Justus Williams Wins New York Scholastic Champs

Photo Tim Hanks

Photo Tim Hanks

Recently there have been many articles on the various mega-scholastic championships being held around the country.   Rated, Oldest, Biggest, Continuously held or some combination of the above seem to be the most common superlatives used to describe these super events.  I will claim that the recent New York State Scholastic Championship is the oldest, continuously held, rated, scholastic championship.  This year’s event was the 49th version without interruption and all have been rated by the US Chess Federation.   This year’s event slightly surpassed last year’s attendance total as 938 players competed in 10 sections.  This tournament is so large it is held in three separate buildings – two hotels and a convention center!  The logistics can be challenging, but it is for a good cause.

The showcase event is the High School Championship section and the winner earns the right to represent New York in the Denker Tournament of Champions.  There was no shortage of talent this year as three FMs and five NMs headed a field of 93 players.  The top seed was Joshua Colas, who was recently featured in an in-depth US Chess piece by Daaim Shabazz.  

Second seed Justus Williams has been featured in the mainstream a lot lately, in both a piece for TMZ and a commercial for Cadillac.

Williams started the first day 3-0.

Meanwhile Colas built a promising position against Jacob Chen and was up a pawn in a rook and pawn ending.  However, even though Colas pressed hard for the win, Chen defended well and drew.  Sunday morning there were 8 perfect scores.  Two games were drawn including Justus Williams’ game versus Canadian player Maili-Jade Ouellet.  The decisive games were NM James Black defeating Will Gahrman and NM Alexander Crump defeating NM Olivier Chiku-Ratte.  Going into round 5, only Black and Crump had perfect scores.  They drew in round 5, though NM James Black missed a win.

James Black- Alexander Crump, after Crump’s 18th move.

Colas and Williams won to keep pace.  Heading into the last round, there were four players with 4 ½ out of 5.  The last round pairings were FM Williams vs NM Crump and FM Colas vs NM Black.  Williams won his game over NM Crump

Colas could only manage a draw after building up a promising position only to miss a win and have to settle for a perpetual check.

No tiebreaks were necessary as Williams finished in clear first with 5 ½ points.  The senior from Bronx Center for Science and Math has earned the right to represent  New York at the Denker Tournament of High School Champions.  Five players tied for 2nd at 5-1.  In tiebreak order they were Maili-Jade Ouelett, NM James Black, FM Olivier Chiku-Ratte, FM Joshua Colas and Nancy Wang.  Additionally, Nancy Wang finished as the top girl and earned the right to represent New York in the National Girls Invitational.

NM Black led his team perennial powerhouse Edward R. Murrow high school to the team title.

Max Li posted a perfect 6-0 to win clear first in the Junior High School section.  He earned the right to represent New York in the Barber tournament of K-8 Champions.  Here is his last round win versus Justin Chen.  Both entered the final round 5-0.  Li played a fine positional game, especially considering the relatively quick time control.  Li brings home the full point versus his higher rated opponent.

This tournament had a distinguished visitor in round three.  The Honorable Joanne Yepsen, Mayor of the City of Saratoga Springs came by to observe play.  Mayor Yepsen was particularly interested in how chess helped students in other academic pursuits.  We had some of that data on hand and shared it with her.  She was also quite impressed with the number of girls playing in the tournament and stopped by the Women In Chess booth that was setup at the tournament.  Saratoga Springs has been an outstanding host for many years and having civic leaders recognize the benefits of chess  helps the prestige of the tournament.

As is usual in a scholastic tournament there are a few interesting stories.  In one of the Elementary school under sections a player on an adjacent board told another player that’s checkmate.  The player on the adjacent board admitted he did not see the checkmate until it was pointed out to him.  There was no malice, this was just a case of a young player being overly enthusiastic.  It is hard to penalize the innocent player receiving the advice, but I cannot let him benefit from it either.  The position was equal (absent the mate in 1) with a lot of chess to be played.  I ruled that the player receiving the advice could not play that move and I penalized the player giving the advice 20 minutes (almost half his time).  In the end justice was done as the child who had the mate in 1 eventually won the game anyway.

In another instance, a parent complained that a TD flipped a coin to decide whether a player had or had not touched a piece.  Clearly, we would not encourage such TD techniques.  I started to investigate and all TDs said they were not involved.  I told the parent I needed to know which TD made the decision and needed the player to point out the TD.  At this point, the layer stated not only that they could not identify the TD but that the TD did not flip a coin at all but merely said something to the effect that touch move claims without evidence are like a coin flip!

We also had a photo finish of sorts.  There was a game in which a player had mate in one, but let their flag fall before making the checkmating move.  Fortunately, we had a director observing this.  That didn’t stop the controversy, but it made the ruling much easier!

The winner’s of the Championship sections were:

High School                                         FM Justus Williams          5 ½ points

Junior High School                         Max Li                                   6 points

Elementary                                         Nico Chasin                         5 ½ points        tie with Canada player top NY score

Primary                                                 Liran Zhou                           6 points

Kindergarten-1st grade                  Brewington Hardaway   6 points

NM Alisher Podavonov & Mengnan Chen collectively scored 9-3 to win an engraved chess set as the top mixed doubles team.

New York State Chess Association treasurer and Empire Chess Magazine Editor Karl Heck won the Parents and Friends Quad on Sunday.

Complete standings can be found at http://chessevents.com/nyscholastics/.  Players who departed early and did not pick up a trophy may contact Larry Brown at Crown Trophies at 718-769-4111 or 718-769-4112. http://www.chesstour.com/Whereismytrophy.htm

Archives of most CCA tournaments are at www.chesstour.com/cross.html.

The tournament was made possible by a large number of tournament directors.  NTD Steve Immitt was the chief TD. NTD David Hater was the floor chief.  Section and pairing chiefs were Harold Stenzel, Bob Messenger, Polly Wright, Al Lecours,   Jabari McGreen   Brother John McManus,  and Hector Rodriguez III.  Floor TDS were Ron Young, Bill Townsend, Andy Rea, , Santhosh Abraham, Valicio Palha, Taraqur Rahman, Maya McGreen, Mariah McGreen, Steven Flores, Hector Rodrguez IV, Beenmati Mcgreen, Kofi Mcgreen, Mel Romero, Other staff and volunteers Kim Doo (who also represented US Chess Women’s Chess) Daniel Rohde and Sophia Rohde.  Nils Grotnes served as the Webster.  Chess sets were provided by Little House of Chess and The Right Move.


  1. Congratulations to the winners of each section. I look forward to meeting the NY participants at the Opening Ceremony of the Denker, Barber and National Girls events in Indianapolis. Justus Williams was Co-Champion of the first Barber Tournament of K-8 Champions and as a Senior this will be his opportunity to claim another National Invitational Title.

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