The room fills with silence. Everyone waits in anticipation for the player’s next move. The atmosphere is tense. A bead of sweat rolls down the player’s face. His hands are shaking. The next move will make or break his game.
“Knight to F6. Checkmate.”
Though moving a chess piece may not require as much physical ability as kicking a soccer ball or shooting a basket, the effort that chess players put in is equivalent to, if not greater than, that of athletes. “It’s not really a spectacular sport; it’s impressive, but it’s not like doing a long jump or anything. I’d say it’s a mental sport,” sophomore Kimberly Ding said.
Unfortunately, due to its label as a club rather than a sport, the HSN chess club has faced difficulties attracting interest. One of the club’s greatest hurdles has been finding students who are passionate about chess. President Janarth Dheenadhayalan said, “For the longest time, we’ve had a drought of members. When we were sophomores, there were only two members in the club. We had so few people that we would play in Debate Club’s room, just so it didn’t look to suspicious.”
The low membership of the chess club has always been its biggest weak point, because the individual players must put in a great deal of dedication, commitment, and self-studying in order to improve. Only those who have a great enthusiasm for chess have the motivation to pursue it to a high level. “A lot of people see chess as something fun to do in their pastimes, so they don’t try to get better or improve themselves,” senior Andrew Ma said. “We teach them strategies and tactics, but sometimes people aren’t interested in that kind of stuff, so they lose interest in the club. And slowly they start leaving.”
Despite the fact that the Chess Club isn’t one of North’s best known clubs, its recent accomplishments cannot be overlooked. It has about 30 members who attend meetings regularly, which is the largest membership the club has ever had. Most of the new recruits are freshmen, and they are eager to learn the ins and outs of chess. Often, the officers will teach the new members different strategies for the game and help them hone their skills. Freshman Soumithri Karra said, “I’ve definitely seen a noticeable improvement; my style of play is much better. When I consider a move, I now see the implications of that move.”
The success of the Chess Club does not stop there. The team represented North at the World Amateur Team East Tournament, against almost 1200 other players, placing first in its division. “I believe it’s one of the first times a High School North team sent to that tournament actually tied for first place in a national tournament It’s pretty impressive,” junior Larry Li said. Later this year, the club will compete in the Spring State Chess Tournament.
Despite the setbacks the club has faced, it is still going strong. The knight is the only piece on the chess board with the ability to jump over other pieces. Like knights, these talented players feel they are equipped to overcome any obstacles they may face in the future.