The National Tournament of Champions Representatives for the District of Columbia


Hosted in partnership with the Thurgood Marshall Center Trust in Washington, D.C., the annual District of Columbia Scholastic Cup Chess Tournament is the qualifier to advance to the prestigious Barber Tournament of kindergarten to eighth grade champions, The National Girls Invitational Tournament, and the Denker High School Tournament of Champions. The Barber Tournament of K-8 Champions invites the winners of the US Chess State Affiliate Championships to compete for the title of the 2018 Barber Champion. The Executive Board of United States Chess Federation has added the Barber Champion to its list of qualifiers for the World Youth or the World Cadet Championship and the US Cadet Championship. 

The qualifying student in case of a tie will be the highest finishing player on tie-breaks who meets the eligibility requirements of the World Youth/World Cadet event for the US Chess delegation and the US Cadet Championship.

The US Chess National Girls Tournament of Champions is a tournament of champions for girls from across the United States.  It is held annually in the model of the Denker and Barber Tournaments in conjunction with the US Open Chess Tournament.  The 2018 event will feature a $5,000 scholarship funded by Robert and Barbara Schiffrin.

The Denker Tournament of High School Champions is a chess tournament that occurs annually in the United States alongside the US Open Chess tournament, the Barber Tournament of K-8 Champions, and National Girls Invitational. The tournament is named in honor of the founder, Grandmaster Arnold Denker. The players will descend upon Madison, Wisconsin for a 6-round schedule. All three scholastic tournaments–the Denker Tournament of High School Champions, the Barber Tournament of K-8 Champions, and the National Girls’ Tournament of Champions–will be hosted at the Marriott Courtyard Hotel. The six-round tournament includes players from 50 states, Guam, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and Washington, D.C. The top prize is a $5,000 scholarship sponsored by US Chess Trust.

This year 2018, Washington, D.C. will be represented by Ayah Swan as the National Girls Tournament representative, Amanda Lossef as the Barber representative, and Zahir Muhammad as the Denker High School representative.

Ayah Swan is a nine year old third grader at Latin American Montessori Bilingual School (LAMB) in Washington, D.C. She has been playing chess since she was five years old, when she developed  interest in the game while watching her father Quito Swan and older sister Ifasadun playing the game. Her prowess in the game developed through years of coaching by her father, guidance by her mother Maryam Sabur, and playing with her sister.  Most recently, she has also been coached by DC based chess master David Bennett. She has represented her school, En Passant Chess, and Chess Girls DC at several local, regional, and national tournaments, including the All-Girls tournaments in Chicago, Illinois, and the Scholastic Nationals in Orlando, Florida. Over the past several years, she has consistently been ranked in the top 20-50 girls in the United States Chess Federation for her age. In 2017 and 2018, she won second place in the District of Columbia All Girls Citywide Chess Tournament. She recently participated in a simul with one of her inspirations, Jennifer Yu. She also enjoys playing piano, building complicated Lego sets, Mine crafting, attending robotics classes, experimenting with slime, and completing jigsaw puzzles. This summer she will attend Breakthrough Girls Chess Camp in Washington, D.C., hosted by Chess Girls DC and Woman Grandmaster and 2017 U.S. Women’s Champion Sabina Foisor.

Amanda Lossef is currently an 8th grade student at Alice Deal Middle School and has lived in Washington, D.C. her entire life. Her favorite subject is math, and she is taking geometry this year. In addition to chess, she likes to spend her free time sketching and writing fiction. She learned to play chess in third grade and quickly took interest. She likes it because the game is visual and involves calculating many moves ahead using a combination of tactics and strategy. In 2017, Amanda came in first place at the DC Girls Chess Championship and represented the District at the National Girls Tournament of Champions (NGTOC) in Norfolk, Virginia. This year, she won the first place awards in both the DC Girls Chess Championship and the K-8 District of Columbia Scholastic Cup Chess Tournament. This summer, she will represent Washington, D.C., at the annual Barber National Chess Tournament in Madison, Wisconsin.

Zahir Muhammad, a Ward 7 resident, has been playing chess since the age of three. As a nationally ranked player, he has enjoyed being a captain of his chess team and back in 2016 was a top-10 finisher at the K-12 National Championships in Orlando, FL. More recently, he won the Varsity Maryland Roland Park championship in November 2017, as well as other numerous chess accomplishments along the way.
While growing up in Southeast DC, Zahir has had the benefit of being trained by DC metro area instructor greats such as Ted Fagen, Vaughn Bennett, Shaka Greene, National Master Gregory Achonolu, Quito Swan, National Master David Bennett, Robin Ramson, and many others. Zahir’s preferred chess strategy is to attack from the flanks. “I normally start with a Queen’s Gambit to attack from the sides, and then I converge into the center. I think it reflects my personality too.” Surprisingly, Zahir believes the most valuable chess piece is the pawn. “Most people would say it’s the king or queen, but the pawn is key and the base. They are taken for granted, but they make a big impact on the game.” However, Zahir’s favorite chess piece is the bishop. “It’s the most effective because it can attack from far away and do a great deal of damage.” As a rising junior at DeMatha High School, Zahir takes honors classes and strives to be a well-rounded student. When he steps away from the chess board, he plays AAU basketball, runs track, and is a member of the Mayor’s Youth Leadership Institute and the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Washington. His favorite subjects include Math and Chemistry, and he studies both Mandarin Chinese and Spanish as part of his daily courseload. His future plans include becoming a national master by junior year and getting a college scholarship with plans to major in Chemical Engineering. The future is bright for Zahir as he plans to achieve his goals. His short term goals are to win the Denker High School Tournament of Champions in July and  reach a 2000 chess rating by the end of the year (he currently stands at a 1751 rating). Zahir wants to become an international master (2400 World Chess Federation rating or above). In the long term, Zahir hopes to start his own chess team. Zahir is the oldest of four children, and credits his father for teaching him how to play chess and his mother for driving him around to numerous practices and tournaments. When asked who inspires him most towards excellence, he points to the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan whose consistency and strength motivates him to achieve greatness in chess and in life.

After the grueling rounds of chess at Saturday’s DC Scholastic Cup Chess Tournament, Ayah, Amanda, and Zahir emerged as the victors among fellow competitors from area schools in a fierce set of games that determined who would represent the District of Columbia at the National Tournament of Champions in Madison, Wisconsin, July 2018. The Washington, DC community is so proud of all of the students who attended the event.

Submitted by:

Robin Ramson

USCF Scholastic Coordinator, Washington, D.C.


For more information on the Barber Tournament rules or Denker tournament rules go to:

If you would like to submit Chess news about a local student please contact Robin Ramson at

Congratulations to our 2018 Barber,Denker and All Girls representatives by Councilman Grosso.

Congratulations to our 2018 Barber,Denker and All Girls representatives by Councilman Grosso.