Livington Lancers Chess Team Wins 10th Grade State Championships

Many students bring home trophies from tournament

by Jeff Garrett


LIVINGSTON  –  High School Debate teams, Mathematics teams and now Robotics teams display 

the collective student team spirit of academic games competition. These teams provide an outlet 

for intellectually motivated learners who seek to show off their talent and help their schools 

shine just as gifted athletic teams do season in and season out.

Yet in the creation of newer, more modern competitive academic and games clubs, one shouldn’t 

forget one of the originals – the high school Chess club, which for Livingston High School, came 

alive with resounding success this Winter and Spring repeating as state champions. 

Coached by Mr. Will Peklo, the Livingston varsity Chess team took first place at the 2024 NJ State 

Championships with a squad including Roger Zhang, Haari Muthukumar, Tom Valyaev, Eric Guo, 

Matt Ge, Lucan Giong, Leo Koganov, Claire Cheng, Quan Tren and Aston Roberts.  It’s junior varsity 

team includes Ben Murkis, George Cui, Aviral Bhardwaj, Ayush Saxena, Aviral Bhardwaj, Sam 

Israel, Abhimaan Chandan and Sam Israel. The Livingston program was honored by the Township 

Council on March 25, 2024 for their achievement.

Chess is a game of smart, calculated, methodical moves. It can take quite a long time since the   

and patience it requires outlasts the patience of many. But for these students at Livingston, 

they seemed to take all of the time needed to bring home quite a few trophies at Brookdale 

Community College in Lincroft where the New Jersey sate Chess championships were held in 


Individual and team competitions were participated in by close to 500 Chess competitors 

ranging from juniors to teenagers.  One successful Lancers’ Chess student was sophomore Roger 

Zhang, a national master of sorts who earned second place in the tournament.  Zhang enjoyed the 

aura of the event which included being around so many competitors, the tournament rounds 

themselves, winning and taking part in the awards ceremony.

Another big winner was Aston Roberts, noted as a strong expert in the game.  Roberts’ strength 

garnered him the 10th grade championship by tying with Zhang for first place.  He liked that he 

shared the honors with a respected teammate.    

Zhang and Roberts weren’t the only ones propelling their school to great feats.  

Cheng helped lift the freshmen team to a second-place finish, placing fifth herself in individual 

competition while Tran nabbed seventh-place which was no small achievement for a state-wide 

tournament like this.

The camaraderie and support the Livingston Chess players showed one another did not go 

overlooked by the students nor their coach.

Peklo, who awarded letters to his team – the type that individuals get for playing on high school 

varsity teams, was proud to say the least, of how the team supported one another all season long.

He wants that camaraderie to continue to next year as members from the Lancers’  strong middle 

school team start competing at the high school level, realizing he has a team with a great deal of 

depth to guide forward.  


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