The Taos Knighthawks finished this season’s Northern Schools Chess League as runner-up champions at the finals that were held Monday (Jan. 20) in Santa Fe.
The team, made up of students from an assortment of Taos County schools, went undefeated but were held to two draws, settling for the second-place trophy.
About 50 teams and 200 players competed in the event.
In the first round, the Knigthhawks cruised to an easy victory over Española High and were then paired against perennial rival Los Alamos High in the second round.
On the top board, Taos High junior Kian Morgan faced the top-rated player in the tourney. Morgan played perfectly, taking advantage of a passed pawn, and pulled off the upset.
Morgan’s brother, Nitis, also racked up a pretty win on board two, leading to a 2-2 tie match.
The two brothers scored an incredible 8-0 combined record throughout the day, defeating all of the league’s top players.
Also playing for the team on the lower boards were junior Jaimie Ritchie and sophomore Robbie Gersten.
A young Anansi Elementary Knighthawks team also placed second in their division, tying with Santa Fe’s Carlos Gilbert Elementary. The team was led by Elijah Shelton, who is only a first-grader.
Shelton easily won the State Kindergarten Championships last year and, according to coach Dennis Hedges, “He just keeps getting better. For his age, he’s scary good.”
Also playing for the team were Antonio Trivino, Giles Shelton, Maximo Johnson and Leo L’Heureux.
The third Taos team, made up of middle schoolers, was missing its second board and barely lost some close matches, ending up in fourth place overall.
Top board was Sean Ritchie, followed by Santiago Goodhue, Michaela Trivino and Estevan Miera.
Next up for the Knighthawks will be the State Regionals, followed by the NMAA state finals in Albuquerque that takes place Feb. 6-7.
“We have a pretty good group this year,” said Hedges, who is in his 31st year of coaching chess. “We have some veterans with nine or 10 years of experience, and then we have a bunch of newbies with a whole lot of enthusiasm.”
Dennis Hedges is coach of the Knighthawks.