Chess, despite being over 1,500-years-old, continues to captivate many players from a young age. The Parkway North Chess Club, which has existed for over 15 years, won first place in the West Conference of the Gateway Conference League with 5 wins and 1 tie.
“We just won the conference championship for the West Conference,” said Chess Club sponsor Adam Stiller. “This is the first year we have competed in some time, so it’s quite the strong comeback for North.”
The team went on to play Ladue in the league semi-finals on Feb. 17. North tied in the regular match, but lost in a tiebreaker. Ladue went on to win the Final on Feb. 24.
“Even though losing a game can be painful, we learn the most from the mistakes that we make in the lost games and, overall, it improves you as a chess player,” said first board player Asish Panda.
The North Chess Club consists of eight total players: Asish Panda, Aidan Johnson, Jacob Sanders, Josh Gollapudi, Phillip Pernik, Charlie Pitt, Steven Ma and Adam Weiss. Despite COVID-19, the team remains able to play, albeit online and meets once a week after school to play practice games against each other and share ideas.
A match involves a team sending its top five players to play the top five players of a competing school.
“There are five boards, with one being the highest level player. Each player gets one hour to make their move, so each match is around two hours total,” said Stiller. “Boards six to eight play extra matches with other teams. These guys are ‘in training’ to take up a higher board in the coming years. They are building up experience and strength.”
In addition to the competition and school pride, chess brings more to students than just that.
“I like needing to use your brain and create ideas made by yourself,” said Panda. “I get very happy after winning and seeing my plans succeed during the game.”
“There’s also a social aspect. You get to interact with a lot of different people around a shared love, around something you both understand and enjoy,” said Stiller. “There’s a pleasure of growth, of seeing an increase in strength over time. There’s a certain beauty to the game: how the different pieces interact.”
Another factor that continues to draw new players to chess is the current trends that surround it. The popular Netflix show “The Queen’s Gambit” has developed many chess fans and Saint Louis is the home to the World Chess Hall of Fame and the Saint Louis Chess Club which hosts many national events.
The growth is also evident on the popular video game streaming site Twitch. Many famous players have begun to stream which has led to unseen fame in the chess community. For example, five time United States champion Hikaru Nakamura, who lives in Saint Louis, has gone viral. His most recent upload brought in 1.1 million views, while his videos from two years ago got 5,000 at the most.
Chess has lasted the test of time and now its unorthodox growth through the media and streaming has introduced the beautiful game to yet another generation where, gauging by North’s success, it appears to be in good hands.