Ladyhawkes soar to victory at State Chess Championships


The newly dubbed "Ladyhawkes" of the Taos Knighthawks chess team showed the state that girls play chess, too. Playing in the 42nd Annual K-12 Championships in Santa Fe, the three person, all-girl team won seven individual games to claim the first place team trophy in the U1200 section Feb. 17.

Leading the way were teammates Jaimie Ritchie and Mia vanWilligen who each won three-of-five matches. This should qualify both girls to play in the exclusive Polgar qualifier, which pits the top eight girls in the state to a playoff for the chance to represent New Mexico at nationals. This will be Ritchie's fourth straight year of qualifying. Also helping out the team was seventh grader Izy Rubin playing in only her second tournament.

Not to be outdone were the young Knighthawks in the K-6 division. The team racked up an impressive 12.5 team points to take first place. Leading the way was fifth-grader, Sean Ritchie who was 5-0 in the event, winning in dominating fashion to claim the individual championship trophy.

Right behind Ritchie in the standings was teammate Lukas Backer with a 4-1 score. Backer is currently ranked as one of the top sixth-graders in the state. Also helping out were Anansi students Perry Kushner and Milo Maher, who both played strong chess.

"I have to give the club's credit to our older students who come back to help our younger students," said coach Dennis Hedges. "It's great to see high school players teaching second graders. Older players Otto vanWilligen, Aidan Heflen and Jaimie Ritchie rarely miss practice and are there almost every week."

"And now we have recent university graduate Tim Martinson back to help," said Hedges. "He is one of the top three rated Knighthawks over the last 30 years."

Next for the club will be the Taos Chess Fest to be held at Vista Grande High School March 3.