2014-15 CHESS NEWS:
May: WINSTON NI '23 WINS FIRST PLACE IN NATIONAL ELEMENTARY CHAMPIONSHIP | PDS CHESS TEAM THIRD IN THE NATION
More than 2000 of the best scholastic chess players from 48 states sat at their boards facing their unknown opponents, turning over their rooks and tapping their feet while dealing with dreams and haunting fears as the National Championship tournament director listed rules and procedures at the start of the 2015 National Elementary Championship in Nashville Tennessee. Read More
The white clothed tables of chessboards with their identical black and white armies spread across the grand ballroom of the Gaylord Convention Center in a sea of players. Seated at board six in the K-5 Championship section was Winston Ni, sixth highest rated player at 1957, one of the top contenders. Winston led the PDS team of Kai Shah, Albert Ming, Dodge Martinson, Jai Kasera, and third graders Aadi Shankar and Eric Wu, his first Nationals, in this K-5 section. One hundred ninety five schools from 48 states were competing, 27 schools from New York and three from New Jersey. In the same vast ballroom in the K-3 section, Abi Mundayat also nervously waited the first move. Parents were not allowed in the playing room.
After winning the New York City Championship in January and the New Jersey Championship in February, our PDS players had organized, studied, and persuaded their parents to invest in the trip to Nashville for the three day, seven game tournament to decide who is the best in the land. Each player has 120 minutes on the clock to win or lose on time. The top four scores from each school will count toward the team score. In this Swiss pairing system winners will play winners and losers will play losers until only one or two players have a perfect score. Ties will be decided by an elaborate system of adding the scores of each players’ opponents.
The games finally started with the black player pressing the clock for white to move. Parents waited nervously for their players to come out victorious or disappointed. The most nervous parents had players on top boards. Hong Ni, Winston’s dad, tried to relax while he calculated Winston’s chances based on the rating and past performance of his opponent, information available on the USCF website, and unreliable reports from players leaving the ballroom.
Winston was determined to win this tournament, and his passion for winning was reinforced by the enthusiasm and chess prowess of his PDS team, all high rated and fiercely competitive, seasoned players, supporting each other after every game. Between rounds our players analyzed their games together and rested for the next game, resisting the many distractions at this chess extravaganza, including the resort swimming pool. Outside the tournament rooms, booths hosting grandmasters signing autographs or playing simultaneous exhibitions, chess book publishers or computer program designers offered players exciting opportunities to meet celebrities in the chess world.
In the end on Sunday afternoon, game seven, Winston (5 ½) was paired against an 1800 rated player with six wins from a New York City school also fighting for top team standing. Playing with black pieces, Winston attacked right from the start. His opponent put up a fierce fight with a tight defense. For the first three hours of the game, they had equal material. However, Winston maintained initiative with active pieces and a long-term positional plan. The game came down to a king and pawn ending with only minutes left on each player’s clock. It was the longest game, and the ballroom had emptied. Finally Winston broke through opponent's pawn formation with his king, and his opponent knocked down the White King and resigned the championship.
At the awards ceremony our team was ½ point out of first place to take home the huge third place trophy, and Winston, a fourth grader, shared first place with two 5th grade players. Kai Shah, a great competitor, took home the 30th place trophy. Albert Ming and Dodge Martinson each had 4.5. Dodge had the most challenging pairings, playing three games against top seeded opponents. In round 2, Dodge faced the 10th seed player with 450 rating points advantage. Despite the huge odds against him (a 91% chance of losing according to statistics based on the rating differences), Dodge fought with great determination and perseverance, playing a flawless defensive game that attracted a crowd and frustrated his opponent. This was the hardest earned half-point as the game ended in a draw. Jai Kasera took home a lovely trophy for 2nd place in the 1000-1099 section of the blitz tournament on Thursday. Aadi’s most memorable game was his fifth against an opponent 400 points higher rated. Aadi used the “hedgehog” structure for his black pieces and won that long game, three hours and 40 minutes. And Abi Mundayat will never forget the praise of GM Irina Krush after his long game in her simultaneous exhibition before the tournament.
After the tournament on the way home, Winston wrote this poem:
The Final Game
By Winston Ni
The moment is finally here,
that my hard work this year,
will depend on the one move,
to the next square.
It is down to the wire,
but I have a strong desire,
to chase down his king,
with all my lighting and fire.
Already our 3rd, 4th and 5th grade players are planning next year’s National Championship in K-6!
February: On Sunday, February 22, eight Princeton Day School chess champions competed in the New Jersey Primary and Elementary Championship. Chess teacher Bonnie Waitzkin reports that Kai Shah '22 won all five games in the Elementary Section for first place and the team of Kai Shah, Dodge Martinson '22 (6th place), Winston Ni '23 (11th place) and Jai Kasera '23 (2nd place, 4th grade) and Brandon Cheng '22 won first place in the State. Ms. Waitzkin went to note, “In the Primary Section K-3, Aadi Shankar '24 was tenth with four wins, Abi Mundayat '25 was 14th with 3 wins and a draw, and Eric Wu '24 15th with three wins.” In addition, the Primary won first place school team. Congratulations!
