Checkmate! Murrow chess masters crowned New York champs

We are the champions!: Lead by fearless coach Eliot Weiss, Murrow High School’s chess team is the state champion once again!
Photo by Steve Solomonson

They don’t call them “The Kings of New York” for nothing.

Edward R. Murrow’s teenage chess wizards snatched up a last-minute victory at the state championships in Saratoga Springs this weekend — the latest triumph for a team that not only has 15 state championships and seven national titles under its board, but has become the subject of a book and an upcoming movie.

Their latest gambit earned the stellar squad a trophy, a chance to travel to Albany to meet Gov. Cuomo, plus more bragging rights.

But the win wasn’t easy, said coach Eliot Weiss, who created the team in 1981 and has led his students to ten straight state victories between 2000 and 2009.

“The last two games of the tournament, my players were overwhelmed,” he said. “They were playing against master-level players and they’re only at the expert level!”

Last weekend’s victory played out like a Rocky movie: Murrow’s strategy masters suffered a two-year funk in 2010 and 2011, but clawed their way back to the top this weekend — and were treated like rock stars when they showed up at the Avenue L school on Monday morning.

“People were coming up to us, greeting us and cheering us,” said Markel Brown, a senior savoring his second state championship victory.

The team’s uncanny success inspired a book “The Kings of New York,” by sportswriter Michael Weinreb.

A movie based on the book is reportedly in the works, but Weiss says the strategy behind his team’s many victories is a simple one.

“If you just play blindly you’re gonna make the same mistakes; history will repeat itself,” said Weiss. “We play a lot and we analyze our games to see what our mistakes are. That’s the only way you improve.”

The squad, whose members include players hailing from South America, the Caribbean, and Europe, will employ some powerful mind games at the April nationals in Minneapolis, promised Weiss, who is currently raising money to fund the trip.

“If you win in chess you’re winning more than a game,” he said. “You’re winning your opponent’s mind. It can be quite crushing.”

Contact Eliot Weiss at (516) 652-8724 or email jeeb314@aol.com to help finance the squad’s trip to the nationals.

Reach reporter Eli Rosenberg at erosenberg@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2531. And follow him at twitter.com/emrosenberg.

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