Williamsburg Middle School Chess Team Wins National High School Competition

04/17/2012 3:19 PM |


  • brooklyncastle.com

Eighteen Williamsburg eighth graders have done the unthinkable—together, they have pwn3d the nation’s best high school chess teams, reports the New York Times. The team at I.S. 318 Eugenia Maria de Hostos has won several different kinds of national championships over the last 12 years, but Bill Hall, the executive director of the United States Chess Federation, had never heard of a middle school winning a high school championship before.

Isaac Baraye, 13, an eighth-grader who lives in Forest Hills, Queens, said he and his 17 teammates were ecstatic when they found out they won Sunday evening.

“We were very excited,” said Mr. Baraye, who learned chess from his grandfather and has competed in tournaments since the third grade. “We were jumping up and down. It was crazy.” [NYTimes]

A film about I.S. 318’s middle school chess stars, which debuted at South By Southwest, covers both the team’s successes as well as the threat of budget cuts. After $1.3 million was carved from the school’s budget in 2009, educators have been fighting to keep I.S. 318’s after school programs in business—vital for an institution in which more than 60 percent of the student population lives under the federal poverty line. In 2011, Assistant Principal John Galvin spent $8,000 out of his own pocket to cover the cost of the team’s trip to nationals.

“We learned in making this documentary that even with a staff that cares and kids that work hard, a lack of resources can undermine even the most hard-won achievements,” Brooklyn Castle director/producer Katie Dellamaggiore wrote in a press release. “And that, somehow, just doesn’t seem fair.”