Princeton Day School chess team among best in national championship

Since 2000, the Princeton Day School chess teams have been among the best in the country. On May 7 and 8, at the National Elementary School Championship in Nashville, Tennessee, the PDS team fourth, fifth and sixth graders tied for second place in the K through six Championship section, along with Speyer Legacy School and Columbia Grammar School, both from New York, with the same team score of 17.5.

The PDS Chess team that competed included Dodge Martinson, Kai Shah, Albert Ming, Arjun Kumar, Eric Wu, Winston Ni and Jai Kasera. 2300 players from 645 public and independent schools from 47 states participated in this annual national elementary chess tournament.

The tournament has different sections to account for levels and grades, K through one, K through three, K through five and K through 6.  The PDS team competed in the K through six section, which is the most prestigious section and whose winner is considered as the official elementary national champion.

Chess teacher Bonnie Waitzkin noted “Fifth graders Winston Ni, and Jai Kasera and fourth grader Eric Wu, elected to play up to K through six to keep the team intact with sixth graders Albert Ming, Dodge Martinson and Kai Shah. And before the big tournament, spirits were buoyed by Kasera’s first place win in his rating category in the Blitz tournament on Thursday.

Hong Ni, father of Winston Ni, was at the tournament and said, “It was against tremendous odds that our team faced entering the tournament: many of our players fourth and fifth graders had to play up to face strong six graders from other schools, who often had much larger team with experienced players and strong logistical support including on-site coaches.”

Waitzkin added, “Starting with round one, there were many upsets and disappointments, and not only for PDS players. Not one of the 215 players in the K through six section won all games, although there were nine players rated over 2000. Our players had worked hard to prepare, and they are seasoned competitors, but they were all surprised by the high level of the competition.”

PDS has been a small school with big results in recent years at the nationals. Last year, with the minimum number of four players, the team achieved third place. This year’s performance has once again put Princeton Day School on the map as one of strongest chess programs in the country.

About Erica Chayes Wida

Erica Chayes Wida is a writer, mom, and complete zealot when it comes to poetry, paella and globe collections. After graduating with a degree in Anthropology from UCLA, Erica moved to Italy where the seasons and old architecture inspired her journey back to the East Coast. Since then, she and her husband have created a nest egg locally and, over time, developed a rather grand love affair with the town of Princeton. Erica is senior editor at The Princeton Sun and enjoys fulfilling her Princeton affections on a daily basis. | View all posts by Erica Chayes Wida