Chess Champs Crowned

County chess championship held Sunday

Students packed Southside Academy Charter School’s gymnasium to exercise their brains Sunday, March 23, as they used strategy and logic to compete in the annual Onondaga County Chess Championship.

Around 52 students from around the county and other parts of upstate registered in three different divisions: K-4, K-6 and K-12. The top five students in each category received trophies and the rest of the competitors got to choose a small prize from a bin that contained trinkets, such as chess piece key chains.

County co-champion in the K-4 division, Alexis Schlaak, 8, plays her final round.

More girls than usual competed in the tournament, said Anton Ninno, chess club advisor at Southside Academy. At least 10 girls registered (most of them in the K-4 division). “And they don’t mess around when they show up,” he added.


County champion in the K-12 division, Sam Santora, 12, plays his final match.

In the K-4 division, two girls tied for the championship. One of them, Alexis Schlaak, 8, traveled from Buffalo to compete. She enters tournaments across the state around once or twice a month, she said.

“I have a chess lesson on Mondays. And I practice on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays sometimes. Then I go to tournaments on Sundays,” Schlaak said.

She likes to open with her favorite strategy, called the Sicilian Defense, Schlaak said, who has been playing for three years.

“It was kind of hard to learn everything about it – how pieces move and stuff,” she said. “But once you get the hang of it, it’s really fun.”

The next chess tournament will be held at Nottingham High School on April 5.

Here are the results from the Onondaga County Chess Championship:

1st Alexis Schlaak
1st Amanda Li
1st Eric Li

County co-champion in the K-4 division, Amanda Li, accepts her trophy. She shares her title with two other contestants in a three-way tie.

2nd Alex Fung
3rd Gene Balian
4th Andrew Yin
5th Toby Thompson

Sam Santora 1st
Adrian Thayaparan 2nd
Joe Riccardi 3rd
Ibrahim Qaddourah 4th
Justin Regner 5th

1st Raymond Wang
2nd Jade Regner
3rd Adham Qaddourah
4th Maxwell Fung
5th Andrew Huang



— Story and photos by Valerie Crowder, S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications journalism student

Check Also

Bridging the Gap

A local public charity has launched a nonprofit bridge loan program to help organizations as …