Chess team wins big at San Diego national tournament


Photo courtesy of Jeevan Karamsetty.

Junior Jeevan Karamsetty helped lead the TJ Chess Team to a first place finish in the blitz tournament after placing third individually.

Ellen Kan, Managing Editor

On the weekend of April 3-6, members of the TJ Chess Team traveled to San Diego to compete in the United States Chess Federation (USCF) 2014 National High School (K-12) Championship.

Juniors Nihar Gudiseva, Arun Kannan, Jeevan Karamsetty, Kalyan Madanapalli and Nandan Srinivasa and freshmen Isuru Attanagoda and Benjamin Lyons flew to San Diego on April 3 to participate in the blitz event, which opened the tournament. In the blitz section, each player plays two games each with six different opponents for a total of 12 games. There is a heavy emphasis on speed, as each game lasts no more than 10 minutes.

Karamsetty, who has the highest ranking of all the Jefferson players, tied for second place in the blitz tournament and placed third overall, while Attanagoda tied for 11th and finished 16th. TJ Chess Team also made history when they placed first as a team in the blitz event.

“Our players had some very key victories when they mattered the most and I was extremely happy,” Karamsetty, one of the team captains, said. “We were thrilled to win the blitz tournament and we will be going for first place in both events next year.”

The next day, senior Ashley Xue, juniors Brian Li and Shicheng Zhao, sophomore Perry Feng and freshman Joseph Chen joined their teammates for the rest of the tournament. The team competed in the U1600 section, which is for players with a rating of less than 1600, and the Championship section.

Individually, Karamsetty and Attanagoda placed sixth and 21st, respectively, in the Championship event, while Madanapalli placed second for the U1600. Although they weren’t quite as successful in the Championship and U1600 events as they were in the blitz, the TJ Chess Team still walked away with a fifth place team finish in the two sections.

“TJ did very well in the blitz event – you can’t get better than first place,” Kannan said. “For the main event, an extra win or two might have meant we could have gotten first. We still did very well because we were definitely not as well-off as other teams with several strong players.”

The TJ Chess Team generally performs well at tournaments. In March, the team competed at the Virginia State Scholastic Chess Championships, in which they won both the blitz and main events for the 16th time in a row. In addition, all 20 players that participated from Jefferson finished in the top 45. However, the blitz tournament win in San Diego was their first team title at a national tournament.

“Putting aside the entire chess aspect of the tournament, the best part was hands-down the teamwork involved and how close all of us were during the tournament,” Karamsetty said. “The entire team would meet in between rounds and stay connected throughout. Even better, we helped each other prepare for games and the results definitely showed.”

During the Sunday night awards ceremony, Karamsetty was also announced as one of five recipients of the Scholar-Chessplayer Award. The $1500 scholarship is awarded every year to applicants who are role models in scholarship, chess, leadership and sportsmanship.

Because the tournament was very rigorous, with rounds in the morning, afternoon and evening, the team did not have much time for leisure. However, they still managed to take a few moments to bask in the refreshing San Diegan ambience. For Kannan, the invigorating weather and picturesque scenery left a deep impression, as did the friendly locals who didn’t hesitate to congratulate the team when they carried their hefty trophies home.

“I learned that friendliness and the little things in life really make a difference, and to just relax,” Kannan said. “The chess was a lot of fun, but I think I will remember this trip because it broadened my horizons – literally.”