Chess team wins second consecutive state championship


Whitman chess team members hold up group and individual trophies after winning the state championship March 17. The victory marked the Vikings’ second consecutive state championship. Photo courtesy Alex Chen.

By Thomas Mande

Whitman’s chess team captured its second consecutive state championship March 17.

The championship, a single tournament, was hosted by Roland Park Elementary School in Baltimore and featured teams from high schools all over Maryland. Whitman’s team won with a score of 15 points, narrowly defeating Northwest, which scored 14 points.

Chess club president Alex Chen credited the team’s recent dominance to the players’ longtime involvement with the sport.

“It’s really the experience we have,” Chen said. “All the people who contributed in the tournament have been playing chess for a while. The support from the other teammates that came also helped a lot.”

While Whitman brought 11 players to the tournament, only the top four scorers can contribute to the team’s overall score. Each player competes in five matches, with a win earning one point, a draw earning a half point and a loss earning zero.

While all four players who placed were juniors, the event provided younger players, like freshman Abby Chen, the opportunity to gain experience.

“It was really cool because it was my first time really at a chess tournament,” Chen said. “It was kind of nerve-wracking because we were state champions before, but in the end we pulled through.”

The team doesn’t host regular practices, but many of its members are part of the chess club, which meets weekly after school for approximately an hour. Other members of the team practice by playing chess with each other outside of school.

Junior Rodrigo Ruiz, who individually placed third overall in the state, a team best, is among the team members not in chess club. While he doesn’t practice much with the other players, he often plays online and on his phone. He said many of the others who aren’t in chess club do the same.

Ruiz also plays center for the basketball team, but appreciates how chess is a sport anybody can play, regardless of size or athleticism.
“I think that’s the beauty of a game like chess,” Ruiz said. “You can thrive without being the stereotype.”

The state tournament is the only tournament the team entered this year, so the group is done competing until next year, when they will look to continue their recent dominance, Abby Chen said.

“Hopefully we can keep our state champion run for the next three years,” she said.