Mid-South middle school wins national chess championship

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - A Shelby County middle school chess team is already top in the nation, after forming the team just a year ago.

"To me being a chess champion, don't underestimate your opponent," 14-year-old Austin Bland said.

Austin, an eighth-grade student at Highland Oaks Middle School, is serious about chess and its game day strategies.

"All the different pieces and how they can align to make a different plan and if someone tries to defeat that plan you can always try to have a backup plan," Bland said.

He and his teammates seemed to be one move and one thought ahead when WMC5's Andrew Douglas talked with them at their school.

"You have to be able to adapt to any situation," 13-year-old Joshua Seymore said.

More than 1,000 students competed in various divisions over three days in Atlanta earlier this month. The Highland Oaks Chess Team won 1st place in the K-9 Unrated Division of the 2018 National Junior High Championship.

"While I was there I played two games where people started crying like mid-game, and I wanted to give them a hug, but I had to keep my brave face on," Bland said.

Shelby County School leaders recognized the accomplishments Tuesday night as the team showed off smiles and the hardware they brought home.

Chantelle Mitchell is the team coach and sponsor.

"It's a life experience that you can share with your family and friends," Mitchell said.

She and the team love telling others how the game translates to everyday life.

"To not ever give up because things might go wrong, and you might feel down but you can still come back up," Seymore said.

"That's personally what it's taught me to be prepared for what's coming," Bland said.

The prepared and powerful chess team dominated teams from across the country, leaving a lasting message for all to remember.

"We can accomplish anything we want to really," Bland said. "There's no goal too far."

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