Northern Marianas College’s Zihan Wang is the winner of the 1st Interscholastic Chess Tournament hosted by the International Chess Club and held last Saturday at the Marianas High School cafeteria.
The blitz chess tournament had over 20 competitors from Marianas High School, Saipan International School, Saipan Southern High School, Mount Carmel School, and Northern Marianas College. Almost all of the tournament’s 44 games were decisive—only two games ended in a draw.
Wang ended the tournament as its sole leader with a perfect score of 5 points after five rounds, and Frederic Guintu (SIS) was second with 4.5 points. Tied for third, Mark Nam (SIS) and Seung Woo “Raffy” Lee (MCS) agreed to a playoff—Nam was the victor and is the tournament’s third-placer with 4.5 points. With 4 points, Lee was fourth. There was a five-way tie for fifth, with Dexter Marzo (MHS), Yun Woo Nam (SIS), Isaiah Sablan (SSHS), Christian Castro (NMC), and Towa Irinaka (MHS) all ending the tournament with 3 points. Rounding off the Top 10 was Ban Shen (MHS), who finished the tournament with 2 points.
Wang had the white pieces in his final round match against Nam, with both players at that point securely within the Top 4, but also in contention for the top spot. If Wang won, he would have been the tournament’s sole leader. If Nam won, the first place spot would have still been up for grabs, and a Round 6 of play would have been needed.
The tournament’s deciding match began with a principled Queen’s Pawn Opening, 1.d5 2.e3 and the middlegame featured solid play from both players, but as time pressure began to set in Wang entered into an endgame with a two-pawn advantage and a more advantageous position. Checkmate followed soon after, and Wang ended the tournament a half-point ahead of the second-placer, a high enough point gap for a round 6 to not be needed.
All players at the tournament received a certificate and the Top 10 players each received small trophies and Joeten gift cards. The Top 3 received bronze, silver, and gold medals, and the tournament champion received a gift certificate from Hyatt Regency Saipan.
“It was pretty fun. I was a bit nervous, but it all went smoothly. I’m glad to see people interested in this and I’m glad to see people involved in chess,” said International Chess Club president and MHS senior Joseph Zhang. He thanked Barney’s Pizza for providing food and drinks at the tournament, Joeten for providing gift cards and two chess sets, J’s Restaurant for a cash donation to cover hosting and material costs, and everyone that came out for making his dream of holding a chess tournament on island come true.