This past weekend (February 16th and 17th), the Stuart Hall Chess Team competed in the "Final 4" Championship rounds of the annual Louisiana Scholastic Chess League "City League" event. Stuart Hall entered four teams—a K2 team, two K4 teams, and a K6 team—and all four teams advanced to the Final 4 after three weekends of competition.
On Saturday, the K2 team (Andrew Amoss ‘24, Robert Amoss ‘24, Parker Rooney ‘24, Eli Simmons ‘24, Dave Vandenweghe ‘25, Eli Weber ‘24) finished in 2nd place out of seven original teams entered. In the semi-final, our Knights defeated Lusher's second team (Lusher Gold) 9.5 to 2.5, to win the right to challenge for 1st place. In the second match, against Lusher's first team (Lusher Blue), our Knights fell 9-3 to win the runner-up title. It was a great run by this team of both veterans and new players, and they did a great job representing Stuart Hall.
Stuart Hall entered two teams in the K4 section, due to having an incredible pool of very strong players. The second team, Stuart Hall White (Grayson Bent ‘23, CJ Encalarde ‘22, Christopher Jennings ‘23, Parker Rooney ‘24, August Sauska ‘23, Dave Vandenweghe ‘25, Mani Vandenweghe ‘23) had an amazing run coming into the Final 4. In the semi-final on Sunday, they were matched up against Stuart Hall Blue (Declan Albro ‘22, Charlie Avin ‘22, Patrick Avin ‘23, Mike Graugnard ‘23, Race Hughes ‘23, Austin Janusa ‘23, John Michael Maristany ‘22, Eli Weber ‘24). Coming in as the 4th seed out of nine teams entered at the beginning of the tournament, SH White fell to their teammates 11.5-.5, and then fell to Metairie Academy 11-1. Stuart Hall Blue, as has been stated, beat Stuart Hall White, earning the right to compete against strong rival Lusher Blue for the Championship. Defeating Lusher 9-3, OUR KNIGHTS WON THE 4TH CONSECUTIVE CITY LEAGUE TITIE, continuing their dominance against other strong rivals. Well done, Knights!
Entering the K6 division for the first time, Stuart Hall K6 (Declan Albro ‘22, Charlie Avin ‘22, Patrick Avin ‘23, Ryan Avin ‘21, Austin Janusa ‘23, John Michael Maristany ‘22) had an uphill battle, coming in as the 5th seed from 10 original teams in qualifiers. In the first match against rising power Lycee Francais, Stuart Hall earned the right to challenge for 1st place by winning 7-5. In the Championship match, our Knights beat Lusher Blue 6.5 to 5.5. The title came down to the last two games, with Ryan Avin very cleverly rescuing a draw from a loss by inducing a stalemate, and Austin Janusa brought us home with a fantastic win. It should be noted that our great Knights were the youngest team entered, with one 5th grader, three 4th graders, and two 3rd graders. What a win!!!
Coach's Note: As a chess coach, I have taught in more than 30 schools, and have taught a National Champion, a National winning team, and numerous Florida and Louisiana State Champion individuals and teams. Quite simply, I have never had a team this deep in enthusiastic, coachable, and talented players. The way our Knights keep on rolling forward amazes me to no end, and I am very grateful to be their coach. But more than winning, I really love the great character that I see in our players. They are great teammates to each other, excellent sportsmen to the competition, and are resilient when faced with challenges.
I am also very grateful to the parents, who sacrifice so much of their time so that our Knights can compete in these events. Most especially, I am grateful to Al "Opa" Pearson, grandfather to some of the Knights of Avin, who has steadfastly transported and minded the Avin boys and their cousin Owen, for over 4 years now, back and forth to Panera, where they have had the most hours of practice, and to Nationals for long weekends filled with much waiting around. Without Al's steady support, we would not have gotten as far as we have. Thank You, Al! Thank You Chess Parents! Thank you to all of our great chess players who continue to justify my belief in their ability to excel, even when they think they are failing and feel momentarily discouraged. We don't always win, but we keep getting better, because of your determination to persevere and your joy of competition.
- Coach Jeff