Burke chess wiz takes his second D.C. state championship

Burke’s Philip Keisler won the state chess title for the second time in three years. (photo by Cory Royster)

After winning five straight rounds, Burke junior Philip Keisler was tied with St. Albans’ Andrew Wu to determine who would be the chess champion of the D.C. State Athletic Association. In the playoff round, Keisler put the pressure on by winning the first game of the two he needed for the title.

“I was a point up and if I won the game, I would win the tournament. I had the white pieces, which is a small advantage,” said Keisler, who also had a slightly higher rating than the St. Albans standout going into the game.

“He was playing the French defense,” Keisler said of Wu, “and we played very tactically. I was able to get a strong position early. Then I was able to win both of his rooks and checkmate him soon after.”

The win gives Keisler his second DCSAA championship in three years. Wu earned silver and his St. Albans teammate Dinesh Das Gupta took third.

In the team category, St. Albans captured the title at Wilson on Saturday afternoon, while Burke finished fifth.

For Keisler, the inspiration to play chess competitively came from his older sister Sydelle, when the two attended Lowell School as first- and sixth-graders, respectively.

“My older sister won a tournament and I thought that if she won, then it has to be cool,” he said. “I picked it up and started playing it. It became a lot of fun, and I started playing competitively — and it progressed from there.”

Capturing a second state title was particularly special for the junior since he was instrumental in bringing chess to his school.

“A couple of years ago I started the Burke chess team,” Keisler said. “It has grown a lot over the last couple of years. The Burke School has been very supportive. It started as a club that met at lunch with a lot of members from my grade. Now it’s expanded quite a bit.”

Keisler credited and thanked the DCSAA for creating the annual tournament that started in 2015.

“It has been really great,” he said. “I go to this tournament every year. It’s a really well-run tournament, and there are a lot of really nice chess players in the D.C. area.”