Checkmate: Redmond High’s chess team wins state championship

Redmond High’s chess team was finally crowned king of the state.

The five-member squad — Anshul Ahluwalia, Sam Deng, Daniel He, Samuel He and Noah Yeo — took home top honors among 28 division 3A/4A schools last weekend at the state championships at Issaquah High. The Mustangs successfully maneuvered their way up from second place last year and fourth place two years ago.

Redmond conquered Interlake 3.5-1.5 in the final round to notch the KingCo and state titles.

Next up for the Washington champs — and KingCo title holders for the last three years — is the national tournament to be held May 12-14 in Nashville, Tenn. Last year, Redmond finished eighth at nationals.

The Mustangs have set a loftier goal for this year’s premier event.

“We’re aiming for top five at nationals. (State) was a stepping stone,” said senior Yeo, who has been playing chess for 10 years and has competed at various national tourneys.

From now until nationals, Yeo said the squad will need to invest copious hours studying strategies of the “thought-provoking” game and playing matches against each other and online.

Senior brothers Daniel and Samuel He have been hunched over chess boards for 11 and 10 years, respectively, and are both National Masters from racking up piles of points at national tournaments. Daniel said they’ve scored the needed 2,200 points or higher to earn master status while winning many matches.

“It feels good,” Daniel said about winning state and finishing ahead of Lakeside, which took first at state last year. “I really wanted to win.”

Samuel explained that he enjoys studying the endless positions that chess players have at their hands during matches.

The matches are often intense, he said. “I really get frustrated sometimes, but I learn from my mistakes.”

Ahluwalia, a sophomore along with Deng, has been playing chess for seven years and said it’s a challenging and satisfying game.

“In chess, it’s like an analogy of life. Every decision has consequences,” he said. “You have to be calm and not get flustered.”

He added that the Redmond squad even kept a cool demeanor after receiving the state trophy. There was no bottled up energy that exploded with cheers — they were already focused on succeeding at nationals.

Chess team adviser Bryan Rowley said the Mustangs are an impressive group, noting that they also tackle many advance-placement courses in the classroom.

Rowley added that it’s been fun watching them thrive during matches and “achieve this dream of theirs.”

From left, Sam Deng, Noah Yeo and Anshul Ahluwalia compete at state. A scorekeeper is also pictured. Courtesy photo

From left, Sam Deng, Noah Yeo and Anshul Ahluwalia compete at state. A scorekeeper is also pictured. Courtesy photo