“They met my expectations and far exceeded them,” said Simone Parker, the high school teacher that coaches the team.
Parker said the team won two of their four games as a team Saturday, which she said was “an all-day affair,” even as she sat “on death’s doorstep,” trying to take naps between matches.
“It was very stiff competition,” Parker said, noting that several of the matches played by the four-person team — comprised of seniors Michael Rowe, James Williams and John Imboden and junior Lyndsey Darnall — were against opponents with rankings more than 500 points higher than their own. (For reference, grandmaster’s have rankings of 2,500 points or higher).
The Cadiz Record visited with the team — and other members of the school’s chess club — as they practiced after school last week for the championship.
As the players aren’t allowed to talk during competition, one may have expected a quiet gathering, something suitable for a library study room perhaps.
This, however, was certainly not the case. Of the 20 students or so who were staying after class on Wednesday, March 1, several wore headphones, emitting the paper-thin sound of crashing cymbals.
James Williams was pivoting in his chair between two simultaneous games of chess, one of which was taking place on the same table on which a skateboard rested.
Williams’ teammates Lyndsey and John used the opportunity to practice against one another, brushing up on their trash-talk in the process.
Parker started the chess club at a student’s behest four years ago, when it attracted about 25 students. She said the monthly club day in her room is a sight to behold, as the club has now grown to about 75 students.
“We have probably one of the most diverse clubs in the high school,” Parker said.
This does not mark the first time the chess team has cracked the top ten in state competition — Parker said they finished seventh last year, and even ranked 34th in national competition last year in Nashville.
“They’ve played some of the best schools in the nation when it comes to chess,” she said. “I wanted them to have that experience.”
Of course, when you play nationally ranked teams, you have to expect some losses, but Parker and the students agreed that’s fine.
“They learn something in the process,” she said. “You learn more by losing a game.”
Lyndsey takes much pride in her place on the team as the only junior, the only girl and, as she put it, “on being the only non-total geek on the team.”
At this point, John politely reminded her that she was also in the computer club.
Parker considers herself a casual chess player and generally doesn’t play the team — unless she loses a bet about a student excelling on a particular test.
“I refuse to play them,” she said. “I’m not to their caliber.”
She is proficient enough, she said, to evaluate their play during after-school practice, and certainly proficient enough to be their silent cheerleader (rules are rules) at tournaments.
Parker said the public is welcome to come to the high school at 3:30 on Wednesdays to participate in the chess club. Just call ahead, she said, to confirm she will be there. Chances are you might be exposed for the first time to bughouse, a student favorite, where teams of two play against one another in frenetic matches, your captured pieces going to your teammate’s game.
Parker called chess “the one game — the one sport — where size, age doesn’t matter.” She also warned, though, that it may become addictive.
“It is one of the easiest games to learn,” she said, “but it is also one of the hardest games to ever master.”