This is the first post in what we hope will be a regular series of stories celebrating the accomplishments of Indiana scholastic chess players. We’ll focus mainly on major events outside of the state, but I’m sure we’ll find some in-state successes to celebrate as well. If you have a story you would like to share, please contact Todd Walatka at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ten Indiana players were among the over 1700 at the 2018 K-12 National Grade Championships in Orlando, FL in December. The three-day, seven-round tournament brings together some of the strongest scholastic chess players in the country, and the Indiana players represented the state very well.
The highest finisher among the Indiana contingent was kindergartner Nathan Walatka of St. Joseph Grade School in South Bend. Nathan was crowned the Kindergarten co-national champion with a 6-1 finish (taking the 1st place trophy on tiebreaks). He is proud to be a half-inch taller than his trophy. His favorite game was his round four win against the eventual co-champion. One never knows what to expect at the beginning of Nathan’s games since he just plays the opening he feels like at the moment–with the national championship on the line in round seven, he tried out a new opening purely for its aesthetics (“it looked pretty!”). In round four he decided to sail the seas with Captain Evans, and he got everything one wants in an opening like the Evan’s Gambit: open lines, the opponent’s king stuck in the center, and strong attacking chances.
Here’s the game (if you click on the first move, it should bring up a chess board with the game):
A pair of Indiana second-graders also had quite a tournament. Madison Brown of Sycamore School in Indianapolis opened the tournament with four straight wins, including upsets against two highly seeded players. She ended up at 14th place out of 182 players with a final score of 5/7. Her rating jumped from 981 all the way up to 1107. To the right is a picture of Madison with WGM Sabina Foiser and GM Elshan Moradiabadi.
Matching both Madison’s four-win start and final 5/7 score was Christopher Cheng of Prairie Trace Elementary School in Carmel. Christopher finished in 19th place and managed an even bigger rating jump, from 919 to 1100. He shared his sixth round upset of a 1202 rated player. It was an interesting game that was determined by a number of tactics. The lesson: keep working on those tactics puzzles!
The next strong Indiana finisher was nationally ranked 9-year old Grant Mu of Prairie Trace Elementary in Carmel. Taking on stiff competition
that included a couple of expert-level players, Grant finished with a strong score of 5/7 to finish tied for 12th out of 187 (taking 19th on tiebreaks). 11th grader Kevin Wang of Carroll High School in Fort Wayne took 27th out of a strong group of 86 players with a 4/7 score.
Also competing and achieving solid scores right on par with their ratings were Makaio Surendran (3/7 in 6th grade), Therese Walatka (3/7 in 6th), Alex Cheng (3/7 in 4th), Michael Pu (4/7 in 3rd), and Julie Walatka (3/7 in 2nd).