This year marked the 50th Anniversary of the New York State Scholastic Championship, and, as befits such a milestone, this year’s attendance shattered previous records. Last year, the event had 948 players, which was the third highest number since MSA began keeping statistics in 1991. The tournament had never broken the thousand player barrier—until this year’s total of 1165 players in eleven sections. Looking at previous MSA history, only six tournaments have broken that barrier, and five of those were New York City Scholastic Championships!
This year’s tournament was especially strong and featured one IM, three FMs, one WIM, and one WFM in the High School Championship section. Overall, there were nine players over 2200 and twenty one players over 2000 in the 106 player High School Championship section. The highest scoring NY player qualifies to represent New York in the Denker Tournament of Champions, and the highest scoring girl from NY qualifies for the National Girls’ Tournament of Champions.
Looking at pre-tournament seedings, one would have to think IM Nicholas Checa has to be one of the favorites to win the Denker qualification. However, FM Ethan Li as well as National Masters Lev Paciorski, William Graif Jacob Chen, Henry Qi, and Warren Wang would also be out to contend for the spot. Adding to the intrigue is the fact that half of the titled players were from Canada and could not represent at the Denker, but could certainly play the role of spoiler. For the National Girls’ qualification, the odds on favorite has to be WFM Martha Samadashvili. She outrated the next closest girl competitors by over 200 points.
There were two sections of high school and the lower section is Under 1200. This led to many mismatches on the first day. Most of the top players started out 2-0, and it was only in round three there were experts playing masters on the top boards. Even so, there would be nine perfect scores going into the second day which would feature master versus master pairings on the top few boards for the last three rounds.
Four of nine players who survived the first day unscathed were Canadian: FMs Olivier Chiku-Ratte and Shawn Rodrigue-Lemieux, WIM Mali-Jade Ouellet and Ananda Saha. The five New Yorkers with perfect scores were: IM Checa, NMs Paciorkowski, Graif, and Wang and WFM Samadashvili. After Sunday morning, the perfect scores were down to four, but there were four players following by half a point. Top seeded FM Chiku-Ratte, 2nd seeded IM Checa and 4th and 5th seeded NMs Paciorkowski and Graif all stood at 4-0. Third seeded FM Ethan Li gave up a draw in round three but he led the group at 3 ½ points with NMs Chen, Qi and expert Brian Arthur being the other players with 3 ½.
Round five was the round that really started to separate the players. NM Lev Paciorkowski defeated FM Olvier Chiku – Ratte on board one.
On board two Checa defeated Graif in a complicated rook ending.
This would setup Paciorkowski versus Checa on board one for the championship. However, FM Li defeated Henri Qi in round five to emerge as the only player at 4 ½ since Chen and Arthur drew. Li could tie for first if board one was a draw, but Li would be facing Chiku-Ratte on board two. In addition to Chiku-Ratte, there were eleven other players at 4-1 including WFM Samadashvili. Samadashvili was leading the girls but Ella Papanek was only ½ point back and there were numerous girls at 3-1. Samadashvili also had a tough pairing in round six, facing Nate Shuman.
On board one, Checa defeated Paciorkowski to clinch the section at 6-0.
Li and Chiku – Ratte drew on board two. This meant that Checa finished a point ahead of the field, and there would be a large tie for second at 5-1. Checa and Li were seeded 2nd and 3rd in the tournament. They would have been 1st and 2nd, except that in accordance with tournament rules and CCA policy Chiku-Ratte’s Canadian adjusted rating was used, and this was much higher than his USCF rating.
In the end, there was an eight-way tie for 2nd and four of the eight had only one loss—to Checa! Second place went to Graif, 3rd to Paciorkowski and 4th to Warren Wang, who lost to Checa in round four. The 5th place winner was Samadashvili. She displayed fine technique in defeating Shuman in a king and pawn ending.
The remaining individual trophies were won by Derek Chen, Rodrigue-Lemieux, Max Li, FM Ethan Li, and FM Chiku-Ratte.
Edgemont Junior/Senior High School won the team title with 17 ½ points as they had three players finish in the tie for second: Graif, Chen, and Max Li. They were joined by teammate Yura Lemin. Traditional powerhouse Edward R. Murrow was runner up with 16 points.
As noted, Checa will represent New York in the Denker and Samadashvili in the National Girls’ Tournament. Since they are presently in 9th and 7th grade respectively, they will have many years to defend their titles!
The Junior High School Championship was not quite as strong, but was still quite competitive. There were two masters and a total of 11 players over 2000. The top two seeded masters Justin Chen and Wesley Wang would obviously be the favorites to win the right to represent New York in the Barber tournament.
