competitors, the Chess Club team placed fourth out of 10 schools competing. Across all competing members from this school, three medals were won. Bringing back medals from their first tournament, this school’s team plans to train hard and do even better in the upcoming 2023 National High School Championship.

For one member of the team, this was his first-ever competitive tournament. Sophomore Nathan Mulugeta won a class gold-medal in the Unrated section, scoring the highest number of points out of all unrated 10th graders competing in the tournament. “A gold for my first tournament is pretty good, especially because there’s a lot of room for improvement moving forward,” Mulugeta said.

Between all five team members, the score was 20.5 points, with an impressive win rate of around 60 percent. At a national tournament, people of all levels come to play, from just beginning to master level. Anyone can play and expect equal matches and fun games.

The tournament was more than just competition though. After every round, the team got together, analyzing games, doing puzzles, and playing blitz. “Getting to learn chess with other people is fun; it’s a social experience,” Blizniuk said.

This year the club has a turnout of roughly 30 people per weekly Tuesday meeting. With players of all ranges, like the Nationals will be, there’s a game and lesson for everyone. “I got a cool pin as well as some good games,” Chen said.

This coming Mar. 31 is the 2023 National High School Championship, where students of all grades from the same school compete for their team. The Chess Club is getting ready to play at full strength for this one, and invites those interested in joining them on their next adventure, to attend their meetings, which take place every Tuesday and Wednesday at lunch in room 108.

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