By Guest Writer: Scott Plaster, Atkins High School Chess Team Coach
March 14, 2017 - This time of year is usually known as “March Madness” in North Carolina, but a much bigger upset occurred this weekend in Raleigh than the one from the ACC basketball tournament. Atkins High School in Winston-Salem, a strong “underdog,” dominated the N.C. State Scholastic chess championship in the competitive U1600 division, beating private school Durham Academy by four full points in the tournament held at the Raleigh Convention Center on March 11th and 12th. Atkins’ Lorenzo Battigelli also emerged as the individual state champion with a commanding 7-0 record.
Coached by Scott Plaster and assisted by volunteer Tony Sanders, the Atkins team continued to be the largest high school chess team in the entire state, but now can claim that it is the best team, also. With no players ranked in the top ten going into the weekend, tournament director Kevin Hyde said the team’s win “was very impressive. They certainly dominated.” According to the chess pairings program, almost all Atkins players outperformed their ratings, with Battigelli performing at a 1809 ranking level, with only a 1273 rating going into the tournament. As Ali Mirzazadeh said, “We have finally reached the golden age for the Atkins Chess Team. It’s a very exciting time to be a chess player at Atkins.”
The Atkins HS domination of the event was completely unexpected by the N.C. chess community, with the team state championship, Battigelli’s individual state title, William Odom ranking as state champion runner up, and Daniel Winkelman in third. William Odom even won his division at the Blitz Championship the Friday night before the weekend tournament. The Atkins victory, with 24 points, and no full-point losses in its top three is virtually unprecedented, outshining its competitors. “The Camels dominated for a resounding victory that may have taken some by surprise,” said Tournament Director Tom Hales of the Asheboro Chess Club, also one of the TDs for the tournament. “Having seen your team in action recently, I was not altogether shocked by the outcome,” he said.
“There have been some times when one school dominated, but as I recall they were ‘expected’ to dominate because all their players were the top-rated players,” said Hyde. “Since we don't pair teammates against each other, it's a bit of an advantage for the highly-rated school because the other schools have to play against their good players but they don't have to play themselves. What stands out in this year's performance by Atkins is that none of their players started in the top 10 by rating and that its 4th player was at pairing number 33, so they certainly outperformed ‘expectations.’ In the end, it was the top 4 Atkins players that scored the points for the team (plus an unrated that tied with the 4th), but the large team, with matching shirts, made it all the more fun.” Thanks to a donation last year from a generous parent, the team proudly wears maroon team shirts with the Atkins logo and the inscription, “Pax et Bonum,” the motto of St. Francis, which translates to “Peace and all good.” For the Atkins team this weekend, it definitely was all good.
Read the entire story on the Atkins High School News Blog