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Sandburg Chess Builds Skill and Camaraderie at State Competition

The Chess Team at Carl Sandburg High School made another appearance at the State Series in Peoria, Illinois from February 8-10.

“We qualified by winning on January 27 at Sectionals. The team pulled out two team wins, finishing in 8th place out of 24 teams. [I’m] super proud of the team,” states Mr. DeMarco, one of the coordinators of the Chess team. This was Robert DeMarco’s 14th time going to state, and 8 players would be joining him this year. 

Chess team making their way to the state competition – Photo courtesy of @demarco_illini on Twitter/X

To get to the state level, the chess team had to participate in sectionals. Senior Patrick Bigos states, “To qualify for state you have to go 2-2 in sectionals or better, and state works based on your ranking and seeding with your current record. Typically, the better or worse your team performs, the better or worse teams you will face.” 

During the State Series, schools go head-to-head competing in matches and playing as best as they can. Freshman Adrian Kopec says, “The state tournament has 128 teams across Illinois [that] compete in Peoria. The tournament is like a 7-round Swiss stage, where you face a team with the same record as you. Your team qualifies by getting 2 points at sectionals.”

Chess is a very strategic and time-consuming game that takes a lot of thought and skill. Each meet looks similar to the other in the way that the points are the same based on each board. “For meets and tournaments, eight boards are ranked from 1-8. Each board has a number value associated with it for scoring. You can either win, lose, or draw a match – which means a tie. [The] First board is worth 12 points, down to the 8th board, which is worth 5,” says Mr. DeMarco. 

There is a lot that goes into putting people on different boards and levels. Kopec continues, “I got 4.5 points out of 7 games, which was 4 wins, 2 losses, and a draw. There are 8 boards on a team, with board 1 being the strongest player. I was playing board 4.”

Bigos adds, “I didn’t perform very well, going 2-5, but I would like to give credit to Saboor Khan and Iman Ansari who performed very well for our team.”

At the end of the competition, the team’s results were mixed. “The team won 3 games and lost 4. A couple of our top boards left before sectionals, and it became much harder for us to do good. Anyway, we got a higher place than we were seeded, so we did better,” stated Kopec. 

Players participate in the state tournament – Photo courtesy of @demarco_illini on Twitter/X

Outside of actually competing at state, the chess team got to have a blast in the hotel and enjoy hanging out with their teammates and friends. Kopec says, “We had so much fun at the hotel’s pool and basketball court. I wish I could’ve had one more day there.” 

Other than competitions, including the state tournament, the Chess team meets two to three times a week and learns more skills to become better players and components. “During the season we have meets every Tuesday, and the season runs from the end of September to the second week of February.” 

Mr. DeMarco continues, “During practice, we teach tactics, have competitions for board orders, and we order pizza sometimes.”

On the chess team, strangers turn into teammates, who then become friends. The people on the chess team have become very close over the last season. Bigos explains, “The best thing about chess are the people that you play with. Going to practices and meets with your friends alongside [you] makes the experiences very enjoyable and is easily the best part about being in the team.”

Mr. Demarco concludes, “ I am so proud of each of the participants this year from seniors, who have participated 3 out the 4 years being at Sandburg, down to [our] freshman and sophomores who have contributed in every match and Sectionals.”

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