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Competitive Chess Continues to Thrive at Hopkins

Tanner Lee ’23 Assistant Sports Editor
Hopkins has long had its own chess club both for new players wanting to learn new strategies and for advanced players looking to sharpen their competitive skills.
Even with the restrictions imposed by COVID, the Hopkins Chess Club has remained vibrant and active.

Hopkins Chess Club has found great success in recent years. George Wang ‘20 and Jake Wang ‘20 were “instrumental in bringing the 2019 Connecticut State Grade Championships to Hopkins’ campus, as well as the annual Greater New Haven Scholastic Championships four years running,” said the Chess Club’s faculty advisor, Terence Mooney, who runs the club and their biweekly meetings in Bald- win. Club co-head Graham Selby ‘21 said, “The team [also] competed in the World Amateur Team Chess Tournament in Parsippany, New Jersey.” Mooney added that the club attended “the US Amateur Team East tournament the past two years, with both four-player teams placing in that national competition both years.”

Chess tournaments foster a competitive but enjoyable atmosphere. Club co-head Sarvin Bhagwagar ‘24 said “[During competition,]I am focusing 100% on the game. I have to closely watch every move and think about its purpose in order not to lose.” But, he said, “All in all, it’s a lot of fun.”

Even though most sports and activities were shut down because of the coronavirus this past spring and summer, chess became significantly more popular because of websites like chess.com that allow people to play chess online against one another. In early May of 2020, the FIDE (International Chess Federation in English) held its first online chess tournament consisting of ten rounds and one superfinal. Thirty-six competitors from China, India, Russia, the United States and other nations played against each other on chess.com via Zoom. Chess.com sponsored a grand total of 180,000 dollars, with 24,000 dollars going to each of the six teams, and an extra 24,000 dollars to the first-place finisher, which happened to be China, and 12,000 dollars extra to the runner-up, which was the United States.

Over the summer, Bhagwagar ran weekly tournaments on chess.com, an online chess site, where winners would receive small prizes. Mooney commended him: “Kudos to Sarvin for his enthusiastic stewardship of chess in our community at large!” This year, despite being back at school, Sarvin and club co-heads Noam Benson-Tilsen ‘21 and Selby run club meetings over Zoom, and are planning to hold a few tournaments during and outside of these meetings.

Millions of new players who are just looking to have some fun in their spare time have started playing on chess.com since the pandemic hit. Nick Barton, director of business development for the site said that, in April 2020, chess.com signed up more than double the amount of new players that they did in January of this year. He even projected that the site would see five years of growth in just three months.

Regarding the online competitions, Graham says, “We are trying to create opportunities for kids to come in and have fun playing chess, encouraging kids to communicate and have fun at a time where it can be hard to see others.”
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