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Eight Westview Hills Students Compete at Chess State Tournament, One Medals

Chess Club

After experiencing a great turnout this year, the Westview Hills chess club sent eight members to compete at the 2019 IESA Chess State Tournament in Peoria from February 22-23. Representing the Wildcats among the 700-plus participants were sixth graders Rohan Bansal, Brody Petersen and Ethan Young; seventh graders Jordyn DeLeon, Aiden Galeckas, Aarush Palli and Maksym Savchuck; and eighth grader Juan Gaspar.

Coach Don Engberg, an eighth grade science teacher at Westview, said the tournament went well and that every student earned at least two victories.

Each participant played seven chess matches: four on Friday and three on Saturday. Winning a match earned the student one point while a draw was worth a half point. Bansal garnered enough points to win a bronze medal by winning four matches and drawing two for a total of 5 points.

Behind Bansal was Young with 4.5 points. Palli and Savchuck each had 4 points, Galeckas earned 3.5 points, Petersen and DeLeon ended with 3 points, and Gaspar finished with 2.5 points.

Like traditional tournaments, participants began with one match, and the winners played other winners. So as the competition continued, there were fewer players left standing who hadn’t lost. The coaches ranked their players, and the IESA paired those who were ranked similarly to determine matchups.

But unlike other IESA activities, there is no qualification process to reach the chess state tournament. Any student is welcome to compete, but schools can bring no more than seven participants per grade level. This year, about a third of the roughly 25 members of Westview Hills’ chess club chose to compete at state. Engberg said it’s usually a first come, first serve basis, but students’ efforts and activity during the season are considered as well.

This year, the Wildcats participated in 13 conference meets and finished with a 7-6 record — good enough for fourth place in the conference. They also finished fourth in the conference tournament but missed out on individual medal winners.

Although the Westview Hills chess club didn’t finish at the top of its conference this year like in previous years, it  saw good participation in the club in addition to sending eight students to state.

“I think it’s the largest club we’ve had in several years,” Engberg said. “They were a club that was very enthusiastic from the beginning, and they really wanted to get better. And while there was a lot of inexperience, they constantly strove to get better and were always engaged in every practice and always very supportive of each other in every match.”

The large club turnout did present a challenge for Engberg and co-coach Dawn Sanchez, though. Only the top 10 students can participate in conference matches, leaving over half of the club unable to compete for their school. But the effort and enthusiasm of the students who weren’t in the top 10 didn’t go unnoticed.

“Some students didn’t participate in matches, but they were always there at practices,” Engberg said. “Even though they never participated in an official match as a ranked player, they came to away matches and home matches and supported the team.”