Northside Chess Dominates Prep Bowl
by Ben Morris
Among the 33 white banners hanging in the third floor atrium, one seems to stand out: the maroon City Championship banner for Northside’s 2011-2012 Chess Team. The 2017-2018 chess team has made it their goal to add another banner to hang alongside the lonely one. They took their first steps towards this goal by competing in the annual Prep Bowl on Saturday, Nov. 18, hosted at St. Ignatius College Prep. High school chess teams from across the city were in attendance and facing off to win the coveted traveling trophy.
Northside won the Prep Bowl in 2014, but the trophy has since resided at Whitney Young for the past two years. It was the goal of many seniors to hoist the trophy once again before graduating, as they once did as freshmen. Unlike other teams, chess does not have defined captains. Instead, they have what is better understood as leaders, who are George McCoy, Adv. 805, Mindren Lu, Adv. 810, and Jonathan Lee, Adv. 911. The tournament consisted of four rounds of competition and before the tournament, Lee said, “I am pretty confident that we could win the whole thing. We have a deep team with a lot of talented freshmen that we recruited during ClubHub.”
In the first round of play, the Mustangs took on Brother Rice and won relatively easily. In the second round, the Northside team took on the hosts, St. Ignatius, a tougher team than Brother Rice, but nothing the Mustangs couldn’t handle. Despite struggling early in his match, Lu never lost confidence. He was down on the board and on the clock, but quickly capitalized on a few mistakes made by his opponent to pull out a win.
The third round would be the most difficult for the Northside team, as they had to take on the defending two-time tournament champions: Whitney Young. Young, considered the top team in the city, is a heavy favorite in nearly every match. Although their usual second and third boards were not there, the Young team was still very strong and Northside would need big performances if they wanted to come away with a win.
The round all came down to Jonathan Liu’s, Adv. 807, match. If he won, the team would have a chance at the championship. If not, they would go home empty handed. Although the players were tied on the board, as neither had a positional advantage, Liu only had about one minute left on his clock, while his opponent still had five. Despite having odds stacked against him, Liu stayed cool under pressure and played quickly and decisively. His opponent couldn’t keep up, and although he initially had five times as much time as Liu, he ultimately ran out of time. Because Liu still had five seconds left on his clock when this happened, he secured the individual and round win for Northside.
At this point, Northside was the only undefeated team, at 3-0. In the final round, Northside took on Lane Tech, another very good team, but the win over Young gave the team confidence and made them mentally prepared to take on any team. With momentum on their side, the Mustangs plowed through the competition in the final round, as they felt that their toughest test was already behind them. With this final win, the Mustangs finished the Prep Bowl with a 4-0 team record and finally retook the trophy from Young.
The team wants to give a special thanks to Ms. Jaclyn Woodruff, Math department, and Ms. Jenna Hartnett, Special Education department, for being the team’s chaperones during the event. Also, Charlie Sell, class of 2014, has been an active member of the team, as he is an assistant coach and bought everyone pizza to celebrate their tournament win. Afterwards, Lu said, “It’s nice to have the trophy back at NCP for my second time.” Because he was one of the freshmen to win back in 2014, the win is extra special for him.
Although this was the second tournament of the year, the first one was more of a practice run, as many members of the full team were not able to attend. With plenty of underclassmen constantly practicing and getting better, the team’s future, both near and distance, is looking very bright. The event on everyone’s mind is the state tournament in February. With a deep and talented team, everyone is hoping for and expecting to finish better than last year.