Aloha Trophies: The 2012 Hawaii State Scholastics
By Beau Mueller   
April 8, 2012
Saturday, March 31, 2012 was another beautiful day in Honolulu, Hawaii.  The sun was out, the sky was clear - it was truly a perfect day for a beach outing, a hike, or ... chess!   For Hawaii's growing scholastic chess population, Saturday was the day many were waiting for all year - the Hawaii State Scholastic Chess Championships.

Hawaii isn't exactly known for its chess (or chess players).  Perhaps the reader has heard of the Waikiki chess tables (Hawaii's version of Washington Square Park), or of the rumor that most of Hawaii's players are under-rated; the combination of Hawaii's small rating pool, few rated tournaments and rapidly improving players has contributed to this often true rumor.  Many of Hawaii's players have done very well in the large class opens in Las Vegas, Reno and elsewhere over the years. 

While Hawaii has only a few rated tournaments per year, scholastic chess in the islands is absolutely booming!  For the past few years the Hawaii Chess Federation has run between six and ten major scholastic tournaments per year.  Many schools field active chess teams, and chess coaches in the Islands are in very high demand. 

From kindergartners to seniors in High School, a record-breaking 144 players from 12 schools came from all over the state to seek team and individual glory in this year's Championships.  Held at Washington Middle School, in downtown Honolulu, this one-day event saw four new individual champions and team champions crowned. 

Evan Zheng
Pre-tournament favorites in the High School Division (K-12) included Stephen Mau (USCF 2013), Eldon Nakagawa (USCF 1988) Likeke Aipa (USCF 1968) and Tristan Kaonohi (USCF 1957).  All of these guys have growing chess resumes:  Stephen was last year's champion and Hawaii's Denker representative.  Eldon won the National K-9 Blitz event at the National Junior High Championships in 2010. Kamehameha High classmates Likeke and Tristan have both done well in big tournaments on the mainland.

 However, in a bit of an upset, it was 9th grader Evan Zheng (USCF 1713) who took down the High School title.  Evan went 4.5 for 5, conceding only one (last-round) draw.  Evan recently did very well in the U1700 section of the North American Open.  He chose the following game against Tristan as his favorite.


Ford Nakagawa
With both Stephen and Evan on their team, Mililani High School handily took the team gold in the High School Division over Kamehameha High (silver winners) and Kalani High (bronze). 

In the Intermediate Division (K-8) heavy favorite Ford Nakagawa (USCF 1756) went undefeated and won the gold.  Ford is Eldon's younger brother and also has a national title to his name - in 2009 he was a National Co-Champion in the K-5 section of the Supernationals.  As his favorite game from the tournament, Ford selected the following:


Host Washington Middle School fielded a gigantic team and won the gold in the Intermediate Division, over Punahou (silver) and Mililani (bronze).  It should also be mentioned that a sizeable team from the rural island of Molokai (population about 7000), Molokai Middle School, flew to Oahu and participated in the tournament.  Molokai's team placed a very close 4th and won the "Farthest-Travel" award.

Zachary Kim
In the Elementary Division (K-6), a giddy and always-smiling 2nd grader, Zachary Kim (935 local rating) took down the title.  Zachary actually played up a division and won all of his games!  Zachary's team, the "Hawaii Homeschool" team, won the elementary gold, ahead of Kamehameha (silver) and last year's champ Punahou.

Finally, in the Primary Division (K-3), it was 3rd grader Jason Sadayasu who won all of his games and claimed the gold medal.  The very large team from Jason's school Punahou won the gold, followed by Kamehameha and Hawaii Homeschool.

Hawaii Homeschool team

Jason Sadayasu
  The Hawaii Chess Federation has recently gone through a technological facelift with a new updated website, Facebook page and Twitter account.    There is a huge photo gallery from the event on Facebook and the Federation hopes that many readers will consider liking/following them.

Find complete tournament results, crosstables, pictures of the champions and more on and like us on

Learn more about the upcoming Spring Scholastics on the official sites, the National High School [K12] Championship (Minneapolis, MN - April 13-15), National Junior High [K-9] Championship (San Diego, CA - April 27-29) National Elementary [K-6] Championship (Nashville, TN - May 11-13)