The chess team from Whitney M. Young Magnet High School took first place in the Illinois High School Association’s chess tournament last weekend, the first time a CPS high school has won a state chess title in more than 20 years.
The IHSA tournament took place in Peoria over two days and included teams from 128 high schools from throughout the state.
Another CPS high school, Northside College Prep, took eighth place at the highly competitive event.
The chess tournament comprises seven rounds with players competing at eight boards. Games can last up to two hours and the championship is awarded based on aggregate points accumulated by team members throughout the tournament.
In the final round, Whitney Young freshman Sam Schmakel needed a victory for his school to finish in first place. “In spectacular fashion, and with dozens of onlookers crowding around the table, he won the game with only five seconds remaining on his clock,” said Whitney Young chess coach Paul Kash. Schmakel is the highest-rated freshman player in Illinois and the 2010 U.S. Chess Federation’s 9th grade national champion, the coach noted.
Other members of the victorious team include: Michael Augur, senior and team leader; Charles Swan, the highest-rated sophomore player in Illinois; Kessidy Chan and Donavan Harris, both seniors and Top 8 players during their four years at Whitney Young; Mark Waechter, a sophomore; and juniors Cristian Pena and Brian Mei.
The chess team´s state championship was celebrated by the Whitney Young student body, faculty, staff and administration during a pep rally at the school today.
Along with Kash and assistant chess team coach Charles Swan, the team has been trained by national chess master William Aramil for the past four years.
The last time a CPS chess team took a state title was when Kenwood Academy won in 1988. Lane Tech was state chess champion in 1976, 1977 and 1984.
“Whitney Young´s 2011 High School State Chess Championship wasn't just a win for this year; rather it was a win for all the players and coaches who dedicated themselves over the past four years," Kash said.
The Whitney Young team had finished in second place at state three times in the past four years. “After repeatedly coming so close, our will to win the championship could not be denied,” Kash said. “This championship is for all the coaches and players who have kept chess in CPS alive for the past 10 years.”
Chicago Public Schools serves approximately 410,000 students in more than 670 schools. It is the nation’s third-largest school system.