Chess team prepares for upcoming state tournament

Sophomore Liza Tarakanova concentrates on making her next move in a game of chess at the club.

Nico Stranquist

Sophomore Liza Tarakanova concentrates on making her next move in a game of chess at the club.

Entering what many players consider to be its golden period, the chess team will begin preparing for the upcoming State tournament taking place in March 1.

“Last year we got second in the state tournament, and this year I believe we can get first, because we as a team have spent more time practicing and preparing than we did last year,”  senior Will Tong said. “I’m really excited to see what we can do.”

Tong is President of the Chess Club and the highest rated player on the team.  The team is composed of the four best players in the Chess Club, who are divided into boards one, two, three and four in order of rating and skill level.  Each year, they compete in competitions such as the Missouri State Scholastic Team Championship, and others.

“We typically participate in two or three tournaments in addition to state. Each tournament is rated, meaning it impacts our United States Chess Federation rating. We do this to get more practice and prepare for state,” Tong said. “Playing the same people from our school is good practice, but it’s important to play students from other schools to stay sharp. The best way to do this is through tournaments.”

Brian Welch, the West High librarian and sponsor of Chess Club, is proud of how far the club has come.

“They have made great progress in growing the Chess Club,” Welch said.  “When the club started three years ago, there were about six to eight members.  Now, there are 16-20.”

Welch also plays chess as a member of the St. Louis Chess Club and Scholastic Center.

“I go most Sundays, and try to get the latest information to keep the club and its dedicated members up-to-date,” Welch said.

Junior Matt Sauer, an occasional Chess Club attendee, is a recreational player who does not participate on the Chess Team.

“Sure, chess is sometimes a competitive game, but Chess Club is more than that. It is like a group of people who get together to play or watch, and have a good time,” Sauer said. “Even though a lot of us aren’t good enough or dedicated enough to be on the team, we still like the challenge of playing each other and having fun.”

The Chess Club welcomes new players at any skill level.

“The thing about chess is a lot of people are intimidated by it at first, but everyone can play with everyone. I think that when people play it more, they begin to like it more,” Tong said. “The more players we get, the more strength we gain as a club and team. It’s going to be a great season.”

The chess club meets every tuesday in the library after school.

“New players are always welcome,” Welch said.