The Junior High School also had only one section. In addition, there was a middle school reserve section, limited to players under 1000. This led to many mismatches in the JHS Championship section particularly in the first two rounds. Some of the top seeds gave up a draw along the way, and there were a few upsets.
Going into the final three rounds on Sunday, there were four perfect scores, including the top two seeds. One of the four-pointers was Steven Xue from IS 318. He upset 11th seeded Marcello Berger in round three and 6th seeded Brandon Wang in round four. In round five, he would face second seeded NM Wesley Wang, and this time the higher rated won.
On board one, NM Justin Chen was playing fourth grader Nico Chasin. Nico could have played in the Elementary Championship where he would have been the favorite as the first seed, but chose to play up a section. Chen won the game, setting up a final round match-up between the top two seeds for first place. There was one player trailing by half point—4th seeded Vincent Tsay, who is a sixth grader also playing up a section. He drew in round three and would face 3rd seeded Francis Durrette from Quebec. Tsay won the game and could tie for first if the top players drew, but top seeded Justin Chen did defeat 2nd seeded Wesley Wang to win first place and the right to represent New York at the Barber Championship.
Tsay finished in clear 2nd, and Wang took 3rd on tiebreaks over a group of players at 5-1 including: Justin Dalhouse, Katherine Davis, Sophie Morris-Suzuki, Ethan Gu, Daniel Levkov, and Sam Santora. Nico Chasin drew his last round game to finish at 4 ½ and had the highest tiebreaks to take the 10th place trophy.
The team championship went to a familiar school: IS 318 won first place on tiebreaks over NYC Lab Middle School for Collaborative Studies. Both schools finished with 17 points. Lab was led by Justin Chen, but only had five players. IS 318 had more depth with 14 players which proved to be the difference.
The Elementary Championship was also won with a 6-0 score, but this result was somewhat more surprising. Two of the top three seeds were from Canada and not eligible for the state title. There were three sections of Elementary school students, and there were a few more upsets leading up to the last day.
Going into the last round, there were only two players at 5-0, top seeded Tyler Tanaka from Quebec and 15th seeded Hamilton Shillingford from Dalton in New York City. Shillingford had just defeated 5th seeded Yassamin Ehsani in round five to set up the championship game. Even though Shillingford was over 400 points lower rated, he won the game finishing in clear first at 6-0. Tanaka had the best tiebreaks of the 9 players at 5-1 and took the second place trophy. Shillingford also led his team to the championship as Dalton won on tiebreaks over IS 318. Both schools finished with 16 ½ points.
In the Primary Championship, top seeded Liam Putnam was 5-0, going into the last round, and only needed a draw to secure clear 1st place. He won to finish 6-0, a point ahead of the field. One of the amazing things is that Liam played in his first USCF rated tournament less than a year ago and only learned how the pieces move less than a year and a half ago! Clearly, Liam has a bright future ahead of him!
The team title was won by Dalton on tiebreaks over Nest. Both schools finished with 16 points.
The K-1 Championship was the only championship section where the winners were not 6-0. John Moon, Reese Rutkoske, and Aliana Fausto all finished at 5-1 and are co-champions taking the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place trophies respectively.
The mixed doubles prizes are open to players in the high school section, and this year’s 1st place mixed doubles team was Olivier Chiku-Ratte and Renee Scorcia. Their team finished with a combined score of 8 ½ points.
The bughouse tournament Saturday night drew 15 teams and was won by the team of Wang Chen and Anthony Saquisili with a perfect 4-0 score.
On Sunday, there was a small Parents and Friends tournament. Timothy Smolinsky out-rated the 2nd seed by nearly 800 points and not surprisingly he went 4-0 to take the 1st place trophy and gain half a rating point!
Bill Goichberg and Continental Chess Association have been organizing this event in Saratoga Springs for many years. The Chief TD was NTD Steve Immitt. NTD David Hater was the overall floor chief. NTDs Harold Stenzel and Susan Breeding, ANTD Bob Messenger, and Local TD Al LeCours were the floor chiefs of Elementary, Primary/below, High School, and Junior High School sections respectively. Jabari McGreen and Hector Rodriguez III served as pairing chiefs. Nineteen other tournament directors also worked the event including: Taraqur Rahman, Ron Young, Bill Townsend, Hector Rodriguez IV, Brother John McManus, Anatoliy Ostrovskiy, Santhosh Abraham, Karl Heck, Eric Stenzel, Ernesto Rivera, Jace Jones, Steven Flores, Jaimie Jones, Harold Scott, Mariah McGreen, Maya McGreen, Kofi McGreen, Beena McGreen, and Polly Wright. Ebony Tyleer, Jessica MacArthur, and Dima Teitelman assisted on results taking. The webmaster was Nils Grotnes.
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