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Chess club members continue improving their skills

Mr. Welch, one of the moderators of the chess club, plays avidly with students, too. Photo by Owen Wolak

Every Tuesday after school, members of the chess club and Mr. Patrick Welch, English teacher and one of the moderators of the chess club, meet in Dooley 304 and play games of chess against each other.  

Mr. Welch used to play some chess growing up but never really got into it until he was older.  He said the COVID-19 pandemic really brought him back into the game of chess.  He played a lot of online games and “rode the wave of its resurgence in popularity.”  Mr. Welch is continuing to improve in chess and has a current ranking of around 1600 elo.  

During chess club meetings, members have competitive and intense games against each other.  They talk about strategy and learn skills from one another in order to improve.  Occasionally, they will bring in Gonzaga alumnus Sal Rosario, who will give the members lessons and play against them.  Sal Rosario is a great chess player and is a multi-year Washington, D.C. area champion.  He will sometimes play all of the chess club members simultaneously, including Mr. Welch.  While this task seems extremely hard, he has only lost once to Ret Baran, sophomore.  

The chess club also participates in local tournaments against other schools, including St. Alban’s, DeMatha, St. John’s and Montgomery County’s Blair High School.  In fact, Gonzaga’s chess club beat St. Alban’s in one of their tournaments on Jan. 26.

The Chess Club has had quite a bit of success in their tournaments and went to the D.C. championship last year.  They finished fourth out of 22 schools with Jack Deye, senior, going undefeated the whole year, despite playing his last match in the stands of a Gonzaga basketball game.  Deye commented on this game and stated that he had a “fairly carefree attitude” since he was playing on a zoom call in the middle of a Gonzaga Basketball game.  

Deye competed against the number two player and was not expecting an easy win.  Deye also stated that his own play style, “encouraged [his opponent] to blunder” and allowed him to win.  

While chess can be seen as an extremely difficult game to play and learn, students have many chances to become much better players.  Mr. Welch states that while chess is “a mix of innate ability and experience,” an average player can work their way up to around 1700 elo.  To put this in perspective, the top players in the world sit at around 2700.  

Mr. Welch also says not to get down on yourself if you are not as good as you would have hoped; some of these Grand Masters started playing chess and truly understanding it at a very young age.  Mr. Welch also talked about the best ways to get better at chess.  He believes that just by simply playing games and playing games against better players will help you improve.  He likes to mix in different types of games whether they are quick one-minute games or longer more thought-out 30-minute games.  By doing this, Mr. Welch believes that players will be able to recognize certain patterns quicker and plan smarter attacks against their opponents.  Mr. Welch also recommends puzzles, which are essentially practice drills that teach players the best moves in certain situations. 

If the chess club is something that you may be interested in joining, check out one of the meetings and watch some games.  The club meets every Tuesday after school in Dooley 304.  Anyone at any skill level can join, and watching and playing with the team will certainly make any student a better player.          

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    Carol CorganFeb 9, 2023 at 9:49 am

    Nice focus on the Chess Club, Owen!