Northern California Scholastic Team Draws Strong Field

Monta Vista HS of Cupertino (left) emerged victorious in the High School section, here pictured in the final round vs Saratoga HS

More than 110 players from 25+ schools descended upon the Santa Clara Convention Center on Nov. 11-12 for the 2nd Northern California Scholastic Team Championship.

While there is no shortage of well-produced local tournaments, the NorCal Team Championship, led by myself and Judit Sztaray, Executive Director of BayAreachess, aims to fill a gap in the calendar: a lack of team-based competitions, especially for older (middle and high-school) scholastic players.

How It Works

Four players from the same school (or club or other affiliation) are ordered by rating, with the highest-rated player on 1st board, second-highest on 2nd board, etc. Teams are paired using players’ average combined ratings. To win a match, teams must score 2.5 points or more from individual wins and/or draws (2-2 is a drawn match). Players secondarily compete for top board prizes.

Such team-based competition, similar to the format used in U.S. Amateur Team tournaments, builds cooperation and camaraderie, and can lead to inspired play and exciting upsets. Once hugely popular in the Bay Area, team competition has waned in recent years, with the NorCal High School Chess League last playing two years ago.

The prizes were also unique for a scholastic tournament, de-emphasizing trophies for commemorative, engraved chess clocks for the top 3 teams and top individual boards in each section – elementary, middle and high school.

‘Buzz in the Tournament Hall’

Judging by the sizable and high-powered turnout – more than twice the inaugural tournament last spring – and the spirited buzz in the hall, the Scholastic Team Championship is filling a need.

Participating schools included Monta Vista HS of Cupertino (2016 national HS champions), Harker School (2015 national HS champions), powerhouses such as Saratoga High School and Milpitas HS, inaugural tournament winner Lowell HS of San Francisco, Fallon Middle School of Dublin, Jewish HS of San Francisco, Kehillah HS of Palo Alto, Evergreen HS of San Jose, Bret Harte Middle School of San Jose, Dublin HS, Redwood Middle School of Saratoga, Bella Vista Elementary School of San Ramon, Green Elementary of Dublin, and Bullis Charter School of Los Altos.

Monta Vista and Harker Reign Supreme

Harker easily swept the K-6 tournament on Saturday, led by 5th grade expert Vyom Vidyarthi (top 10 nationally in his age group) perfect 5-0 record on board 1. Harker’s brother-and-sister duo Anika Rajaram and Rohan Rajaram both scored 5-0 on boards 2 and 4, respectively, while Ronak Suri of Evergreen Elementary in San Jose scored 5-0 on board 3. Bella Vista Elementary School of San Ramon took second with 4 points to Harker, while Evergreen took 3rd.

Led by expert Manas Manu on first board, Monta Vista justified its top seed by winning the high school team title on Sunday with a perfect 5-0 record and defeating second seeded Saratoga HS in an exciting final round. Saadiq Shaikh won the top board prize on 2nd board, while Samyak Karnavat won top 4th board.

Milpitas HS, led by the tournament’s highest-rated player, master Vinesh Ravuri, took 2nd, defeating Harker, which returned to compete in the K-12 division, in a tense final round matchup. Vinesh was 5-0 on first board, and defeated Vidyarthi in the final round.

Thanks to NM Vinesh Ravuri, who kindly shared analysis two of his fine wins over Trina Chatterjee in Round 2 and Vyom Vidarthi in Round 5.

Saratoga HS’ A team took 3rd place. Andy Kuei from Evergreen HS of San Jose took top 3rd board with 4.5 points, boosting his rating by nearly 400 points.

In the K-8 division, Fallon Middle School of Dublin took the top two slots, with one of its teams, nearly upsetting Monta Vista in the first round. A mixed team, led by Lawson Middle School expert Ojas Karnavat, took 3rd, with Karnavat going 5-0 on first board. Benjamin Sloutsky of Redwood Middle School of Saratoga took top 2nd board, while Sahil Sandasani and Gabriel Sasso from Fallon took top 3rd and 4th board, respectively.

Thanks to all of the players and coaches who joined the event! And thanks to Judit Sztaray, and Tom Langland, national TD and President, CalChess, for strongly supporting and smoothly running the tournament.

We hope this tournament kickstarts more inter-school team matches. Fallon, Jewish HS of San Francisco and Kehillah HS of Palo Alto are particularly keen – contact myself, coach Michael Fitch and coach Zachi Baharav, respectively, if your school or club team is interested!

And with the strong demonstrated player interest in this revived format, we hope to gain approval at the next CalChess board meeting in December for this to become an official CalChess Scholastic Team Championship. Expect an even bigger, stronger event in 2018!

View the full results here, and check out our Facebook album to see pictures from the tournament and of the winners.

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