HUNTINGTON — Huntington High School’s first chess club is in the middle of its first tournament this week as the students face off during their lunch periods.
The students have hosted tournaments before among themselves, but this is the first time they have formed a club.
“The best part about chess club is we can bring everyone together from different walks of life throughout the school,” senior Jacob Watson said. “I’m a basketball manager, myself, so I might not connect with people who aren’t athletes outside of this.”
Sophomore and chess club secretary De’colven Williamson said you can learn a lot about a person based on how they play chess.
“I think chess is a form of art,” De’colven said. “How the game is played, how you use your strategies, it’s unique between every person just like how art is.”
Students had been playing chess often the past few years, but they didn’t have a time to really get to know each other, Jacob said. So chess club was born out of a desire to connect.
“It’s fun to see people learn,” Jacob said. “I’m a leader, myself, so when I get to show people what you do and don’t do, it brings out a part of me that I really like.”
The tournament’s bracket was set so that beginners played beginners and advanced players played advanced players in the beginning. As they rose through the ranks, they started to mix.
Ninth-grader Saphira Key started playing in the fifth grade because her dad would play it all the time on his phone, and she recently joined the club.
“I got interested in how long he was thinking about every move,” Saphira said. “I enjoy that I can put my learning to use in what I’m doing.”
The students were seated across from one another on a long, thin table in the library — the perfect size for their boards. The person playing white goes first, hitting the timer and moving either a pawn or a knight.
Each player has 10 minutes per game. If time runs out, they tally the score using points based on the number of different pieces each player has collected. For example, pawns are one point and queens are nine points.
Junior Cody Johnson won the first game of the tournament against an advanced player he never thought he would beat.
“I’ve played him multiple times, and I’ve never beaten him,” Cody said. “He’s one of our chess scholars in the club, and I didn’t expect to win this game.”
The game changed for Cody in the beginning when he decided to use a double-pawn strategy instead of a single-pawn strategy.
“He made some mistakes by moving a knight, and it allowed me to open up a board, and when I opened up the board, it allowed me to take some of his units,” he said.
Cody has been playing since the fourth grade. He said he enjoys how chess slows everything down.
“It takes strategy,” he said. “I think it helps us see a bigger picture because every move, you have to be looking one move ahead.”
District Librarian Tina Brown said there were only about eight students in the first meeting, but by the second meeting, it had doubled.
The University Interscholastic League has a chess program, but it only goes into the eighth grade. Brown said the students hope to one day compete in a tournament against other schools.