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Lemont advances from sectional to IHSA Chess State Finals


Lemont's chess team advanced to the IHSA State Finals from the IHSA Plainfield South Sectional. Four of Lemont's top players this season have been (clockwise, from top left) Savva Zeglin, Jimmy Maloney, Aaron Swenson and Nathaniel Blanco.

Led by coach Ken Suslek, Lemont High School’s chess team has been a fixture in state finals competition for the last two decades. For the first time, however, Suslek’s squad has advanced to the state finals thanks to its effort in sectional competition. Lemont placed ninth at the IHSA Plainfield South Sectional on January 27, splitting four matches to clinch a berth to the 2018 IHSA Chess State Finals, which will be contested on February 9-10 at the Peoria Civic Center.

This season, the IHSA introduced sectional qualifying tournaments to the IHSA State Series and is limiting the number of entrants for the single-class state finals to 128 teams. Previously, teams qualified through an in-season tournament.

Each team plays four matches in sectional competition, with a win earning one point and a draw earning a half-point. All teams that posted at least 1.5 points in IHSA Sectional play – the equivalent of one win and one draw, or three draws – automatically qualified for the 2018 IHSA State Finals. The remainder of the field will be filled through a tiebreaker by teams that earned 1.0 points in sectional competition.

At the IHSA Plainfield South Sectional, Lemont topped Oswego (41.5-26.5) and Metea Valley (36-32) to earn 2.0 points and a state finals berth. The team’s top performers in sectional competition were junior Jimmy Maloney (Board 2) and senior Nathaniel Blanco (Board 5), who each posted two wins and a draw in their four matches. They finished eighth and ninth in their respective boards.

IHSA Chess Web Site

Lemont has enjoyed a terrific season, posting a perfect 12-0 record in conference play and winning its fifth straight South Suburban Conference-Blue Division title. Suslek’s teams are 59-1 in SSC Blue play over the last five seasons. Maloney and seniors Savva Zeglin (Board 1) and Aaron Swenson (Board 3) each earned All-SSC honors this season.

Lemont has competed at the IHSA Chess State Finals each year since 1998. It has won at least two matches in each of those state finals appearances, and has won four matches on eight different occasions, including both 2016 and 2017. The program’s best finish in the team standings came in 2007 when it placed 40th.

The program’s best individual finish came in 2003, when Tom Bondi ‘04 placed seventh at Board 7. Seven Lemont players have finished among the top 20 in their respective boards. The program’s top finisher at Board 1 was Bailey Fox ‘15, who placed 18th in 2014 with 5.5 points. Four players (Bondi in 2003; Andrew Knopinski ‘05 at Board 8 in 2003; Brandon Cotten ‘07 at Board 7 in 2005; and Matt McDermott at Board 6 in 2007) have won six state finals matches in one year.

For more information, contact Director of School and Community Relations Tony Hamilton at (630) 243-3280.
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