By Michael Zhang
In Room 603, plastic figurines are at war. The sound of clanking fills the air as they are captured and killed. Eight-by-eight black-and-white boards make up the battlefield for this war, one that is fought with wits and cunning instead of guns and swords. The art of this war is glorified in all its bloodthirstiness, and no one loves the fight more than the Great Neck South Chess Team.
To the team, chess is more than just a game. Members attend practice once or twice a week in Room 603 to hone their skills by playing against each other and receiving lessons from the president, senior David Yuan. The team officially has six “boards,” the title for the six members ranked in terms of skill that can compete in tournaments. For the first half of the year, there is usually a tournament every Thursday, where the team plays against other chess teams in the county. Players compete in individual matches, and the overall team score is based on how many individual victories the team earns. The individual matches are timed and have one referee to judge. Players have the ability to forfeit if they know they cannot win, and there is no option for a redo. Of course, a handshake is mandatory after each set.
After going 5-3 in the regular season, the team entered the playoffs in January as the fifth seed. The playoffs are a seeded tournament among the best six teams in the county. After a successful performance in the first round of the playoffs, where nearly every player won their individual match, the team managed to finish third overall, only losing to the eventual champion. Each player had a winning record on an individual basis.
The secret to their success? According to junior Yuhan Liu, it’s the team atmosphere. “The team is always pretty chill,” Liu noted. “We always have a positive attitude, and we all are dedicated because we all like to play chess.”
The team was very surprised by their high ranking. Coming in as only the fifth seed, the team didn’t expect to make it all the way to third place.
“It went better than expected. We had lost last year’s seniors, who made up pretty much most of the team,” Yuan said. “They were the main reason we finished second last year. It was amazing for us to have almost finished second again because we had to recruit many new players this year. We basically had to start from scratch. Although the newcomers are talented, they had to get used to playing chess competitively.”
Junior Aidan Leerecalls the struggles the team had to go through. “It was a tough run. Everyone had busy schedules, and not everyone was present for all the games. So we had to have last-minute subs. It’s cool that we still managed to do well.”
Next season, the team hopes to recruit more players. Although they have finished in the top three for the past several years, they are still one of the smallest clubs in the school. With two seniors gone next year, the chess team is in dire need of new warriors .
“Although we only have six competitive slots, we are planning to expand that next year,” Yuan said. “Practices next year will be more structured and have more space open for more members. In addition, there will be more tournaments and more opportunities to improve one’s individual ranking. The chess team is enriching, educational, competitive, and important for building strategic thinking. All students are welcome. You don’t have to be good, you just need a passion for chess.”