After over two years of planning, the Chess Club had its first session Tuesday, Nov. 10. The students were coached by Mr. Gildardo Garcia, who won the 1998 World Open chess tournament in Philadelphia and was awarded the title of Grandmaster by the World Chess Federation. According to sophomore Joshua Gerstenfeld, the Vice President of the Chess Club, the club began with the goal of creating a positive and competitive atmosphere for playing chess while giving people with no background experience the opportunity to learn the game.
“The chess club is easy for people of all skill levels because even if you’re a beginner and you know nothing about it [chess], everyone will teach you and you will learn how to play. If you’re an expert, then you are going to learn different things. We have a lot of different skill levels. We still have some people who don’t know the name for bishop and still call it ‘the thing with the point on top.’ Then we have people who have won national tournaments. What we’re going to start to do as we go on is we will divide the club into the people whose skill level is much higher and those who really don’t know how to play yet, and they’re going to be taught different things,” said Gerstenfeld.
The club began as a joint venture between the school and the Alpha Chess Academy, a Weston-based institute for learning chess. “The school had been missing a chess club for a few years. We felt like it was necessary to fulfill that gap,” said senior Michael Goutnik, one of the Co-Presidents of the club. The other Co-President, junior Suganth Kannan, was once the U.S. Open K-12 Scholastic champion.
“I was tired of going to all the tournaments and winning by myself without a team and missing out on so many team trophies. I decided that I was going to push a group together so that our school can win as a team. A few years down the road, I would love to see [students from] my alma mater become the national champions,” said Kannan.
At the moment, the chess club and the chess team are not formally separated. However, in the next few months, changes will be made to distinguish them. While the club will meet weekly, a team of the top 10 to 12 students will compete in events. The first major competition will take place April 1-3 at the 2016 National High School Tournament in Atlanta, Ga.
“I think that the chess club is great. It’s a really good program that stood in the making for a while. There’s just so many good things about it that there’s no reason not to join,” said Gerstenfeld.
The club meets every Tuesday from 5 to 6 p.m. in room 5140.