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Among the best, Metcalf ninth-grader stands out with third school chess title

Nearly 50 years ago — 35 years before Zander Gorton was born — Metcalf Junior High School began its annual all-school chess tournament.

Above: Zander Gorton added a third Metcalf Chess Championship to his trophy case this year. Below: Zander and Metcalf chess director Brian Ribnik talk strategy during practice.


Zander made history on Oct. 20 by winning three consecutive school championships in 7th, 8th and now in 9th grade.

“No other student has done this in the history of the school,” said Brian Ribnick, a math teacher at the school who has been chess director for 33 years. “It’s a remarkable accomplishment.”

Every year Metcalf students compete in an all-school competition to determine a chess champion. This event also serves as team tryouts for students attempting to qualify for the school’s trophy-winning traveling team.

“Metcalf students earned three national titles in 2015 and the school’s 28th state chess title, so when they play against each other, the competition is fierce,” said Ribnick.

This year was no exception, with Zander being the eventual school champion.

“Zander works at the game,” said Ribnick. “He is very creative and is able to create brilliant plans to outwit most of his opposition.”

Also notable, says Ribnick, is that Zander learns from his mistakes and rarely makes the same mistake twice.

Zander’s interest in chess increased back when he, along with all 4th graders in Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District 191, participated in two-week residency with a chess master through a unique and long-time Community Education program.

“Chess is like a super checkers game but a lot more fun and complicated,” said Zander. “Chess has so much depth to it — there are more possible chess games than atoms in the observable universe.”

Zander believes calculation and intuition are his greatest strengths in playing chess which allow him to make “some ridiculous moves that actually work.”

Earlier this year Zander won the national junior high blitz chess championship in Louisville, Ky, — a very fast-moving version of the game.

Ribnick predicts continued chess success in Zander’s future as he moves on to be a member of the Burnsville High School chess team next year. “Zander made Metcalf history,” said Ribnick. “Can’t wait to see what he does next.”

Posted: Wednesday, November 25, 2015 - 11:14