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Chess team falls to Parkway West, looks to future

Freshman+Sophie+Kras+and+Katie+Eisenman+begin+a+game+of+chess.+Eisenman+plays+board+four+for+the+competition+team.+
Freshman Sophie Kras and Katie Eisenman begin a game of chess. Eisenman plays board four for the competition team.

Freshman Sophie Kras and Katie Eisenman begin a game of chess. Eisenman plays board four for the competition team.

Photo by Carolyn Duncan

Photo by Carolyn Duncan

Freshman Sophie Kras and Katie Eisenman begin a game of chess. Eisenman plays board four for the competition team.

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After an up-and-down year, the Ladue chess team fell to Parkway West 16-14 in the West Conference final Feb. 28, ending the team’s state championship hopes this season. The team made it one round farther than last year by beating Vianney 23.5-6.5 in the conference semifinal. Last season, Ladue finished atop the West Conference, but went down to Parkway West in the conference semifinals. This year, Ladue finished second in the West Conference in the regular season.

The loss to Parkway West was actually a rematch of an earlier Ladue loss, when the Rams were a few players short because of illness. Before the conference final, all the players had recuperated and were confident that, at full strength, they could take Parkway West. Unfortunately, this did not come to fruition.

“We were overconfident and were under a lot of pressure to succeed,” senior Tom Xiong said. “This affected our focus and as a result, cost us our chances at winning the championship title.”

Despite falling short of the state championship game, the team saw significant changes from years past. Two freshmen, Erik Tkachenko and Katie Eisenman, played on the regular squad for the Rams along with Xiong, sophomore Jason Pummer and senior Max Baker. Tkachenko played Board 1, challenging for less experienced players, but the kingpin of the team never had his king pinned in the entire season.

“A lot of people have gotten better throughout the season,” Pummer said. “[Freshman] Katie Eisenman increased her rating by about 300 points. She has definitely been improving a lot, along with [freshman] Joshua Wolk, who wasn’t even playing, but by the end of the season, we had to count on him to win some games.”

With the addition of talented freshman chess players, Ladue could put top players on each board. The team simply has too many talented players to play them all at one time.

“I was playing Board 3 this year,” Pummer said. “Normally, I am able to win, since we have a deep lineup with good players on every board. Not many teams go as deep as we do.”

The future of Ladue chess looks bright, as well. Skilled eighth-graders like Iris Zhou will bring the dream of a state title that much closer.

“I have high hopes for the future of the Ladue chess team,” Xiong said. “I hear the incoming freshmen are extremely talented.”

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Chess team falls to Parkway West, looks to future