January: The 2015 New York City Scholastic Chess Championship at the elegant Brooklyn Marriott Hotel hosted over 1000 players from hundreds of schools last weekend. Princeton Day School sent teams in the K-6 Elementary Varsity Section and the K-6 Elementary U1200 sections and individual players in Primary U1000 and Elementary U700. PDS 4th grader Winston Ni won clear first place in ELEMENTARY VARSITY and the team of Read More
Winston Ni 5.5
Albert Ming 4.0
Vinay Rao 3
Bryce Powell 3
Delia McCarthy 3
Dodge Martinson 3
Kai Shah 3
Varun Rao 2.5
placed 3rd of all the public and private schools in New York City. The varsity sections played 6 games over two days at 60 minutes for each player plus 10 seconds time delay. All other sections competed in five rounds at G30 with 5 seconds delay.
In the 5-round ELEMENTARY (K-6) U1200 rated section with 132 players, third grader Eric Wu (at left) tied for first place with 5 wins (a perfect score) and then won the blitz playoff match to take home the first place trophy, leading the PDS team of
Eric Wu 5
Jack Wang 3
Jai Kasera 2.5
Katie Jain 2
Michael Kaleem 2
Aadi Shankar 1.5
for 5th place team.
Jacob Kaleem competed in Elementary U700 and won 4 for 11th place. And 2nd grader Abinav Mundayat competed in Primary U1000 with two wins.
PDS players win 4th place team at NATIONAL CHESS CONGRESS
PDS CHESS PLAYERS Kai Shah, Eric Wu, Vinay Rao, Winston Ni, and Varun Rao competed in the National Chess Congress and placed fourth ahead of Rutgers, University of Pennsylvania, and NYU. READ MORE
Nineteen School and college teams competed. Kai Shah won five out of six games in the Under 1400 division, for second place. This was Kai’s first adult tournament. Winston Ni had three points in the Under 2000 section. The 45th Annual National Chess Congress was held from November 28-30, 2014, at the Loews Philadelphia Hotel in Philadelphia, PA. More than 1000 players competed for cash prizes in this historic chess event.
Nov. 23: The New Jersey Grade Championship Sunday, November 23 at Brookdale Community College in Lincroft was packed with scholastic chess players eager to test their skills over the board against other players in their grade. More than 500 competitors were seated elbow to elbow in the huge tournament room and latecomers were turned away because all the boards were full. READ MORE
Twenty-five players represented Princeton Day School yesterday, and as I surveyed the team room with so many bright blue PDS panther tee shirts, I was recalling ten years ago when our team of 6 players competed in the NJ Championship for the first time and won first place in PRIMARY. In 2004 there were only 200 competitors, and PDS with a fledgling chess program was starting a trend of teaching chess in the early grades to challenge the brightest and most intellectually ready students.
Many team and individual trophies were won. Tenth Grader Nick Jain won the trophy for 3rd place. Fifth grader Albert Ming was 7th with 3 ½ points, Winston Ni was 7th in fourth grade, and first grader Fife Akinyanmi was 8th in his section. Our fourth grade team of Winston Ni, Michael Kaleem and Tofe Akinyanmi won first place. Our Second graders won the third place team trophy. PDS fifth graders were 2nd team, and the sixth graders were 3rd team.
But along with many witty and hard fought games ending in victory, November 23rd was a day of many mistakes to study, and players learning to recover and come back to win again. We had losses because of time pressure, blunders blamed on distractions in the crowded tournament room, mates overlooked, draws offered in winning positions, stalemates, missed opportunities of every kind. And each time parents consoled, friends encouraged, coaches looked over the games and taught resourceful responses. As always, after four rounds, we turned the lights off in the team room so that players could rest before the important final round, a PDS tradition which started years ago in the NYC Championship when Sam Bernardi played for first place in the ballroom of the New Yorker hotel.
Here is our full list of players:
The 2004 winning team included David Crane, Danny Goldman, Jordan Lerner, Ben Marrow, D.J. Modzelewski, and Harrison Okun, now all in college.
The Saturday, November 1 Chess Tournament was packed because of steady rainfall forcing cancellation of scheduled soccer games. Tony had to set up more tables, and Ellen had to make more pizzas. 108 players from 34 schools competed all day in the Music Room and the Gymateria. READ MORE
PDS players won first place team in NOVICE I Ied by Brandon Cheng, Danny Rozenblat, Clara Shin, and Lucas Furlonge who all scored 3 points and won plaques in bright Halloween colors. In NOVICE II, PDS won first place team led by Jacob Kaleem who won the fourth place plaque. In RESERVE PDS team was first with Jack Wang who won all four games for first place. Katie Jain was second with 3 wins. In the crowded OPEN section Michael Kaleem was seventh with two wins. The early morning sections had more PDS players than ever: Eric Wu and Aadi Shankar played in CLOSED for the first time. The experienced opponents and longer time control makes the transition from G25 to G55 very challenging. In FUTURE MASTERS Dodge Martinson won first place with 2 1/2. We are all looking forward to the 2014 NJ Grade Championship on Sunday November 23rd. Thanks to Laura Ziv who helped all afternoon, and to 11th grader Rahul Rajaram who is an intern tournament director.
Here's the roster of PDS players who played chess Saturday:
Danny Rozenblat 6th
Clara Shin 7th
Lucas Furlonge 8th
Jacob Kaleem 4th
Dodge Martinson 1st