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Checkmate: Students win chess competition

Posted: December 13, 2011 1:30 a.m.
Updated: December 13, 2011 1:30 a.m.

From left, back row: Tommy Hart and Anthony Wong; front row: Jackson Stallings and Sam Kennedy, members of Hart High School’s chess team, pose with their trophies. The players emerged as the Western champions at the 2011 National Youth Action Chess Championships this weekend.

Four of Hart High School’s chess players defeated opponents from four western states in Irvine on the weekend to emerge the Western champions at the 2011 National Youth Action Chess Championships.

The win marks the first national chess title for any school in the Santa Clarita Valley, according to the national chess group hosting the event.

The four champs are Jackson Stallings, Sam Kennedy, Tommy Hart and Anthony Wong.

On Tuesday, they brought their seven major trophies — including the 3-foot overall trophy — to science class to formally present them to Hart High School Principal Dr. Collyn Nielsen.

“There is a lot going at Hart High School, and this is just another example of how well-rounded our kids are,” Nielsen said. “Excellence seeps into all areas,” he said.

The Hart chess team won the High School Division of the National Youth Action Chess Championships West at the Hyatt Regency in Irvine, having beaten teams from California, Nevada, Arizona and Oregon.

The four champs on the Hart High Chess Team had already traveled to tournaments in San Diego, Orange, and Glendale this semester.

“We’ve won a ton a trophies but never this one,” said the team’s chess coach, Jay Stallings, Jackson’s father. “We’ve never won a national title from a (United States Chess Federation) sanctioned event, and for me, it wasn’t with a team of recent recruits.

“These are students that I’ve had for 10 years,” he said.

“It’s kind of like winning a World Series with your own farm team — guys you brought up through the organization. And it just keeps getting better and better every year,” Stallings said.

The Hart chess team is expected to compete in San Jose in February and at the Spring Nationals in Minneapolis in April.

Team members knew halfway through the tournament that they were the front-runners in the competition.

With Oregon nipping at their heels, they led from Round 1 until the conclusion of the tournament nine rounds later, the chess federation said in a news release.

Jackson Stallings, who is senior team captain, finished with an individual third-place trophy, junior Kennedy was fourth, senior Wong earned 11th and freshman Hart grabbed 13th.

Hart High also won the National “Speed” Blitz Chess title for the event with teammate Sam Kennedy leading the way with a sixth-place finish.

Founded in 1939, the United States Chess Federation is the official, not-for-profit U.S. membership organization for chess players and chess supporters of all ages and strengths, from beginners to Grandmasters.

The group represents the United States in the World Chess Federation, which brings together chess players around the world.

Jay Stallings is the director of the nonprofit California Youth Chess League, teaching chess to local students.

He had 13 players competing in younger divisions at the same tournament in Irvine.

Those students earned trophies in the junior high, elementary and primary divisions.


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