Chess Success

Chess+Success

At Battle High School in Columbia, Missouri, the chess team competed in the Missouri Chess Association (MCA) state championship on Mar. 2, placing secnd with a team score of 12 out of 16 possible points, improving upon last year’s fifth place finish.

“Boards are set up so that the strongest player is on board one down and the weakest is on board four. There are four total rounds and this team of four boards has there scores added up,” senior William Tong said.

The board each player is assigned to is based upon their United States Chess Federation (USCF). Based on the rating scale, Tong is the 42nd best chess player in the state – students and adults included. Sophomore Steven Zhang is 121st by the same scale.

“I was tentative to go to the competition because my USCF rating is high. That means that I had more to lose than to gain because I would’ve lost more points by their system if I had lost. William [Tong] convinced me in the end, because he and I both hoped we might take first in State this year,” Zhang said.

Individually, freshman George Liu finished fifth on board three, Zhang finished 1st on board two, senior David McKnight finished fourth and board four and Tong did not place on board one.

“I competed and unfortunately I had to play the first and second seed and lost to both, so I only scored two out of four possible points. I was trying to get top three in the state individually because I was the fourth seed, but I ended up being unlucky even though I played well,” Tong said.

Tong, who has placed in the top five every year since kindergarten, spent a majority of his preparation time practicing online at chess.com, an online chess community which allows you to play against people from the community.

“I’ve been playing chess since I was five and I think that it’s a fun and challenging game; most people just don’t know the strategies of chess. I had a super intense game with the person who ended up placing first and I was super close to a draw  but ended up losing because I was running out of time,” Tong said.

On the other hand, Zhang, who had quit the team last year, performed the best individually.

“When I first started playing in second grade, chess was a lot more fun than it had become in the last few years. Recently, I was only playing in tournaments where I was awarded money for winning; I played in Las Vegas and won $900. I guess when I decided to go to state my one goal was not to lose, and I met that,” Zhang said.

Liu did not spend any time preparing on his own, and he ended with a fifth place finish on board three.

“I’ve played chess for nine years, and my goal was to be the best. In all honesty, I anticipated long, boring hours of stressful chess,” Liu said.

The team, but particularly McKnight, prepared through weekly meetings in the library after school on Tuesdays.

“Outside of practice, I prepared by playing on my phone and my Playstation Vita. I’ve been playing since first grade because chess is enjoyable for me,” McKnight said.

Overall the team’s performance met their aspirations to do better than fifth place, but Tong’s adversaries kept the team from a first place finish.

“He had to play both 14th and 15th in state, so he was pretty unlucky being 42nd best. He’s still pretty good, he’s beat all of our players blindfolded, which he’s able to do because he memorized the board,” McKnight said.