By Natalie Chun
Seventeen-year-old Nicolas Checa, Dobbs Ferry resident and Grandmaster chess player, recently took second place in the US Junior Championship in St. Louis and won $4,000 in prize money.
The national championship was hosted by Saint Louis Chess Club and took place July 10-20. This year marked Checa’s third appearance at the championship and his best performance, exceeding even his own expectations. Checa attended before in 2016 and 2017, placing seventh and fifth, respectively.
The championship consisted of nine rounds in which the top 10 players in the country competed for a $20,600 prize purse. Checa remained the tournament leader after round three and was tied for first place with Awonder Liang going into the ninth and final round.
Liang and Checa faced off in the final round in “a wild game with both kings in trouble,” according to the Round 9 Recap by US Chess Champs. Grandmaster Liang, ultimately took first place, winning his third US Junior Championship in a row and qualifying for the US Championship.
“Special shout out to Nicolas Checa, he should be commended for an incredible event,” Saint Louis Chess Club wrote in a tweet at the end of the championship. “He was certainly the most solid player of the whole tournament, and with a little more luck could have won it all.”
The invitation-only tournament is for those under the age of 20, meaning Checa still has a few more chances to take first place. Though he has no immediate plans for future tournaments, he is committed to continuing to compete and play, while furthering his growth as a player.
“One of the things I love about chess is that it is possible to learn something new from every game,” Checa wrote in an email. “I hope to learn from all my games in this event and I aim to improve for future events.”