Junior High Nationals Wrap-Up
By Elizabeth Vicary   
April 8, 2008
Matthew Dahl was part of the 7-way tie for first in the K-8 Champ. 
Both sections of Junior High Nationals came down to the final round last weekend in Dallas, Texas. New York’s Dalton School and Odle Middle School, from Bellevue, Washington were tied going into the last round, but the face off between team leaders Michael Lee (Odle) and Parker Zhao (Dalton) decided the championship for the Washington school. Despite losing, Parker named this as his best game of the tournament. When asked why he played the King’s Indian Attack against the Sicilian, he responded, perhaps jokingly, that it was hard to lose quickly with white in this opening and that he was a “drag-out” kind of player.

This game gave Michael Lee clear first in the K-9 Championship with 6.5/7. His only draw was to Darwin Yang, who finished second with 6.0.

Michael Lee. Photo courtesy Monroi.com

    Going into the last round, Canyon Vista from Austin, Texas led the K-8 section with 18 points, followed by Hunter and IS 318, both from NY, with 17.5. Surprisingly, top board Alec Getz (Hunter) offered a draw on move 9, presumably to clinch a share of the individual first place title. His lower rated opponent, Brennan Lee, was astonished by the offer, but after checking the position on board two, where the only other player in their score group, George Qi of Canyon Vista, seemed to be worse, he accepted. The second board game was complicated, however, and lasted several more hours, with multiple winning opportunities for both sides. After the game, George admitted he had confused two lines and played the incorrect move Rxc3, but felt he recovered well; the ended in a draw.

 Canyon Vista and Hunter finished tied for first, with the Texan school taking home the first place trophy on tiebreaks. There was a seven-way tie for the individual title with Alec Getz, Justin Karp, George Qi, Brennan Lee, Michael Chiang, Matthew Dahl, and Jason Altschuler all getting 6/7.

 IS 318 came third with 19 and Lakeside Middle School of Seattle took fourth with 15.  Rockaway Middle School of Miami Florida deserves kudos for their continued success in the under sections, winning both the Under 1250 and Under 750 sections, and finishing fifth and second in the Under 1000 and Unrated sections. Mott Hall of New York took the Under 1000.
Funniest story of the tournament prize goes to Jon Shacter, section chief of the Under 1000 section, for the following endgame comedy. He witnessed a king and rook versus king and rook endgame that continued for 30+ moves. Both sides had multiple opportunities to trade rooks or claim three fold repetition, but each side insisted on “playing for the 50-move rule.” At some point, one player hung his rook, after which it took the lucky winner twenty minutes to force checkmate. You have to applaud that king of fighting spirit and dogged determination.
 On a personal note, my students and I would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to Greg Shahade, who selflessly volunteered his time to help coach IS 318.

Photo Gallery
photos provided by Monroi.com and Shaun Smith, tournament program director at Chess-In-the-Schools.

M.S. 171, which formed a team, just a month ago came 5th place in the Under 750 section

Keven Lugo won the K-8 Under 1000 section

Trophy Camoflauge by Sharika Hasan of MS 279 in the Bronx

Dana Hannibal

In addition to giving a simultaneous exhibition, GM Hikaru Nakamura graciously signed trophies and boards

Darwin Yang, 2nd place in the K-9 Championship

Joshua Perez smiles after a crucial win

Kassa Korley of Dalton