Checkmate: Chess team corners first two opponents of the season


Aidan Renteria

Chess team member, Matthew Bennet has a friendly game with a peer. The Mustangs refine their skills in the LMC, practicing for upcoming competitions and tournaments.

Grace Davidson, Sports Editor

The chess team just kicked off their 2021 season back in person, hoping to dominate this year with new and old faces. The Mustangs hold conference matches on Tuesday and tournaments are held on Saturdays. Eight players compete between eight boards. The team’s best player is positioned at board one and the rest of the participants are similarly spread throughout the rest of the boards. Board one allows for the most points to be scored from a win, and that number lessens up until board eight. At the end of the competition the winners are counted from each board and the scores are tallied up for each opponent relative to their boards.

The chess team started out their season with two wins against Waubonsie Valley (38-30) on Nov. 2 and Neuqua (45-23) last Tuesday. However, the match against Neuqua accumulated to a misleading score. The competition came down to one match, which if the Mustangs lost would have resulted in a draw. Now, with two fresh wins for Metea, the season ahead is looking especially promising. 

“I am excited about our talent level this year,” coach Thomas Womack said. “We also have some very good freshman players, so we should be a solid squad for years to come.”

Womack has advised the team for eight years and this year coaches alongside Jason Haymond. Womack hopes that the team can finish in the top 15 at state this year. He helps the team prepare for matches through an elaborate leaderboard system. Every day 60 people are paired and every Thursday the team mates play one another to climb up the leaderboard. On the day of the conference competition the top 15 players prepare for the tournaments. 

Senior Ayush Jain has played chess on Metea’s team for four years. Jain usually plays on the top boards for the Mustangs. Throughout his past years on the team Jain has become increasingly involved in the world of chess. 

“My mom takes me to tournaments and I have a very supportive family,” Jain said. “My friends and I started around the same time and we all played together [and improved].”

Jain has set his sights even higher than Womack, hoping to place top 10 at state this year. 

“I am most excited about going back to in-person state,” Jain said. “The experience is so fun and it was honestly the best part of chess. I am hoping that we get top 10 in state, especially looking at how good the team is this year.”

Part of the team’s success comes from the weekly practices held in the LMC, where the players strategize and compete against each other to prepare for upcoming competitions. 

“When I am playing a chess game I am analyzing all the different variations that are available in the position and which variation will be giving me a bigger advantage,” Jain said. “In complete silence we play and focus only on the game. Preparing for a match is mainly just reviewing my openings and if I know who my opponent is going to be, having the opportunity to look at my opponents rating can be a crucial factor in winning a game.”

Just as any other team sport, chess relies heavily on an inclusive community between players and coaches to help provide a progressive atmosphere and promote success. 

“My relationship [with my coach is] really close,” Jain said. “Over the years the coaches have gotten to know me really well and how I act and behave. You could essentially say we are friends.”

Chess’ competition season starts at the end of Oct. and spans till the start of Feb. and is open to all genders. The Mustangs encourage other Metea students to consider joining no matter what experience level.

“You will have the time of your life,” Jain said. “There is always someone willing to help you improve. You do not have to know how to play chess to join. We promise you will start to have more fun as you get better.”

The Mustangs will face Naperville North in conference play this Tuesday and will participate in the West Chicago Tournament this Saturday.

“I am extremely proud of the team and how great they have played,” Jain said. “The preparation has paid off and they definitely deserve a round of applause for all their efforts. Keeping that team spirit alive is crucial. I really do appreciate the hard work that Womack and Haymond are putting in for this school year.”