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Chess team soon to be unchecked

Pondering+their+next+moves%2C+sophomores+Jacob+Griggs+%28left%29+and+Julian+Carroll+%28right%29+take+each+other+on+in+the+high+school+cafeteria+during+a+chess+practice+Sept.+20.
Pondering their next moves, sophomores Jacob Griggs (left) and Julian Carroll (right) take each other on in the high school cafeteria during a chess practice Sept. 20.

Pondering their next moves, sophomores Jacob Griggs (left) and Julian Carroll (right) take each other on in the high school cafeteria during a chess practice Sept. 20.

Photo by Glen Morgenstern

Photo by Glen Morgenstern

Pondering their next moves, sophomores Jacob Griggs (left) and Julian Carroll (right) take each other on in the high school cafeteria during a chess practice Sept. 20.

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The Ladue chess team feels like it has a couple of extra queens in its back pocket. After making the quarterfinals of the state tournament last year, the team experienced a surge in attendance from underclassmen in its first two meetings. This has the team looking forward to what the new season has to offer.

“There are three seniors this year, but we’re getting a lot of new kids coming in from the middle school,” senior Yan Rybak said. “We’re trying to educate the younger guys, making sure they know the tournament rules and how to pace themselves a little bit. They know how to play, but we’re just going to fix them up a little bit so they become really good.”

It’s not just the quantity of underclassmen chess players that’s impressing the vets. The new guys have serious skill.

“We have a freshman [Erik Tkachenko] coming up who is probably going to be our best player,” sophomore Jason Pummer said. “We lost our old best player [Class of 2017 alumnus Zachary Millsap] from Board 1 and we’re gaining a better Board 1 [player], so hopefully we’ll do better.”

The Rams earned the best regular season record in the West Conference of the Gateway Chess League last year. However, they lost to Parkway West in the first match of the playoffs. Pummer thinks the team can do better. He cites improvement throughout the whole team.

“We’re going to be pretty good this year,” Pummer said. “We have strong players on every single board … We’re looking to win.”

New members of the team will have to get used to playing at the high school level, though. To face this challenge, they’re likely to need some enthusiasm. Luckily, it seems there is plenty of it within the team, especially from older members.

“I like the competition,” Rybak said. “I love that feeling when you think, ‘Will I win, will I win, will I lose, will I lose? Ok, that was fun. Now, let’s go play another five games.”

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Chess team soon to be unchecked