Oak Hall School wins national chess titles

Press release from Oak Hall School

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The United States Chess Federation held its 2022 National K-12 Grade Level Championships the weekend of December 9-11 in National Harbor, Maryland.

Almost 2,500 students from 42 states participated in this event to determine the 13 individual and 13 team champions (plus ties in both) in every grade level from kindergarten through 12th grade. Team scores are based on the top three scorers of the team. Players earn one point for a win and a half point for a draw. Each player played seven games, each having a three-hour time limit.

Over 80% of the top ten finishing teams in each of the elementary grades were from New York City. Local Gainesville school, Oak Hall, sent 32 students, making up six teams from kindergarten through 5th grade, and finished with quite an impressive performance.

The Oak Hall Kindergarten team won the National Championship with a very impressive four-point victory over NY Trinity School! The team was led by Mihai Holcomb who also finished in 1st place to win the individual National title. Mihai is the fourth Oak Hall student to win a national chess title in the school’s history. The members of the winning team are Mihai Holcomb; Grant Fieldman, who placed 18th; Suraj Jani, Junior Kindergarten, 29th; Isaac Zhang; Gary Fernandes; and Daniel Moguillansky.

The 2nd-grade team also won the National Championship by outplaying the 2nd- through 10th-place teams, which were all New York City schools. The team consists of Aakash Jani, who placed 4th in the nation individually; Celine Chen, who placed 7th; Addison Baumstark, who placed 30th; James McDonald; Aayan Patel; Benjamin Mclellan; and Austin Asher.

These two national titles now give Oak Hall School a total of 20 national championships in Coach Tim Tusing’s 25th year as the club’s coach. With the help of Assistant Coach Kevin Sevilla, the team has made tremendous progress in training the students. “Meeting and playing every day is the key to success,” says Coach Tusing. The chess club meets every school day for 2 1⁄2 hours, with lessons on weekends.

“It is also no wonder, “ says Coach Tusing, “that Oak Hall succeeds at the elementary levels of chess since it is now a part of the Lower School curriculum.” It has become quite obvious that the level of the older students is increasing since Coach Sevilla joined the team. Openings, strategies, tactics, and endgames are key focal points in his lessons. It is also noted that local coach Britt Ryerson also helps with lessons for a few of the students in the club.

Oak Hall’s successes didn’t stop on the first-place podium. The 1st-grade team placed 2nd in the nation as the only non-New York team to make the top ten. The team was led by Theodore ‘Teddy’ Mawdsley’s five victories. First Grade team: Theodore Mawdsley, Leighann Hood, Mark Wang, Nora Thomas, and Ayuna Philips.

Sophie Li scored 5 1⁄2 points (8th place individually), leading the 3rd-grade team to a 4th-place finish. Third Grade team: Sophie Li, Damian Alexander, Miguel Rodriguez, Gabriel Moguillanksy, Nicholas James Vu, and Julian Moguillansky.

The top ten teams in the 4th-grade section were only separated by 2 1⁄2 points! The Oak Hall team landed in the 9th spot with 12 1⁄2 points. Ishir Kumar only lost one game and had three wins and three draws to lead the team, along with Henry Thomas’ four wins and a draw. Fourth Grade team: Meera Jani, Curtis Hood, Ishir Kumar, and Henry Thomas.

The 5th-grade team missed breaking into the top ten by just half a point. They placed 13th out of 40 schools. Fifth Grade team: Kasimir Baumstark, Brandon Lee, Declan Mawdsley, and Maanya Rao.

An assembly honoring the students was held at OHS on January 9th. Congratulations, Eagles & Coaches!! We are so proud of you all!