By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
If practice does indeed make perfect, some families in Hays have an advantage when it comes to chess tournaments.
Justyce Briney and his younger brother, Japheth -- who get additional practice time while playing each other at home -- swept the senior and junior divisions at last weekend's winter youth chess tournament at Hays Public Library. That concluded the fall and winter chess program at the library, where youngsters can play chess for an hour every Friday afternoon.
Justyce -- a sophomore at Thomas More Prep-Marian High School, where he is a member of the Monarchs' highly successful chess team -- won the senior division with a perfect six points.
Japheth, a 10-year-old fifth-grader at Holy Family Elementary School, did nearly as well, finishing with 5.5 points, winning his first five matches before ending the day with a draw in the junior division.
The younger Briney gets plenty of support from older brother.
"Darn," Justyce said. "If he would have gotten that last win, he would have had a perfect day."
The second-place finisher in the junior division, 9-year-old Jensen Brull, also has chess in his DNA.
His grandfather is Randy Brull, longtime chess coach at TMP who has run youth tournaments at the public library for "about 15 years" and is in charge of the library's Friday afternoon sessions.
And Jensen's first cousins are Jacob and Paul Brull, also avid chess players. Jacob is a senior at TMP who helped the Monarchs to back-to-back runner-up finishes in the 3A state competition the past two years, and Paul is a seventh-grader and a leader on the Monarchs' junior high team.
"Well, he plays a little bit; he plays with Grandpa, and some with his dad," Randy Brull said of Jensen, a third-grader at Holy Family. "Plus, he's been coming pretty regularly to the Friday afternoon (sessions) at the library. ... A lot of practice."
That kind of practice for several of TMP's high school team members has parlayed into several successful seasons. The second-place finisher in the senior division Saturday was Peak Navanimitkul, a TMP sophomore from Thailand and Justyce's roommate last year at Nations Hall, TMP's boys' residence hall, when the Briney family still lived in Ness City and Justyce was a resident student at TMP.
Justyce and Peak both were members of the state runner-up team as freshmen last year. And the Brineys hope to help TMP continue that success in chess for years to come.
The three brothers -- Jagyrd, a seventh-grader at TMP Junior High who doesn't play chess -- all attended Sacred Heart Grade School in Ness City while growing up.
During his eighth-grade year in 2011-12, Justyce made the decision to come to Hays to attend TMP for high school.
After one year away from her oldest son, April Briney decided to move her entire brood to Hays last summer.
She said her two younger boys have adjusted well to the larger school, where they have more activities from which to choose to participate.
"Chess, soccer, baseball," Justyce said, naming some of his extracurricular activities. "I wouldn't have been able to do any of those in Ness City."
And, now with the brothers together again, Japheth gets to practice chess with his oldest brother, who is glad to be reunited with his family, too.
"I can hardly wait until I'm a senior," Justyce said. "Japheth will be in seventh grade (then), and we'll all get to practice together at TMP."
"He'll be in seventh heaven," their mother said of her youngest son. "He really looks up to Justyce."