Detroit youths place 1st in national chess championship

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

Jada Hamilton was admittedly anxious as she eyed her opponent across the chess board at a Chicago hotel Sunday, anticipating the next move.

It was the final round in the 13th Annual KCF All-Girls National Championships, and the Detroit eighth-grader faced a rival in one last nerve-racking match. But by focusing, the teen checked the other girl’s king then forked her bishop, which eventually cinched a surprise win.

“I was pretty amazed,” the 13-year-old said, still sounding awed the next day. “It’s hard to describe how I felt that day because I was really happy.”

Jada’s victory, her coaches said, led to the University Prep Science & Math team earning first place in the “Under 14” category at the championships presented by Kasparov Chess Foundation, US Chess Federation and Renaissance Knights Chess Foundation.

The youths, all active in the acclaimed Detroit City Chess Club, were among more than 440 players, organizers said.

They had previously competed in the contest, but the top placing this year “was a significant win,” said head coach Kevin Fite. “We’ve won a lot of other national tournaments, but we’ve never won this one. … We were considerably the underdog in that section.”

To prep for the race, open to players with a US Chess Federation membership, the girls were tutored by a master, said assistant coach Kwabena Shabu.

“They put in a lot of hard work,” said Kamisha Hamilton, mother of Jada and twin sister Jaidyn, who also competed. “They were really determined.”

The payoff extended beyond the pawns, Shabu said. “We always tell them, every place they go, they represent Detroit. It’s a wonderful showing.”

Mastering the chess skills not only boosts the board battle but “helps you with school,” said Lauren Bradford, also an eighth-grader at University Prep. “I have an A in math. It helps with calculation and patience.”