Damien Giannikas ’24 checkmates the competition


Media: Evan Luo '25

Damien Giannikas ’24 plays chess. He was among the top-rated students at Hill.

Hailing from Sydney, Australia, Damien Giannikas has made a name for himself in the world of chess and on The Hill campus as its best chess player. Rated over 2000 on chess.com, which ranks within the top 99.95% of chess players, Gianikas dominates everyone he stumbles across.

Prior to his rise to the top, Giannikas, along with his family, moved across the world to London when he was just two years old. During his extended stay in The United Kingdom, Damien played Minecraft and Counterstrike: Global Offensive, a passion to which he still does today. While recounting his youth, Giannikas commented “I really miss it. I really do.” Wanting something new, Giannikas and his family moved to The Hill School in 2018. For most people, the move would be startling, but having moved twice across the world, it was like any other day for Giannikas.  

At The Hill, Giannikas can often be found on the track, taking himself to new heights in his running career. Giannikas initially ran sprints but switched to the 800 meter in his 4th form year. Giannikas says that he loves track because he “enjoys being with [his] friends.” His dedication to both chess and track serves as an inspiration to his peers. 

Giannikas also loves classical languages. Giannikas initially began learning Greek when he was two, and then Latin when he was nine. According to Giannikas, “Classical languages are almost native languages to me, since I have been studying for them for so long. I just love reading about the two languages and the culture and history behind them.” 

In Chess, Giannikas loves playing the Accelerated Dragon variation of the Sicilian Defense. Giannikas states, “There are so many variations in Sicilian. I only know four of them myself.” He also loves playing the Caro–Kann Defense against White. “It’s simply too good, it’s Caro–Kann.” According to Giannikas, his favorite part of chess is the middle game, since it requires the most skill to win the game. 

After the blockbuster release of Netflix’s Queen’s Gambit, Giannikas found himself inspired to play chess. Giannikas says, “I was really moved by Beth Harmon’s story. I just clicked with chess.” 

For lower rated chess players, he recommends learning opening variations, endgames, and playing intuitively. He says that the game is simpler than it looks, but that new players need the ability to play instinctively and technically. Giannikas says, “Think about what your opponent is trying to do.”  

With such an interesting personality and a life full of activities, Giannikas inspires those around him. 

Madison Tian ’25, a friend of Giannikas, says, “Damien is a very supportive friend who makes my school life happier. I like talking to him every day.” 

Jaewan Lee ’25, a fellow runner, says, “As a fellow running, he is absolutely dedicated to the 800 meters. He’s also really good at chess. Out of the hundreds of matches we played together; I think I only won once.”