Mustang Chess Team Makes Impressive Finish at State Tournament
by Alex Perman
The Northside Chess Team headed to Peoria on Feb. 9-10 for the IHSA State Chess Tournament. Leading up to the event, the team had won a previous major event called the Prep Bowl, hosted by St. Ignatius. This was their first Prep Bowl victory since 2014 and raised the confidence level going into the state tournament.
In the basic structure used during most chess tournaments, there are eight boards arranged by a player’s individual skill rating with board one being the top player. The top boards are awarded a greater number of points for the win and the team with the most points after all eight boards finish wins the match. The HoofBeat sat down with George McCoy, Adv. 805, and Mohammad Lotfi, Adv. 901, boards 1 and 2 respectively, to recap the team’s performance at the IHSA State Chess Tournament.
More than 100 teams ended up participating in the event, which includes those teams that played in the open tournament. In the open, individuals who were not able to make it on to their school’s team or schools who do not have enough players to form a full team can participate. The team tournament was played in seven rounds in which teams were matched up by their overall record.
The line-up for the Northside team goes as follows in order from board one to eight: McCoy, Lotfi, Jonathan Lee, Adv. 911, Mindren Lu, Adv. 810, Richard Lam, Adv. 005, Jonathan Liu, Adv. 807, Dung Le, Adv. 103, and Umair Ahmed, Adv. 104. There were also two alternates: William Buchsbaum, Adv. 907, for board seven, and Konrad Freymiller, Adv. 106, and Aaron Mui, Adv. 104, for board eight. The Mustangs were able to win a total of five out of the seven rounds for a 9th place finish overall. According to Lotfi, this was a massive improvement over last year’s finish of 17th, but the team hopes to place top five at next year’s state tournament.
The team’s two losses were to Stevenson High School (the second best chess team in Illinois according to Lotfi) in round four and Highland Park High School in round seven. If Northside had been able to win that round, they would have placed 4th overall. The team crushed the competition in the first three rounds, but in round four, the games were much more evenly matched. Both Lu and Lam were able to defeat their opponents, but all of the other boards lost. Round five was also a somewhat close match, but in round six, Northside swept the opposing school, meaning all eight boards won their games. In round seven, the games were even closer. McCoy, Lofti, and Lee, the top three boards, were all able to win their matches, but the rest of the team lost.
Following the tournament, there was an awards ceremony held, and McCoy received recognition for his performance of 9th place out of all of the first boards in the tournament. Other notable showings included Lam, Lotfi, Lee, and Liu, who all won five out of their seven rounds individually.
Last year, the MVP Chess Tournament was held in Chicago and had players compete for thousands of dollars in scholarship money. McCoy placed first, earning him $12,000 in scholarship money, and Lu placed third, winning $3,000. These seniors have earned prestigious awards over their time on the chess team and will be missed by the rest of the team. The Chicago Open will be happening in May of this year and the team hopes to do well there.
Lotfi and McCoy also talked about the team’s goals for next year. Despite losing key members, the team expects Lotfi and Lee to be moving up to the first and second board spots. In addition, Freymiller, Mui, Le, and Ahmed have shown tremendous improvement, according to McCoy and Lotfi. Both have high hopes for the rising freshmen and believe there is room for greater improvement in the coming year for them, as well as the entire team.
For more information on how to get involved with the Northside chess team, please contact student coordinator George McCoy or go to room 303 on Friday after school.