Brooklyn’s Edward R. Murrow HS, long-dominant city chess dynasty, preps for state championship

A chess legend for decades

February 6, 2018 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The chess team at Brooklyn’s Edward R. Murrow High School is getting ready to go to the state chess championships, where the school hopes to reclaim the NYS title. From left: Samantha Dong, Steven Xue, Wang Chan, Justin Dalhouse, Marcus Sutton, Anthony Saquisili and coach Eliot Weiss. Photo courtesy Edward R. Murrow HS
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Move over Brooklyn Dodgers of old, and Brooklyn Nets of today.

There’s a dynasty from Brooklyn that has had “game” since the early ’90s.

The legendary chess team at Edward R. Murrow High School is prepping for the 2018 New York State High School Chess Championships in Saratoga in March, where the school hopes to reclaim its state title.

In January, the team retained its 21st city chess championship in a squeaker — winning by just a half-point. Murrow edged past Jericho High School in Long Island in the last round of the tournament at the New York Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge. The tournament features more than 1,500 students from hundreds of public and private high schools.

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The legendary chess powerhouse has been ranked number one in the U.S. eight times as national champs.

“It is a chess dynasty. The school attracts people who have an enormous amount of talent,” Christian Whitted, owner of New York Chess & Games on Flatbush Avenue, told the Brooklyn Eagle on Tuesday.

Whitted said that Murrow chess coach Elliot Weiss “has been doing a fantastic job for many years — as far back as international grandmaster Aleksandr Lenderman, who was one of our top coaches here and one of the best players in the U.S. And it doesn’t stop there. One of our favorite long-time resident masters, Aleez Alade, went to Murrow.” Whitted added that international master Alex Ostrovsky and national masters James Black and Shawn Martinez had also been members of Murrow’s chess team.

Murrow teacher and spokesperson Lisa Berke called the chess team, like the school itself, “incredibly diverse.” Players have emigrated from China, Guyana, Turkey, Eqypt, Russia, Jamaica, Haiti, Pakistan, Paraguay, Ecuador, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Azerbaijan, Montenegro, Georgia, Uzbekistan, Poland, Dominican Republic, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Hong Kong, Puerto Rico and the USA.

In 2007, Gotham Books published “The Kings of New York: A Year Among the Geeks, Oddballs & Geniuses Who Make Up America’s Top High School Chess Team,” by sportswriter Michael Weinreb. The book follows the championship-winning seasons of the Murrow chess team and was reviewed in the March 4, 2007 NY Times Book Review. It will become a major motion picture, produced by Toulillian Films, in 2020.

Chess helps players “settle down and mature,” Whitted said. “It helps them organize their thoughts and go out and make a success in the world.” Shawn Martinez, for example, opened his own chess business in Brooklyn.

Chess also teaches what commitment, dedication and practice can do, he said.

“To quote Janis Joplin, you only need to be good at one thing to make it in this world. For a lot of kids it’s chess. For Elliot Weiss, it’s coaching them to win.”

Some of Murrow’s top players, from a team of 25, include: team captain Azazjon Sharifov (Uzbekistan); Samantha Dong (China); Justin Dalhouse (Jamaica); Darren Chen (China); Azamat Bozorov (Russia); Anthony Saquisili (Ecuador); Anano Kapanadze (Georgia); Steven Xue (China); Marcus Sutton (American); Alexandr Li (Kazakhstan); Jacob Carrenza (Mexico) and Bolla Zaky (Egypt).

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