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Chess Piece: The Inner Workings of Central’s Chess Club

Members of the club engaged in an intense game of chess while others observe. Photo Credit: Aileen Lo (275)

It’s safe to say that Central High School has a lot of clubs—more clubs than students can keep track of or even know about. Therefore, some clubs become forgotten and struggle to find new recruits. Central’s Chess Team (located in room 229 after school on Tuesdays) is no different, but this team has done a lot to make a name for Central in the chess world. In fact, although overlooked at times, this is one of the oldest clubs at Central. It was founded when Central was still an all-boys school. To this day, its members have continued to perform exceptionally. Placing well in multiple competitions, studying grandmasters’ (ultimate chess professionals) matches, and dedicating themselves to playing is all part of their game. With Mr. Copeland (260) as the coach, the team is doing its best to gain recognition not only from Central, but also from the city.

To have a successful team, there needs to be an experienced coach guiding it, and Mr. Copeland definitely fits the bill. A Central alumnus, he first learned of the chess world in elementary school when he got a chess set from his uncle. Saying that he “didn’t want it to go to waste,” he started practicing and learning about the game and eventually became skilled enough to win his divisions of the Liberty Bell Open and Philadelphia Open tournaments as a member of Central’s chess club. Now that he teaches at Central, Mr. Copeland has rejoined the club in a different way, and is confident that the players’ skills, coupled with his guidance, will boost the team to go far.

But one can’t just show up to Chess Club and expect to be playing for the entire meeting, and for good reason. Good games of chess are all about the mind, and with grandmasters, playing games can last for long periods of time. Usually, practice starts with a warm-up game to get the mind focused on the game to come. Then, the players review strategies that professionals use, and examine how they can implement these moves into their own strategies. Sometimes, they even watch recordings of themselves and of others to see what they did correctly and incorrectly. When the real challenge comes in, players go against each other in serious games, in which they use the new techniques they just observed in “battle.” It’s also when Mr. Copeland walks around and critiques his players. He always works to figure out why people make certain moves.

“I get an element of pride when my students improve,” he states. “It’s awesome to see my students start to grow.” Finally, there are the leisurely, team-based chess games, which are strategic, rely on teamwork, and are humorous in the end.

However, what would the point be if the players never utilized the knowledge they learned from practice? Competitions and chess tournaments are where these players put their skills to the test. Only ten members are allowed to a team, and of those ten, only seven members actually play matches at the same time, so players sometimes rotate between tournaments. Everyone manages to compete. Mr. Copeland even gets to participate in the adult divisions.

Central’s team has a high winning percentage, despite the changing of the games’ format. For example, Elijah Rowe (277) placed fourth in his division from the previous Philadelphia Open. He says that despite chess being an individual sport, he’s “gained experience from better people from the team” and his coach, and that has carried him to his victory.
Chess is a sport of the mind that anyone can learn and play, but only a few can truly master. “It teaches patience and how to deal without instant gratification for hard work,” Mr. Copeland declared. “Sometimes, a game won’t exactly go the way it was planned because of one small move. It’s the job of the player to move on so that next time, he or she won’t make the same mistake and can win the game.” When it finally does go right, however, the player experiences a new level of satisfaction never found before, and that makes the hard work all the more gratifying.

Widchard Faustin (275), Staff Writer
Hiba Ouldbabaali (275), Staff Writer
Anastasiya Filimonov (275), Staff Writer
Mike Adams (275), Staff Writer

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