Chess team plays until nightfall

Players spend 10 hours competing


Senior Ben Witzel has played chess competitively since freshman year. The chess team practices on Fridays after school in the Math Resource Center and competes on Saturdays. Photo by Noah Kaufman

The London, the Sicilian Dragon and the Fried Liver Attack. These names are opening strategies in chess, senior Ben Witzel’s favorite game. 

“[For the seniors], this is our last chance,” said Witzel. “And so, [head coach Michael Campbell] is bringing us to as many tournaments as possible, having as many practices as possible because we know this is the year.”

Witzel and other chess players spend most Saturdays participating in 10-hour-long chess tournaments. Each game lasts approximately two hours with players having either 45 minutes or 50 minutes per game to make their moves. 

The chess team is big this year with many freshmen on the team attending practices and matches, Campbell said.

Chess tournaments are composed of eight games being played simultaneously. The boards are numbered one through eight, with board one worth 12 points and board eight worthfive. 

Senior Colin Edsey enjoys the way the matches are set up because it allows him to play an individual game that matters to the team while also spending time with his friends. 

Players are allowed to observe other games during tournaments as long as they stay on their team’s side of the table, but talking is strictly prohibited. 

The winner of the fourth board game determined the result of the team’s first matchup during a tournament at Hinsdale Central on Oct. 15.

“It was the end of the match,” said Witzel. “Almost everyone in the room was done with their game, and there were huge crowds of people crowding around the two remaining players. One of them was playing for our team.” 

“We were slight underdogs, and we ended up winning [that match] because [senior Ari Ayzenberg] won,” Witzel said. 

According to Campbell, the players think through games with each other and point out moves a player missed during a game to improve for later tournaments and build trust. 

The team practices by playing each other on Fridays after school until about 6 p.m. or 7 p.m., unless there is a match.

“Some days we have mock tournaments, so we’ll get eight people for both sides and play a long game and simulate what a tournament match would be like,” said Witzel. “And other times we just play short games, fun games, whatever it is we want to do.”

During one of the first practices of the year, a few varsity members stayed late and played chess jeopardy together after a player noticed that chess was a topic on that night’s “Jeopardy!” episode, Witzel said.

As of Dec. 9, the chess team has a record of 17-7, going 3-2 inconference. 

“Chess is a really great community,” said Witzel. “Everyone there, even on different teams, wants to learn from each other. They go over games together after they play, they play each other over and over and eventually form good connections with their opponents.”