Highland Park chess players excelled at the Nov. 13 Illinois All Grade Chess Championship, winning two first place team trophies and eight individual awards.
It was the best showing ever for Highland Park, whose district-wide program is now in its third year.
The event was held at Whitney Young Magnet High School in Chicago’s west Loop. It marked the first time the tournament has been held in Chicago. In all, 505 players attended, the largest turnout for the November event since 1994. Twenty-four players from Highland Park participated.
In the team competition, Indian Trail Elementary School captured first place in the third-grade section, competing against nine other teams. The third-grade group has been surprisingly cohesive since its members started playing as kindergartners, capturing two third-place awards and one fourth-place trophy at previous state championships. The top third-grade finishers for Indian Trail were Sam Lichtman (the club’s top player), Max Kaplan, Jesse Blank and Henry Coplan. Evan Rosenblum and Jack Goldberg also had strong tournaments.
The Wayne Thomas club also performed well, with four players winning trophies for finishing in the top ten of their sections.
Highland Park’s top two individual players, Jonathan Hrach (Elm Place) and Elli Faletsky (Northwood), finished in sixth and ninth places, respectively, in the seventh-grade section.
Noah Greenberg (Sherwood) took fourth place in the first-grade section. Harrison Burns (Northwood) took seventh place in the sixth-grade section.
Ezra Boldizsar (Wayne Thomas), who also started as a kindergartner, captured the sixth-place individual trophy in the third-grade section. Boldizsar is tied for first place in the internal ratings at the Wayne Thomas club.
Victoria Walsh, a fifth-grader and one of Indian Trail’s top players, won three of her four games and finished ahead of 24 players with much higher ratings from the U.S. Chess Federation.
Levi Goldberg, a first-grader at Indian Trail, captured 10th place in his section.
Morgan Yontez from Wayne Thomas took the ninth-place individual trophy in the kindergarten section.
Indian Trail’s kindergarten team, composed of two up-and-coming stars, Shea Walsh and (pre-K) Zach Lichtman, also won the first place team trophy in a small field. Walsh took 4th place in the section. Lichtman fell victim to pairing errors at the tournament and was paired in the first two rounds against second-grade players, but ended with a score of two out of his last three games for a strong finish.
Also competing for Highland Park were Jason Rosenblum, Josiah Davis, Nathan Weisskopf, Joey Harrigan, Patrick Tippens, Matthew Warshell, Jack Jarvis and Alex Rosenbloom.
Several of Illinois’ top-titled players attended the event and did game reviews for participants who recorded their moves in chess notation. Herb Lichtman, an Indian Trail parent who is spearheading statewide efforts to train coaches to teach chess with Promethean and Smart boards, conducted two demonstrations of the new technology for interested coaches.
The Highland Park program started three years ago, and now reaches about 400 kids.
Jerry Neugarten, who runs the program, gives much of the credit for the program’s success to Highland Park’s coaches, who include many volunteers.
This year, the coaches include three of Illinois’ top titled players: International Master Florin Felecan (Indian Trail); National Master Eric Rosen (Sherwood); and National Master Adarsh Jayakumar (Wayne Thomas). Felecan and Rosen were among the titled players doing game reviews at the Saturday tournament.