National Middle School (K-8) Championship Kicks Off In Round Rock With Over 1,200 Participants

An impressive 1,247 players crowded the pairing sheets at the start of the 2023 National Middle School (K-8) Championship in Round Rock, TX, taking place April 21 through 23.

It’s true that everything is bigger in Texas, with this year's total number of participants eclipsing last year’s total of 945 kids playing in Grapevine, TX. The turnout is just short of the 2019 edition’s 1,287 players also in Grapevine, TX. So, on second thought, the only thing that's bigger than Texas is, well, more Texas!

Kids across 35 states will be competing between the K-8 Championship, five “Under” sections, and the K-8 Unrated section. Predictably, the state most represented is the host state, with a whopping 870 Texans registered. New York flew out 176 players, good for the second-most of any state. Michigan came with 55, and Florida was just behind them with 51 (including many deadly blitzers).

After the opening ceremony (available for replay here), everyone rushed to their board to start a grueling, exciting, and (hopefully) unforgettable seven rounds of chess.



News From Day One

The tournament had barely kicked off before there was drama at the top. On board eight, Nandini Prakash (1710), a seventh grader from Texas, upset New Yorker Aditeya Das, a sixth-grader rated 2142. Right from the opening, Prakash had Das on the ropes after the latter mistakenly castled into Prakash’s swift London attack.


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Nandini Prakash had the most high-profile upset of the first round (Randy Anderson)


While she missed one or two knockout blows, overall, she played a model game for anybody interested in learning how to play this popular opening. FM Sandeep Sethuraman annotates below:



After two rounds, 26 players are still perfect. Top-seeded FM Brewington Hardaway, who also happens to be the reigning Barber champ, is looking to win his last-ever NMS medal.


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FM Brewington Hardaway looks to add one last middle school medal to his collection (Randy Anderson)


The New Yorker was pushed surprisingly hard, though, by another Texan. His opponent, sixth-grader Likhit Bhangale, is rated only 1856. You wouldn’t guess it from the game, however. Again, Sethuraman annotates:



Second-seeded CM Eric Chang Liu is the only other player whose rating is over 2300. The Texan seventh grader is also undefeated, and we’ll likely see more of his games as the tournament progresses. We should be well on our way to a New York versus Texas showdown between Hardaway and Liu, but nothing is set in stone. Indeed, today, the rating gap on the top boards should decrease, with the top seeds likely to be playing experts as early as the fourth round. Follow the action live here!



There were no major surprises in the blitz tournament, with FM Brewington Hardaway finishing clear first out of 144 players with 11½/12.


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Hardaway set what he hopes to be the tone for the weekend, finishing a point-and-a-half clear of the field in the blitz (Randy Anderson)


Yesterday, there was a four-way tie for second through fifth with 10/12. In tiebreak order, the players were: Xavier Bruni (AL), Santiago De Jesus Casares (FL), Advait Nair (FL), and Oscar Izzy Williams (FL).



Williams was the only member of this bunch who had the “pleasure” of playing the champion, and also was the only sixth-grader to finish in the top five.

Earlier on Thursday, Ronen Wilson (VA) and J. Coville won the bughouse tournament with 9/10. Any information on Wilson’s mysterious partner, who is not registered for any event (as far as the author can tell), is welcome. (Update 4/22/2023: the mysterious player was (Update 4/23/2023: Julian) Colville from California. Thanks to all the super-sleuths who helped identify our mystery bughouser.)


Fun with GM Sadorra

GM Julio Sadorra, the University of Texas Dallas chess coach, is this year’s Guest Grandmaster. Yesterday, Sadorra started off the weekend with a 30-board simul. Sadorra can be seen in action here:



Playing kids rated as high as 1893, Sadorra dazzled with his speed and precision.



His victory against top-seeded Ishnoor Singh Chandi is worth playing over. At a key moment, Chandi underestimates the speed of his opponent’s attack. But, with one counter-intuitive trade of his own fianchettoed bishop, the grandmaster was able to keep Chandi’s king in his crosshairs.



After the exhibition, Sadorra went on to take on all challengers in blitz. With an enraptured crowd, Sadorra continued to give free lessons to the youth.



Sadorra will host two more blitz sessions this weekend, and he will also be providing lectures with Q&A sessions today and tomorrow. See the full schedule of events for more details.


Girls Club

It wouldn’t be a National Championship without a visit to the Girls Club. WIM Luciana Morales hosted a lecture where she taught a game by the brilliant Georgian GM Nona Gaprindashvili. Morales recently published a Chessable course, Queens of the Chess Board, chronicling the history and games of the first five Women’s World Champions.



The Girls Club will be around all weekend, with WIMs Emily Nguyen and Dr. Alexey Root both making appearances.

If these names sound familiar, it might be because Nguyen will also be providing Twitch commentary of rounds five through seven along with IM Douglas Root. WIM Root will be providing coverage of the next two days of the event here at Chess Life Online as well.


Official event website

Live broadcast of top boards

Schedule of all events

Pairings and Results

Twitch for rounds five through seven