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At the Alabama Team Championship, the Madison Hypersonic H-pawns team claimed the title of “State Team Champions.” Members are Sherwood Dong, Xavier Bruni, Victor Lundy and Ethan Smith. CONTRIBUTED

Madison Hypersonic H-pawns win Alabama Team Championship

MADISON – Madison City Chess League or MCCL hosted the inaugural Alabama Team Championship at Calhoun Community College on Feb. 4.

Plans to host the first state team championship began in August 2022 when MCCL Executive Director Ranae Bartlett mentioned the idea to Calhoun President Jimmy Hodges and Mark Branon, Dean in Huntsville.

“What a wonderful venue!” Bartlett said. “Seven teams competed in the Championship Section, and 13 teams competed in the Reserve Section.”

A hallmark of a team tournament involves creative team names. This year’s teams included “Knights of the Square Table,” “Theory of Relativity,” “Keep Calm and Caro Kann,” “Blunder Thunder” and “Tornado Watch Until 4 p.m.”

Former Speaker of the House, Mac McCutcheon sponsored the tournament. “On Jan. 31, Mac McCutcheon was appointed to fill the Madison County Chairmanship by Gov. Ivey. Congratulations and thank you for continuing to support our chess program,” Bartlett said.

The top MCCL teams squared off in Round 2. Madison Hypersonic H-pawns eventually earned the championship title. The Queen’s Gambit team won “Top Women’s Team.”

“It was a great first team championship for Madison City Chess League. MCCL was excited to field the top women’s teams in each section and to award cash prizes for the first, second and top women’s teams. In the Reserve Section, teams from James Clemens, Liberty, Discovery and Horizon also had half female representation,” Bartlett said.

MCCL assembled its top players from different corners of the city to field a competitive team for the Championship Section with the first team championship. Team members are Sherwood Dong, Xavier Bruni, Victor Lundy and Ethan Smith.

“It came down to the final round’s last game with seconds on the clock as the Hypersonic H-pawns only needed a split with Theory of Relativity to maintain clear first,” Bartlett said. “Losing the last match would have meant a three-way tie for first. But Xavier Bruni and Sherwood Dong came through with needed wins to clinch the championship, plaques and $400 team prize.”

Top players in Tennessee joined Steven Pan of Madison to form the LEGO Chess Team and win second place and $300 cash prize.

In the Queen’s Gambit team, Sarah May, Constance Wang, Nirvana Rajbhandari and Shreya Sunil captured the top women’s team title and $200. “We were very proud to field a women’s team in such a competitive section,” Bartlett said.

DMS Kings, Discovery’s top team, worked diligently to prepare for the first state team championship event and reach “State Reserve Champions.” They received first-place plaques and $200. Team members Aadi Saxena, Jacob New, Caden Jordan, Joseph Park and Coach Will Stevenson manned this group.

Bayside Academy in Daphne won second-place team, while Dark Horse Warrior Chess Club was third in the Reserve Section.

The award for “Top Secondary Scholastic Team” and a fourth-place tie went to BJ Mittens with Marek Fries, Andrew Park, Artem Starenki and Andrew Yang. “Love this team name (if you play on chess.com, then you know),” Bartlett said.

Horizon earned “Top Elementary Scholastic Team” with Esteban Jerez, Theodore Piper, Alice Zou and Kylie Zou.

The Queen’s Quest team members with Rachael Ehrman, Sophia Jerez, Samsara Rajbhandari and Caroline Wang earned the distinction of “Top Women’s Team.” They won medals and $100.

The team, Keep Calm and Caro Kann, from James Clemens performed well; members are Madhu Balaji, Jason Park, Isabelle Park and Sahishnu Saha.

“We were so excited to see Liberty team members Tim Lee, Laya Gowder, Anna Ai and Rhyan Quansah represent their school at the first state team championship,” Bartlett said.

Bob Jones and Discovery partnered to build a winning women’s team, Queens Quest, in the Reserve Section. Members are Rachael Ehrman and Caroline Wang from Bob Jones, along with Samsara Rajbhandari and Sophia Jerez from Discovery.

“Horizon was the only elementary team in the entire competition and showed out with a fifth-place finish and ‘Top Elementary Scholastic Finish.’ Way to go!” Bartlett said.


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