Underdog chess kings trap school in 'awkward position'

Otago interschool chess champions Logan Park High School B team players (from left) Eshaan Atre,...
Otago interschool chess champions Logan Park High School B team players (from left) Eshaan Atre, 13, Daniel Blakeley, 16, and Aiden Dixon, 16, showcasing the ‘‘smothered checkmate’’ that Eshan describes as a "rare but satisfying" move. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
They were not even considered the best chess team in their school. Now they are the best secondary school team in Otago.

Logan Park High School B — Aiden Dixon, Daniel Blakeley, Eshaan Atre, and Zihan Fu, 14, — surprised themselves when they won the Otago interschool teams chess championship last weekend.

However, the team’s road to national title glory is looking a bit rocky.

They are going to have to put their title on the line against the school’s A team and a player from the C team in a double round-robin tournament to decide who goes to Wellington for the national interschool team finals in September.

Aiden said it was complicated because "it’s not the team that qualifies, it’s the school".

"Usually we would send the A team, but we won this time."

Daniel said the A team were considered better players because they had higher ratings.

However, the B team winning the event put them in a "awkward position".

"If I were in their position, I would probably do the same thing.

"We can’t complain much about them doing that and we still get a chance to be on the team, so I think it’s fair."

Eshaan said in the double round-robin each player would play for a spot in the national representative team.

All players would play about 16 games so they would face every opponent twice — once as black and once as white.

The top four players would form the national representative team.

It was their coach John Major who made the decision to have the additional tournament to decide who went to nationals.

"The A's are theoretically better chess players and I think they will end up being above the other ones and they’ll get to go or the majority of them will get to go.

"They might pull something [out of the bag] and we might have picked the wrong people to be in the A team to start off with, but I don’t think so. We’ll see what happens."

He said it was about putting the school’s best foot forward in the competition.