In a quiet corner of Clearview Regional High School’s library during after-school hours, one can hear “Checkmate!”
On any given day, it could be senior Heike Richardson, sophomore Nicholas Long or even seventh grader Shawn Zou uttering the word that signifies a chess game win.
The tight-knit chess team of 10 find themselves saying “checkmate” a lot, especially during competition. The group went undefeated during the regular season, coming in first place for their league. In early February, they placed second at the South Jersey Chess League Group 2 Tournament.
“We’re people who enjoy playing chess more competitively, other than just having it as a hobby,” said Richardson, the captain. “The chess team is more like a family. We teach each other how to get better.”
Most team members have played together since middle school. Richardson considers the game to be unlike any other sport, requiring constant critique and strategy, she added. And most of the players in the team form a strong bond.
“You get to problem solve with each other. I guess that helps people come together,” said Richardson. “Since there’s not that many people in the school who play chess, especially to the level we do, you get to know each other over the years.”
A typical season lasts from October to March and consists of six major matches. The team trains at least two times a week both at the high school and the Mullica Hill Library, which holds a weekly chess class.
During competitive tournaments, Clearview Regional librarian and team advisor Arlen Kimmelman sees a certain camaraderie between competitors from other schools that is unique.
“When we go to the tournaments, players from other schools look for each other. In between matches, they’re playing against each other and they’re making jokes,” Kimmelman noted.
“It’s a very interesting dynamic. There aren’t any enemies there.”
Team members see the unique camaraderie as a testament to the sport. They believe that most players don’t play to win, but to get better and learn more about problem solving.
“You can get good pretty fast if you watch your mistakes and learn what other people are telling you,” Richardson explained. “That’s what we do here.”
Team membership is open to all students. Those who are interested in the team and club can contact Kimmelman at firstname.lastname@example.org.