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By Robert Zhang

Photo Credit: Adrian Roberts


The Livingston High School Chess Team recently debuted its winter season with great success in the NJ Grade School Chess Championship in Lincroft. This five-round tournament, held at Brookdale Community College, included nearly 500 competitive K-12 players from across the state. Trophies were given to the top ten individuals, and the top three teams, which consisted of three players in a grade from the same school. This year, the Lancers won the 10th grade section, and earned second place in the 9th grade section, despite being down a player. Additionally, many individual students won awards for their impressive performances. 

Ninth graders Claire Cheng and Quan Tran, members of the 2022 middle school team that clinched second place in the National Middle School Championship, continued a strong tournament, ending in 5th and 7th respectively. Lucas Xiong also performed impressively well, upsetting several very strong players. 

Tenth graders and team co-captains Aston Roberts and Roger Zhang emerged from the last round with perfect scores, leading their section by a full point, with Aston winning on tiebreaks. Finally, in the 11th grade section, Matt Ge finished in seventh place overall. 

Coach Will Peklo was excited to get the season started on such a high note. He said, “I’m so proud of these students. They’ve put a lot of time and effort into chess, and it’s great to see them being rewarded for that. We’re hoping to build on this and put together another successful season.”

Aston Roberts, a strong expert and the winner of the 10th grade section, stressed the importance of playing together as a team. He said, “I really enjoyed playing in this year’s tournament, as well as spending time with my friends. Tying for first place with Roger in the tenth grade section was also cool because we both did our best.”

Roger Zhang, a national master who earned second place in the 10th grade section, explained that “what [he] enjoyed most out of the tournament was the vibrant atmosphere everywhere, from the games in the playing rooms to the talking and chatting outside to the excitement of the awards ceremony.”

Several students also stressed the importance of working together as a team to encourage each other to play the best that we can, with freshman Quan Tran saying that the “team was amazing, everyone worked well to support each other,” and sophomore Aayush Saxena saying that “this was a team effort, every point counted”. 

Claire Cheng, finished in fifth place in the freshman section, believed that it was a “great and strong start for the LHS Chess Team, and it was overall a success.”

Ben Murkis, a participating sophomore, said, “I had a great time and although we played some competitive games, we were able to win, which was a great feeling.”

This marks the second season of an official LHS varsity chess team, where players can earn varsity letters, this year expanding to the top ten contenders. Last season, the team won the NJ High School Chess Championship in March and maintained an undefeated record. This year, with many strong freshmen joining the team, the Lancers are looking at even bigger prospects. As well as traveling to other schools as part of their regular season, they will also be competing in the National K-12 Grades Championship, the NJ High School Chess Championship, and the National High School Chess Championship, accompanied by their coach Will Peklo. 



9th Grade 

Claire Cheng 3.5/5 (5th place)

Quan Tran 3.5/5 (7th place)

Lucas Xiong 3/5 

10th Grade

Aston Roberts 5/5 (1st place)

Roger Zhang 5/5 (2nd place)

Benjamin Murkis 3/5

Rohit Azhagu 2/5

Aayush Saxena 2/5

11th Grade

Matt Ge 3/5 (7th place)

Team Standings

9th Grade - 2nd Place

10th Grade - 1st Place