Warsaw students on the Madison Elementary School and Edgewood Middle School teams who qualified for the state chess tournament include (L to R), first row: Noah Shepherd, Kier Lightfoot, Zeke Mesman, Ryley Judd, Dane Koontz; second row: Silas Mast, Jacob Kissling, Jonah Reichenbach, Subbu Muthiah; third row: Trey Koontz, Claire Reichenbach, Kaitlyn Evans, Shruthi Muthiah, Alex Bowers; fourth row: Gabe Bowers, Benjamin Bolduc, Nolan Knight, Jacob Lucas, Eric Harman and Brandon Chan. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union.
Warsaw students on the Madison Elementary School and Edgewood Middle School teams who qualified for the state chess tournament include (L to R), first row: Noah Shepherd, Kier Lightfoot, Zeke Mesman, Ryley Judd, Dane Koontz; second row: Silas Mast, Jacob Kissling, Jonah Reichenbach, Subbu Muthiah; third row: Trey Koontz, Claire Reichenbach, Kaitlyn Evans, Shruthi Muthiah, Alex Bowers; fourth row: Gabe Bowers, Benjamin Bolduc, Nolan Knight, Jacob Lucas, Eric Harman and Brandon Chan. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union.
Ten chess teams from Warsaw Community Schools will be traveling in two weeks to state competition.
Four teams from Madison Elementary, three from Washington STEM Academy, one from Edgewood Middle School, one from Lakeview Middle School and one from Warsaw Community High School will compete March 22 at Honey Creek Middle School, Terre Haute, in the state finals. This is the first year Lakeview and WCHS have sent teams to the state contest.
According to coach Jay Bolduc, to advance to state the teams had to qualify at regionals Feb. 22 at Goshen High School. All but one Warsaw team advanced.
“We did really well,” Bolduc said.
Only the top three teams in each age division received trophies at regionals.
The Washington third-grade-and-under team – the “A” team – came in first at regionals. Every previous year a team from Canterbury School in Fort Wayne won, so this was the first year they didn’t place first at regionals, Bolduc stated.
The Madison “A” team, third-grade-and-under, placed third. The Madison sixth-grade-and-under “A” team took second place in their division, while the sixth-grade-and-under Madison “B” team took third.
“Schools are allowed only one trophy per section but that worked out well because the Washington (sixth-grade-and-under) team was fourth but they got the third-place trophy,” Bolduc explained.
Edgewood’s team won third place.
The other four Warsaw teams advancing to state did not place at regionals, but they did well enough to advance to state finals anyway, Bolduc said. There are six regionals in Indiana. At the state contest, organizers want 32 teams in each of the four divisions, so each regional has an allotted number of teams that can qualify for state.
Many of the students involved in the chess teams at Warsaw schools have been playing since kindergarten or first grade, Bolduc said. He’s been coaching chess at Madison for 11 years, and he’s coached at Washington for the last two years. Since Madison students feed into Edgewood, Bolduc knows many of the students there, too.
“We do Thursday night chess (at Washington) so all the schools can get lessons and games in,” Bolduc said. “And I know all the kids. They’re such good players and the families enjoy it that I offered to put a team together (for the high school).”
While no Warsaw team has won the state chess tournament yet, Edgewood tied for first place one year, only to lose on the tie breaker. Madison has had a state runner-up team, and Edgewood came in third place last year, Bolduc said.
“People know who we are,” he said. “People from all over the state know who we are and the schools from Warsaw.”
Since Bolduc can only advance his teams so far, Wawasee High School graduate Josh Matti has helped with lessons the last six weeks through Skype. Thursday night he visited with the Warsaw teams at Washington to provide lessons.
“When (Matti) was at Wawasee, they won the state chess championship. He is one of the best chess players in the state. He’s now in college,” Bolduc said. “He decided to come up and spend time with the kids tonight. He loves chess. ... I can only go so far. We needed someone to take the students to the next level. He’s a genius. Because he’s young, the kids really look up to him. He gets a great response from the kids who look up to him. He’s been a great addition to the program. He provides a different lesson each week. Parents are very supportive, too. They pitch in a couple dollars for his efforts.”
While the Warsaw teams would be happy to win the state title, Bolduc said he makes sure that students know that winning is not the most important thing compared to all the things they get from playing chess. Chess is supposed to be fun, so even if a team comes in 32nd, Bolduc said he will still be happy if his students had a good time.
The chess players are highly anticipating the state finals.
“I’m really excited,” said Ryley Judd, Madison. “This is my first time going. I’m a little bit nervous. I think I’ll do great.”
Washington student Theodore Katris said he’s going to state for the second time. “I like it better (this time) because all my friends are going. I’ve been practicing with my brother who is First Board and my dad, who is not that good,” he said.
Dylan Barkey, Washington, said going was “awesome because it’s my first time going to state. I’ve never been there before.”
“I like playing chess because it helps my strategy in other games,” said Trey Koontz, Madison. While he’s only been playing chess two years, he said, “Once I started playing, I couldn’t stop.”
Going to state for a second year, Washington student Kyle Baumgartner knows it will be different. “I’m playing harder people. I’m playing first board, I was playing third board before.”
“I think I’m really excited to go,” Jacob Kissling, Madison, said. He said he’s most nervous about Canterbury, “definitely, because they’re good and I lost last time to them.”
Lakeview student Jonathan Venegas has gone to state competition twice for individuals but this is the first year he’s gone with a team.
“I think we’re going to do pretty good. The team is a good team. I don’t know how we compare to the other teams, but I know our team is a good team,” Venegas stated.
Alex Bowers, Madison, said it was his first year going to state and he didn’t know how he would do. “I’m a little bit nervous because this is my first time going to state,” he said.
Brandon Chan, Edgewood, has been playing chess since the first grade. He’s now rated 1100. The highest-rated person is around 2800, he said. This will be the third year Chan has advanced to state.
“I’m excited. We had a pretty good team last year. I have a personal lesson every week and I try to fit games in with my dad. It’s fun,” Chan said.
Having played chess since the second grade, WCHS freshman Justin Stout is going to state for the third time.
“We went fourth place two years ago, third place last year, so I’m hoping to keep it going this year,” Stout said.
The high school doesn’t have a chess club, he said. Since the members of the WCHS team have played together the last few years, they decided to get a team together for this year.
Stout acknowledged that Canterbury usually wins and has a best player with a rating of 1800. That’s not going to stop the Warsaw team from competing though.
“I like chess because it’s completely fair. It’s based on your wit. It’s not based on what you’ve given. You can always get better at it,” Stout said.