Three local schools fare well at state chess championships

Published: Tuesday, March 25, 2014 at 4:18 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, March 25, 2014 at 4:18 p.m.

Check and mate: Three Alachua County schools took top honors at the Florida State Scholastic Chess Championships earlier this month.

A team from Oak Hall School placed first in the K-1 category, a Williams Elementary team took first in the K-3 category and a group from Lincoln Middle took the state championship in K-8.

Another team from Williams Elementary placed second in the K-5 division.

“We’re very proud of our chess team,” Williams principal Karla Hutchinson said. “They did a tremendous job and represented the school as well as the (Alachua County Scholastic) Chess Association very well. They’re very diligent when it comes to their chess.”

The Oak Hall team was made up of pre-K student Mostafa Abd-El-Barr; kindergartners Anthony Dang, Paul Thur de Koos, Marcus Shih, Rodrigo Zendejas, Nathan Turenne and Bryan Zheng; and first-graders Sarra Abd-El-Barr, Saheb Gulati, Thomas Moy, Pierce Montes, Jesse Lan, Rithwik Hegde, Amir Dahm and Grant Curtis.

Oak Hall chess coach Tim Tusing, of the Alachua County Scholastic Chess Association, said this is the school’s 19th championship title in the last 12 years.

Oak Hall started its competitive chess team in 2000, he said.

Research shows chess has certain cognitive benefits for children.

“They learn patience and planning skills, and the consequences of what they do, because once they make a move, they can’t take it back,” Tusing said.

Williams’ first-place team was made up of second-graders Parth Ghorpade and Nathan Wei and third-graders William Xu, Akash Verma, Isaac Colon, Colin Frank, A.J. Senn and Ahan Mishra, who also won second place overall in the K-3 individual competition.

Second-place team members were third-graders Rishi Gadikota and Abhinav Pothuri; fourth-graders Kevin He, Eric Diao and Matthew Bishop-Gylys; and fifth-graders Alan Wang, Andrew Yuan and David Liu.

Alan Wang placed third overall in the individual category.

George Pyne, also of the Alachua County Scholastic Chess Association, said Williams Elementary has a regular chess club that meets Wednesdays after school, and students in the magnet program learn chess, as well.

Most tournament players practice more — at least three hours a day, three times a week, he said.

Two years ago, the school swept the state tournament, topping both the K-3 and K-5 divisions. Last year Williams came in second.

“I think they’re great,” Pyne said of his chess students. Plus, “It was nice to get the K-3 championship back this year.”

Lincoln Middle’s championship-winning team, coached by Simon Dewitt and Britt Ryerson of the Alachua County Scholastic Chess Association, included sixth-graders Daniel Min, Anthony Bishop-Gylys, Andrew Qiu and Jeffrey Lu and seventh-graders Andy Wu and Jackie Liu.

Wu placed second overall in the individual category, and Lu took sixth place.

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