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Chelsea Kids Win Top Prize at National Chess Contest

By Mathew Katz | May 24, 2012 11:50am
Spencer Ha considers his next move.
Spencer Ha considers his next move.
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NYC Lab School Chess Team

CHELSEA — Checkmate.

With no school funding and limited training, a group of pawn-wielding preteens from around the city have proved their strategic mettle, tying for first place at the United States Chess Federation's National K-6 Championships held last weekend in Nashville.

The sixth-grade chess team from Chelsea's NYC Lab School took home the trophy from the tournament after months of training — far short of some of their competitors' training regimen.

Adrian Durkin, Sean Chung, Spencer Ha and Jonathan Chan combined their points for the win. Teammates Eugene Thomas and Travis Tyson, who also traveled to Nashville, both placed in the top 100.

The kids shared the title with Weibel Elementary School in Fremont, Calif., along with the Upper East Side academic mecca, The Dalton School. Each team walked away with $500.

Since the Lab School has no city funding for after-school programs, the teams' parents all worked to create and fund a chess class that brought in expertise from New York Chess Kids, including a coach, Carlos Pujol.

Parents also had to pay for airfare and lodging for the tournament in Nashville.

"We did this on our own," said Beth Windsor, whose son Adrian Durkin is the team's captain.

"All we needed to do was what most parents do. The financial part is a burden to many parents, but it's something you do."

During the grueling three-day tournament, the kids played two games on Friday, three games on Saturday, and two games on Sunday.

The team was formed this year, with students meeting once a week for two hours for about six months. Among their wins on the road to Nashville were a first-place award in a citywide chess tournament and second place at the state tournament in Saratoga.

The team plans to use the momentum from the recent win to continue their training in the hopes of dominating the so-called supernationals, a grand chess championship that takes place every four years. The next one is coming up in 2013 — also in Nashville.

"Chess after a certain point is hard, but I'd love to see them to continue to work," Windsor said.

The team itself is a model of diversity, coming from all over the city, with team members of Asian, African-American, and Caucasian descent.

"What’s great about this team is how they’re such a beautiful picture of a public school system," Windsor said.

"The chess transcended everything else."