They don’t call it the game of Kings for nothing. Two teams of Brooklyn youngsters have brought national honors to Kings County — one restoring former glory, and another achieving greatness for the very first time.
The Edward R. Murrow High School chess team has done it again, pwning the competition and bringing home the school’s eighth national title after a three-day battle in Nashville, Tenn., their first national championship since 2007.
Meanwhile, Park Slope’s PS/MS 282’s chess team won its first national championship ever at the same competition — the United States Chess Federation’s fifth Super Nationals — against thousands of the country’s shrewdest young chess players.
“I founded the chess team and I’ve coached it throughout, and this is one of the strongest team I’ve ever had,” said Murrow chess coach Eliot Weiss, who has helmed the team since 1981. “They’re great kids, focused, and they know how to win the big game.”
The Midwood school’s chess team earned the moniker “Kings of New York” after bringing home seven national titles between 1992 and 2007. But this year’s checkmate teammates are global royalty, representing as many countries as it has players, with ten players all born in ten different countries — from Russia to Jamaica, Poland to Pakistan, and of course, the good ol’ USA.
Team captain Alex Oscrovskiy, 17, was two-years-old when he first learned how to arrange the pieces on a chess board, and grew up e-mailing chess moves in online games with his grandfather in Moscow after immigrating from the old country.
“Chess has played a huge part in my life,” said Oscrovskiy, who scored third overall in the country and the best on his team. “But after these three crazy days, I’m just happy to go back to the real world.”
Three crazy days indeed, for this was no mere national championship — the Super Nationals are a quadrennial event more sacred to young chess players than the Olympics to world-class shot putters, because it comes only once in a high school player’s career.
“This year we played Super Nationals, and it felt pretty good bringing home the trophy,” said Paraguayan junior Alexis Paredes, 16, a master of chess and understatements. “It’s just huge and any team can compete.”
Now, with the tournament behind them, their post-win celebration at Dave and Busters a fond memory, and classes now in session, the champs still have one more thing to hope for — a trip to the White House.
“We’re hoping to go to the White House,” said Weiss. “We were invited a few years ago, but we met the other guy. We’d love to go back and meet Obama.”
PS/MS 282’s Royal Panthers won first place in their age groups, beating out hundreds of teams from throughout the country.
“We worked and worked and worked some more,” said their coach Steve Colding of the victorious team that got psyched up before each match with deep breathing exercises, a group huddle, and a boisterous roar. “I’m really humbled — the children have worked so hard all year long.”
It was the children’s dedication to the game that scored them their big win, said Colding, who added that the team members even spent their spring break tweaking strategies and honing their skills.
Out of the school’s 100-member team, only 25 players were able to make it to Tennessee for the competition due to lack of funding, said the Sixth Avenue elementary and middle school’s grandmaster coach.
The kids, ranging from kindergartners to fifth-graders, were divided up into age-based squads and competed in seven arduous games that each lasted up to four hours.
“I’m tremendously proud,” Colding said. “We didn’t know we were winning until the very end.”
The Panthers earned 23 points in the tournament out of a possible 28, beating the second place team by two points. But the team not only triumphed as a group, but also as individuals.
Fourth-grader Marcus Scott tied for first place as a national champion in the “under 900” section. Scott helped secure the Panthers’ victory by winning every single one of the seven matches he played in.
“I’m very proud of him and I’m mostly proud of how hard he works,” said the nine-year-old’s mom Wendy Karner of Brooklyn Heights. “He just loves it. His goal is to be a grandmaster by the time he is 11, which is really aspirational.”
More than 5,000 students from elementary, middle, and high schools nation-wide gathered at the Gaylord Opryland Convention Center for the chess competition.Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cn
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