Inside the Competitive World of Maryvale Prep’s Chess Team

Maryvale Prep February 29, 2024
Maryvale Chess Team during a practice

The lessons learned hovering over a chessboard go far beyond the boundaries of the game for the chess team at Maryvale Prep, shaping the players into better thinkers, problem-solvers, and individuals. Chess is part of the winter athletic programs offered at the Great Hearts campus in Maryvale and is open to fifth grade through high school scholars. The academy has two teams, a Junior Vasity (JV) and a Varsity team, both lead by Coach Chip Wilson for the last four years. “Within our chess program, we invite kids of all abilities to come join us and we help hone their skills, their critical thinking skills, their logic skills,” he said. The JV team is number one in the state and positioned with a comfortable distance ahead of the number two team.

10-year-old Tanmay Boyana has been playing for chess for four years but decided to join the school’s the chess team this year. He is one of the team’s leading players with a 16:1 record. “I’m competitive all the time,” he said. “I always try to win.” Boyana’s go-to strategy is what he calls C.C.T., checks, captures, and threats. “If you don’t find a check, do a capture, either that or a threat.”

Maryvale Chess Team during a practice

8th grader Darrien Johnson’s not-so-secret weapon is his confidence. “If you’re not confident, you probably will lose because you probably think that, ‘Oh, I’m going to lose already’ so you don’t even have confidence in yourself that you’re going to win,” he explained. “I just have confidence in myself that I’m going to win so that’s why I do win.” Johnson has been on the team for the last three years.

Maryvale Chess Team during a practice

Coach Wilson is involved in several sports at the academy but admits that coaching chess is no easy task. “Coaching chess is actually nerve-wracking. It’s actually the hardest thing I’ve ever coached,” he said. “These kids are putting in work each and every day. This is something that they have to go home and continue to do. This is something they have to do all weekend long. So, these guys are working hard – just as hard as any football player, basketball player, or soccer player in their commitment to being successful chess players.”

“With any sport a repetition is probably the key and so we try our best to repeat, repeat, repeat as often as we can to help hone their skills,” explained Wilson. “It’s always brain calisthenics – working hard trying to figure out, ‘okay, logically what is my best option in this position?’”

Maryvale Chess Team during a practice

But it’s not just about mastering the game, it’s also about forming camaraderie and mutual support over their common interest. You can see it in the way they talk to one another and patiently spur each other on as they victoriously move the pieces around the board during practices. Wilson said they do a lot of team building together. “We switch up – we have each them coach each other, we have them support each other, we have them teach each other new moves, new openings,” he said. 

The team’s bond, their shared victories, and their support in times of defeat speak volumes of the friendships formed beyond the chessboard, a testament to the life lessons learned in the quiet moments of contemplation and the triumphant declarations of checkmate at Maryvale Prep.

chess pieces on a board

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