Chess excels through competition season despite virtual format

Win after win, the PEHS chess team has been quickly advancing towards their opponents and pushing for checkmate. Just like every club activity, the chess club has been operating online through Zoom.

“I wasn’t even sure if it was even gonna happen this year because of Zoom, but the athletic directors really wanted to make it happen so we all had to work hard to set up a new system. Once it was set up, it [started] going pretty smooth,” Sponsor Ian O’Donoghue said.

Because of safety regulations limiting in-person gatherings, the chess club has been practicing for their tournaments through a program called Lichess. Lichess is an online chess program that allows players to play against an AI or another person online as well as providing lessons and chess puzzles to improve their skills. 

The switch to virtual had also decreased the number of members in the club with students having to sign up through a google form that was released in Oct. of last year. 

“I’m very happy that we even have eight players, let alone that we’re this good,” O’Donoghue said. “It’s a pretty amazing year with what happened considering that we only had four players that were on the team last year come back this year [since] all the rest were seniors… We’re lucky that we have eight players because if we only had seven players, then we’d already be losing points before we even start each match.”

Despite the small size of the team, the chess team has accumulated a total of 12 wins, one tie, and one loss as of Jan. 30. However, the results of the state tournament that happened on Feb. 12 would bring their score to 16 wins, one tie, and four losses. 

This year, the chess team placed 52nd out of 113 teams, and for the first time in competing for state, won four rounds and lost three. Nathan Stone, captain of the chess team and graduating senior, was surprised by the outcome. 

“We also had one of our players, Bryan, who went undefeated in the tournament, which I believe we have had only one other person do that in the history of the school. It was also very odd that Bryan and most of the other lower boards finished their games very fast… Many of their games finished before I completed 20 moves, some before I even completed 10 and I believe one game finished before I completed 5 moves. Normally though the highest boards finish last, but not by this significant of a time margin,” Stone said.

The chess team ended their season strong in spite of the circumstances, and Stone continues to hold hope for the team and its members. “My hope is that they just learn chess and get better at it while enjoying playing the game. Not a lot think that our chess games are something they wanna do, which I understand at first, but just… really enjoying the game and just playing and learning [chess] because it takes a lot to learn it,” Stone said.