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CCSD chess competitors test their skills at annual tournament

Competitors in the CCSD Chess Tournament held March 5 at Overland High School.Ares Rooks has made a lot of progress as a chess player in a single year.

The Meadow Point Elementary fifth-grader has spent the past 12 months learning the intricacies of the game, practicing his moves and building up his strategy. He’s seen several signs of success in the that time, including achieving the prize of beating his own father.

“He’s beat me once,” Brandon Rooks said, as the father-and-son pair waited for the next round of competitive play to start at the Cherry Creek School District Chess Tournament held at Overland High School on March 5. “He seemed interested in the game, and we’ve been playing chess after school.”

The CCSD Chess Tournament, which drew more than 130 students from all over the district, offered Rooks and other aspiring players the chance to compete on another level. The competition, which has been running for more than 25 years, offers a serious chess competition for all ages – this year, students from kindergarten to high school showed up to test their ability on an overcast Saturday. The contest gave Ares Rooks (who seems to have the perfect last name for a chess player) the chance to practice his skills in a serious setting with tournament-style rules.

“I love tournaments,” the fifth-grader said. “I love all the moves in chess, and the strategy. This is my first time playing in this kind of competition.”

Giving players of all levels the chance to build their skills in a formal, competitive environment has always been the goal of the tournament, according to author, chess teacher and U.S. National Chess Master Todd Bardwick. Bardwick has organized the CCSD tournament for more than two decades, and he said the districtwide competition run through the Office of Gifted and Talented Services is a chance for players of all backgrounds, skill levels and experience to build their skills in a setting that accurately reflects professional tournaments.

“The rules are strictly enforced. The parents are out of the room, and young players have the chance to play in a formal setting,” Bardwick said during a break between rounds. Dozens of chess boards sat atop tables spread through Overland’s hallways, and players waited in the cafeteria for their next assigned match. “Being a professional chess teacher is my business, and this is a great way to teach students.”

The 2022 competition represented a return to tradition for Bardwick and the players; the contest was canceled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The return of the tournament drew participation from across Cherry Creek Schools’ 108 square miles: 132 players registered for the tournament, and 29 schools were represented. The tournament comprised five rounds of play and ran from 9 a.m. to about 2:30 p.m.

The scope and scale impressed students and parents alike. Brandon Rooks waited dutifully in the cafeteria as his son headed to his second match of the day. He offered words of encouragement and a pat on the back as Ares headed off to compete.

“This is so awesome,” Brandon Rooks said.

Congratulations to all of the competitors and the to all of the winners!

Cherry Creek School District 2022 Chess Tournament Results


1st  – Ella Wikiel

2nd –  Dheeran Dinesh

3rd – Nathan Nigatu

4th – Millie Mestas

1st Grade

1st  – Giansh Basu

2nd – Faye Harris

3rd – Ezra Medina

4th – Rowan Westbrook

5th – Landon Macklin

2nd Grade

1st  – Noah Zhang

2nd – Tyson Hoffman

3rd – Christina Cuevas

4th – Camden Tippets

5th – Archer Odom

3rd Grade

1st  – Jason Nigatu

2nd – Abhiram Kalla

3rd – Kirk Schell

4th – Timothy Lozovatsky

5th – Joel Medina

4th Grade

1st  – Victoria Saiian

2nd – Malakhi Lepkin

3rd – Michael Rowe

4th – Eli Stockinger

5th – Pierce Roberts

5th Grade

1st  – Makim Kaikov

2nd – Kaavya Sakthi

3rd – Abe Passo

4th – Jhonatan Moore

5th – Zacharay Tormoehlen

6th-8th Grade

1st  – Abhijay Balamurugan

2nd –  Visant Sankaranarayanan

3rd – Ari Meltzer

4th – Evan Sun

5th – Jaiden Hwang

9-12th Grade

1st  – Charlie Flaxbeard

2nd – Hans Krull

For information on chess events, contact Todd Bardwick at 303-770-6696 (hm),, or

-- Posted 3/8/22 at 1:40 PM