The Taos Knighthawks had an all-around good week in Albuquerque when they participated in the NMAA State Chess Championships, as the team finished in third place in the combined Class 4A and 5A Large School Division.
Taking place on Thursday and Friday (Feb. 6-7) at the Ramada Hotel, the Knighthawks, who were highly seeded after their regional co-championship appearance, faced a trio of teams on their way to their third-place finishing.
In the first round, Taos faced off against Hope Christian and cruised to an easy 5-1 victory. Hope Christian was a top 10 team in the state prior to the match.
Taos picked up another easy victory when it faced Kirtland Central High School, a top two school in the northwest region.
But the Knighthawks finally met their match when they faced Los Alamos in the third round on Friday, and lost 4-2. Taos head coach Dennis Hedges said that due to a pairing error, the two teams faced off and it was one game that made the difference by the end of it.
For third place, the Knighthawks faced Oñate High School, the best school from the southern region, and came away with a big victory. Kian Morgan and Nitis Morgan, who were playing on the top two boards, prevailed with "crushing victories."
Robbie Gersten and Jaimie Ritchie picked up victories on board three and four, respectively. Aidan Heflin, who hadn't competed in chess in over five years, finished with a 4-0 record throughout the event.
Sean Ritchie, an Anansi Charter School seventh grader, also attended the state tournament but couldn't compete due to his age. Because of that, he played in a side tournament with high schoolers and won a first-place medal by the end of it.
Hedges said that, for having no seniors, he was proud of his team.
"It was great seeing the team come together for the event," Hedges said. "The older boys hadn't been concentrating on chess the last few years, focusing more on soccer and high school academics. But they sure hadn't lost their skills that they had developed as young players. And with no seniors on the team, they [can] return next year as even more of a powerhouse."
- Staff report