‘Pretty amazing kiddos’ win state championship

BMS chess team features plenty of talented students

By Josh Bickford
Posted 4/9/24

Arjun Bansal is not wasting any time.  

He moves his pawns out first, creating lanes for his bishops to attack. Across the chess board, Arjun’s unknowing victim struggles to map out …

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‘Pretty amazing kiddos’ win state championship

BMS chess team features plenty of talented students


Arjun Bansal is not wasting any time. 

He moves his pawns out first, creating lanes for his bishops to attack. Across the chess board, Arjun’s unknowing victim struggles to map out which moves he can make to stem his losses. His efforts are in vain.

Arjun’s army of ivory-colored chess pieces operate as a finely-tuned machine. They wipe out his opponent’s pawns, bishops, rooks and knights in what seems like seconds. Then he captures the queen. His opponent’s nervous eyes tell the story — the end is near. 

Six, or maybe seven moves in, Arjun announces “Check” almost surprised that his challenger, an overmatched and unprepared middle-aged man carrying a reporters notebook, does not realize what has just happened to him.

Only a few minutes have passed, but the Barrington Middle School students crowded around the impromptu chess match know what will happen next. In fact, they jab Arjun when his opponent gets a bit more aggressive and takes one of his bishops. 

Arjun is unfazed. A short time later, the match is over. The seventh-grader has won. His friends congratulate him, but they know it was not much of a challenge, really. Hardly worth a celebration. 

Ironically, that is exactly what is happening inside the breakout space on the first floor of Barrington Middle School that afternoon. Members of the BMS chess team are celebrating their state championship. The local team dominated its first season in competitive play this year and captured top honors in the Ocean State Chess Associations Middle School League. 

“Pretty amazing kiddos,” said their coach/supervisor Bronwyn Ellis. She admits that Arjun is really the driving force behind the team. 

“He came in one day to chess club and he said ‘I did a tournament this weekend and spoke to this guy named Frank and he runs the state thing. We need to have a team. Please, can we have a team?’ He basically started the whole thing,” Ellis said, of Arjun. “He already had a roster for me. He did all the PR. He recruited. He made our poster to get people, to let people know about it. I’m just facilitating. I’m just here as the adult supervisor. But he’s the star.”

Arjun explained some of the work he did to find and recruit chess team members. 

“I just went to the different people. Some people didn’t like competing. They do it just for fun. And then after I had everybody who wanted to do it, I let them play and we found what our numbers were,” he said. 

“All of us are in seventh and sixth grade, so we’re going to have next year too. And we’re going to have a new set of sixth-graders. There are some new kids who reached out to me and said they want to join. Next year we’re going to have close to 15 kids.”

That is about double the size of this year’s competitive team. This year’s championship squad features Arjun, Luke Cladis, Nathaniel Sarkar, Albert Dong, Divyansh Yadav, Will Bucher and Samuel Ellis. 

Arjun said Albert is the top player on the team. 

Albert stands nearby during the interview. He is tall and quiet and smiles a bit when Arjun mentions he is a strong competitor. Albert has a rating of 1,840. That is very high, especially for someone his age — chess masters rate around 2,200; the top-ranked player in the world has a rating of 2,830. 

“He is like way above everybody else,” Arjun said of Albert.

The BMS team has two players rated at 1,400. Arjun is rated at 1,000. Some of the other team members have ratings of 800. 

“Actually, our third place player went to their school — Barrington High School — and he beat their fourth-place player,” Arjun said. “Our team is actually quite close with their (the BHS) team.”

Arjun said he would like to organize a match between the Barrington High School and Barrington Middle School teams. He is confident his team would win. 

He is also confident that BMS has a good chance of repeating as state champs next year. 

Thanks to the parents

Ellis said this year’s team members owe a big thanks to their parents for all the support … and for the transportation to competitions.

“I think one of the most amazing things about our team this year, we didn’t have district transportation, so it was up to parents to come and get their kids and most of the meets happened in Providence, so you have to go over the bridge and everything,” she said. “Parents were taking time out of work and driving their kids over there.”

Ellis said she was very proud — and a bit surprised — with this year’s team. 

“I had a feeling they were going to do pretty well,” she said. “I was surprised that they had won the whole thing, but I knew we had some kids who were very passionate about chess.”

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