Over 2000 Flock to Baltimore as 2023 National Elementary School Championships Kick Off

If turnouts were ratings, the 2023 National Elementary School (NES) Championships would be sitting at board three in the K-6 Championship, board two in the K-5 Championship, and board one in the K-3 Championship. With 2,118 registered players, the tournament would even outrank this author by a few points. Which is to say: that's a lot of kids here in Baltimore, MD!


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It's not 2,118 kids, but it's a lot of kids (and parents!) crowded around GM Benjamin Finegold during his blitz session (photo Caroline King)


The NES is taking place at the Baltimore Convention Center from May 12 to 14, and the numbers are almost double last year's turnout. Indeed, they're even closing in on the 2,254 kids who played the pre-pandemic edition in Nashville, TN, back in 2019.



One of the main draws of this event is not one but two guest grandmasters. With GM Maxim Dlugy of New York's Chess Max Academy and the notorious GM Benjamin Finegold both on the premises, the duo decided to be more than the sum of their parts.





In addition to offering individual "Takes-On-All-Comers" blitz sessions, they teamed up for a "tandem simul" where they alternated moves against 30 players. The catch? They weren't allowed to confer with each other.



And They're Off!


The opening ceremony featured Nicky Reed's fantastic rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner," energizing players and families alike for the weekend ahead.



In the K-6 Championship, 21 of the 123 players remain perfect after two rounds. Top-seeded Nathan Yan leads the field. Guest Annotator IM Sandeep Sethuraman brings us an entertaining game where Yan defangs his opponent's Sicilian Dragon with relative ease. There are some openings where you can slow down and catch your breath. The Dragon ain't one of them.



In the K-5 Championship, 31 of the 165 registered players are on 2/2, with today's games again likely to separate the leaders from the rest of the pack.


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Top-seeded Aiden Liu (CA) is perfect around two rounds in the K-5 Championship (photo Caroline King)


In the K-3 Championship, 33 of the 144 players managed to score 2/2 on Friday. Nevertheless, the most captivating game from the day came from two players who had to settle for a draw in their second round encounter. Sethuraman captures the excitement and tension that is so characteristic of a national scholastic championship.



With 13 sections for participants to choose from, there are sure to be too many fantastic games to keep track of this weekend. With the K-1 sections taking place in another playing hall, it's a shame we won't be able to follow their games live.


Abigail Zhou (L) is rated 1525 and only in first grade! The New Yorker defeated Lucas Pingel and is still perfect after two games (photo Caroline King)


So, instead, follow us to the K-1 playing hall and let's take a look at what was going on there.



It's a packed room, but once the parents leave, it's time for the kids to have some fun!



Finally, congratulations are in order for Washington's Vihaan Jammalamadaka for winning the K-6 Blitz Championship with an 11/12 score. New Yorker Linxi Zhu won the K-3 Blitz championship, also a full point ahead of the field. 

Play continues today with three rounds, and concludes on Sunday May 14 with rounds six and seven. The top games can be followed live and rounds five through seven will be covered on our Twitch channel with commentary from IM Igor Khmelnitsky and WGM Sabina Foisor. Standings and pairings are available here, and a full schedule of events is available here.