Brunswick Chess Team makes the right moves at State Championships

On Saturday and Sunday, April 25 and 26 the Brunswick Chess team played in two tournaments with several Connecticut State Championships at stake. Brunswick, the defending champions in the K1 and K3 division, turned in another strong performance, finishing second in the K1, and first in the K3 and K6 divisions. 

Of note, two Brunswick boys, Thomas Ewald and Jesse Chung both won state championships for 2nd and 3rd grade respectively, and three other Brunswick boys, William Ewald, Carl Homan and Robert Ulmer, each took second in the state. Thomas Ewald, father of two of the boys said, “Anyone who thinks that the kids got here through anything other than tremendous hard work just doesn’t understand chess. Perhaps there are prodigies out there, but that doesn’t explain this team.”

Chess is an activity that is supported at their school. In the words of Katie Signer, the Head of the Lower School, “Over the years, chess has grown immensely in our Lower School. Our boys embrace the problem solving opportunities and the meaningful challenge that chess presents. We love the lessons the game teaches — discipline, focus, critical thinking, perseverance — and, of course we celebrate the camaraderie it promotes.”

While their individual and team performances were strong on Sunday, they probably understated the overall strength of the Brunswick team. Brunswick currently has three players on the K3 team that are ranked in the top 100 for their age group nationally, an impressive figure since there are approximately 6,000 children who play competitive chess in each of these grades. Furthermore, the K3 team also has several other players who are ranked near the top 100.

As their chess coach Danny Rade said, “We are a small school from a small state.  In spite of that, we have a K3 team that can compete against any other K3 team in the country — and not to take anything away from our top players, but the strength of this team is its depth.”  Recognizing the unusual strength of the Lower School, Brunswick joined up with a 10th grader, Alexander Rogozinski, to challenge for the K12 championship. Once again, the Brunswick boys as a team came out on top, with William Ewald, a 4th grader tying for 3rd in the state, and Luke Homan taking 2nd place for the K-12 Under 1200 Section.

Commenting again, Ewald, Sr. said, “The highlight for me was that I could see my son lose a grueling two hour match against a high school student, and when the game was over, my 3rd grader and his opponent rushed off to another chess board and eagerly and happily went over their game in great detail. It was extraordinary seeing this love of the game, and it was heartwarming to see how kind their high school opponents were to them.  I believe they respected these small boys for the knowledge and passion that they had for this very complex game.”

The depth and strength of the Brunswick team is certainly not a surprise to anyone as the team has been building for many years, but perhaps the key question is why would any parent want their child to spend so many hours engaged in an activity which has no apparent utility. To answer that question, Sunil Weeramantry, the director of the National Scholastic Chess Federation, recently delivered a talk in Greenwich outlining the educational benefits of having children study chess. While several studies have shown links between playing chess and academic improvement, perhaps Luke Homan, a third grader, best summed up the reason to play: “It’s really fun.”

Front row is Vincent Zhu, Carl Homan, Mark Homan; Middle row: Tony Zhu, Sebastian Pena, Hudson Waldorf, William Ewald, Ryan Miele; Back row: Robert Ulmer, Jesse Chung, Luke Homan, Thomas Ewald.

Front row is Vincent Zhu, Carl Homan, Mark Homan; Middle row: Tony Zhu, Sebastian Pena, Hudson Waldorf, William Ewald, Ryan Miele; Back row: Robert Ulmer, Jesse Chung, Luke Homan, Thomas Ewald.

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