On January 28, 2023, the IMSA Chess Team won the IHSA Sectional Tournament, finishing ahead of many strong teams that have had good records for years on end. Even before this crucial tournament, the team had top-three finishes in every tournament they played in this school year. As the team prepares for the IHSA State Championship, set to occur in a week’s time, one cannot help but wonder: what has caused IMSA’s recent success? Where will the team go from here?
As it turns out, IMSA’s growth is part of a wider, ongoing “chess boom” throughout the United States. Driven by the success of the Netflix miniseries The Queen’s Gambit and the growth of online chess, chess platforms are seeing a record influx of users wanting to learn and play the royal game. Chess.com, the largest chess website, recently reported that they have reached 100 million registered users. Such an exponential growth in the popularity of chess has not been seen since 1972, when Bobby Fischer became the first American chess player to win the World Championship by defeating Boris Spassky. In addition, at IMSA, the Class of 2025 has brought talented and passionate players to boost the Chess Team’s strength.
To learn more about what the Chess Team thinks of about their recent growth and performance, The Acronym recently sat down with Jared Dong (‘23), a captain of the team. In a lengthy interview, he mentioned that the team’s improvement is caused by the improved skill of the players and a stronger team culture. He argues that many of the players on the team do not see chess as “just a game.” Rather, they view it as an avenue to better themselves. They think if you have something to prove to the world, prove it on the board. “It is this passion that differentiates chess powerhouses from ordinary teams,” Dong told The Acronym.
With the IHSA State Championship fast approaching, there is a lot of “cautious optimism” within the team. Many members state that they are confident in their skill but know that there is a lot to improve on. It is with this mindset that the Chess Team approaches its next opponent.