This past Saturday and Sunday (March 25th and 26th), the Stuart Hall Chess Team competed in the Final 4 event of the Louisiana Scholastic Chess League's "City League" tournament. This was a grueling tournament composed of 8 qualifying rounds, 2 rounds for Quarter-finals, and 4 rounds for the Semi-final and Final. Stuart Hall entered three teams into the tournament, two in the K2 section, and one in the K4 section.
In the K2, the younger Stuart Hall White team (Declan Albro '22, CJ Encalarde '22, Mike Graugnard '23, Liam Hollard '23, Parker Rooney '24, Kennon Russo '22, and August Sauska '23) first played against Lusher Elementary, Stuart Hall's arch-rival whom Stuart Hall beat in last year's final by 1 point. S/H fell to Lusher 4-8, moving us to the 3rd/4th bracket for the final 2 rounds. In the final two rounds, SH White faced off against the stalwart Airline Park team and scored 6-6, leaving the match to tie breaks, which are determined by the score of the first board. Since that result was tied, it fell to the second board to determine the result, and that was also tied. Going to the 3rd board, first year player Mike Graugnard clinched the 3rd place win for his team by beating his opponent twice. Well done, Mike! The best performance on the day for SH White was turned in by Liam Hollard, who scored a perfect 4-0. This is a young team, composed of three 2nd graders, three 1st graders, and one kindergartner. Finishing in 3rd place is an amazing result for such a young team and they are starting their chess careers with a firm foot forward and a great stride.
Also competing in the K2 was the more experienced SH Blue team ("Checkmate" Charlie Avin '22, Patrick Avin '23, Joseph Cusimano '22, Thomas Hulefeld '22, John Michael Maristany '22, Grady Miles '22, and Connor Rooney '22) played to defend last year's 1st place title. In the first match, SH Blue squeaked by Airline Park 7-5, with first board John Michael Maristany winning both games, and earning the team a 1st place berth in the top bracket. In the second match, SH Blue faced their arch-rival Lusher, whom they had beaten last year for 1st place. In a heartbreaking reversal of last year's Finals victory, SH Blue fell to Lusher 6.5-5.5, netting SH Blue a 2nd place trophy. Nevertheless, this great group of players turned in some impressive scores: Connor Rooney and Joseph Cusimano both went 3-1 on the day, and Checkmate Charlie Avin had the team's best score throughout the tournament with an impressive 12 wins, 1 draw, and 1 loss!
With the sun rising on a new day, SH K4 (Charlie Avin '22, Patrick Avin '23, Ryan Avin '21, Aidan Hollard '21, Christopher Keene '21, John Michael Maristany '22, Kolby Mitchell '21, and Connor Rooney '22) sought to address their disappointment of Saturday's result. Entering the Final 4 as the 4th place seed and composed of four third graders, three second graders, and one first grader, SH faced 1st place seed and perennially strong Metairie Academy. Showing great resolve to rectify the previous day's result, SH dealt an impressive blow to the first seed team, resoundingly defeating Metarie 8.5-3.5, earning SH the challenge for first place. In the second match against an older and more experienced Airline Park team, our young SH K4 Knights went in focused and determined to achieve a great result, and defeated powerful Airline Park 6.5-5.5, winning 1st place in the City League K4! On the day, Ryan Avin and Connor Rooney both turned in perfect 4-0 scores, providing the anchors for this wonderful achievement.
The Stuart Hall Chess Team has been quite remarkable in the last two years: last year winning 1st and 2nd in City League K2, winning the State Championship in the K2, and now winning 2nd and 3rd K2 this year, and 1st in K4, not to mention an excellent performance at Nationals back in December. We have great players who play with a lot of heart, courage, commitment, and passion. Every single one of the team members should be proud of their great achievement, as we are of them.
Next up in April is the Spring LSCL rated tournament on April 8th and 9th, followed by the Louisiana State Scholastic Chess Championship on April 29th at St. Dominic in Lakeview. Let's all wish these great Stuart Hall players continued success as they forge ahead, aspiring to more and greater success in chess!