Teen Chess Whiz Wins Regional Varsity Title

Chess whiz Harutyan Akopyan won five of six matches en route to taking the varsity individual title in the two-day Southern California High School Chess Championship at Monroe High School in North Hills.

The 17-year-old Los Feliz resident rebounded from a fourth-round draw against Alex Huff, 16, representing St. Margaret's Episcopal School in San Juan Capistrano, with two decisive victories Sunday. On Saturday, Harutyan won three consecutive matches to take an early lead against a field of 44 participants.

Monroe chess coach and English teacher Steve Hughes said Harutyan, a 10th-grader at Arshag Dickranian High School in Hollywood, has "a great future in chess."

"Only time will tell if he will become a grand champion or not," Hughes said.

Next up for Harutyan, who last year won the Super Nationals Scholastic Chess Championship in Knoxville, Tenn., is the National High School Chess Championship, to be held May 8-10 at the Wyndham Hotel near Los Angeles International Airport.

"Harutyan is an excellent chess player and I'm very optimistic that he will win the national title," said Randy Hough, chief director of the weekend's event.

Monroe senior Santy Wong, 17, of Granada Hills and Chatsworth resident Brandon Ashe, a 15-year-old sophomore who attends North Hollywood High School, were among those in a five-way tie for second place.

Also tied for second were Alex, Fullerton resident Justin Skliar, 15, who represented Brea Olinda High School in Brea, and Hwi Yong Song, 16, of Koreatown, who attends Palisades High School.

In the team competition, Monroe finished first with 14 points, edging out Palisades, which had 13.5 points. Jordan High School of Los Angeles placed third with 12 points.

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