Chess club conducts 1st meetings, plans to participate in tournaments against Rock Hill

Growing popularity of chess finds home among Prosper students

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Jake Radcliffe

As freshmen Niteshwar Dhillon and Dallin Hansen watch, junior Quincy Lambert protects her king from junior Lakshya Khurmi’s queen in a “high intensity” game of chess. Lambert would go on to turn a losing game into a winning game and secure a victory against Khurmi. “I definitely learned that chess is not an easy game,” Khurmi said. “It is not a simple game, and Quincy is very good at it.”

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With the recent resurgence of chess due to the popular online platform Chess.com, famous figures live-streaming their play on Twitch.tv and the release of “The Queen’s Gambit,” a Netflix Original Series about the game, students have started a new chess club. Its meetings will be held every Tuesday after school.

Looking at the Newline board, freshman and president of the chess club Sanjay Rajjan congratulates the winners of the chess trivia game the club played in the introductory meeting. The trivia game asked the players about rules, current chess champions and certain moves. “When people in the chess club play other members with different skill levels, they can learn from their mistakes and from any losses in their games,” Rajjan said. “Doing puzzles improves thinking about more than just the next move, such as calculating opponent moves and further. Playing chess will also improve themselves as a person because chess involves creativity and improves things like memory and critical thinking and problem-solving abilities.” (Jake Radcliffe)

The president of the chess club, freshman Sanjay Rajjan, started it this semester. The club’s introductory meeting happened Sept. 24, and the first actual meeting happened Sept. 28.

Rajjan and Emily Byrne, English teacher and chess club sponsor, plan to arrange inter-school tournaments with the Rock Hill High School chess club. Byrne has communicated with the chess club at Rock Hill, but they have nothing planned yet.

The club will also have tournaments between members, with lessons, game analyses and chess puzzles — single-player preset challenges, where the player can gain an advantage or win the game. The club members said they plan to use each to help students improve how they play chess.

“When people in the chess club play other members with different skill levels, they can learn from their mistakes and from any losses in their games,” Rajjan said. “Doing puzzles improves thinking about more than just the next move, such as calculating opponent moves and further. Playing chess will also improve themselves as a person, because chess involves creativity and improves things like memory and critical thinking and problem-solving abilities.”

Rajjan started playing chess at a very young age.

“I learned to play chess at a summer camp in 2013, which was the summer after kindergarten,” Rajjan said. “I attended the camp to play with others for fun, as a casual game in the summer. As time went by, I got interested in playing chess. My parents were very supportive and guided me. I enjoyed my first chess tournament a lot, since I got to play chess against many other kids. In the end I got second place in that tournament, which also increased my passion for chess.”

Many students, such as freshman Rithul Dhanekula, joined chess club to play chess with people in person, after being forced to play online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I feel that there is a tremendous difference between playing online and in-person,” Dhanekula said. “In my personal opinion, whenever I play in-person chess, I feel like I am more concentrated. Whenever I play online, however, I feel like I am more distracted and don’t see as many ideas and moves.”

As he scans the chess board, freshman Akshya Khurmi prepares to attack his opponent junior Rohit Rakshan Palakumar’s pieces. Khurmi said he was nervous about how this game was going. “Honestly, I had no idea what I was doing,” Khurmi said. “I used to play chess a long time ago, and I kind of forgot everything. Rohit was doing really well, putting pressure on my pieces across the board.” (Jake Radcliffe)

“The Queen’s Gambit” is a show about the life of an orphan girl from Kentucky who finds a connection through chess and plays in professional chess tournaments around the world, while indulging in an unhealthy lifestyle. According to an article about the effect of “The Queen’s Gambit” on chess, the amount of Chess.com accounts that were created was around seven times more than usual in the four-month period after the show was released Oct. 23, 2020. The amount of games played on the website by existing players steadily increased due to the show’s release, as well.

Byrne chose to sponsor the chess club so that she could give some students a place in the school to “call their own.”

“Prosper High School is massive, and many can get lost in the masses, so when Sanjay asked me to sponsor the club, I saw this as an opportunity to give students another chance to find their place,” Byrne said. “And, I truly see that they do that during the meetings. They play, strategize, socialize and laugh with students they may not have ever connected with if there was no chess club. I think it is said best through the new school motto, ‘Connect and Grow.’ I see every meeting students connecting and growing, with not only their chess skills, but their relationship-building skills. This club also has allowed me that same opportunity of connection, which I am so grateful for. I have met and am building new relationships with students outside of my own classroom.”