Checkmate: Mastering a sport of the mind

STRATEGIZING Chess Club Secretary Dwayne Famenia ponders his next move. Chess is a mental sport that can improve cognitive functions because it reinforces problem solving, creative thinking and decision making skills.
STRATEGIZING Chess Club Secretary Dwayne Famenia ponders his next move. Chess is a mental sport that can improve cognitive functions because it reinforces problem solving, creative thinking and decision making skills.

Every move and countermove had led to this moment – the last move before victory is claimed. 

A strategic battle, with each movement carefully planned and executed, has come down to this one final move. At last, the queen moves along a diagonal path from d8 to h4, putting the white king in checkmate. 

This experience captivates the world of chess, where one move can make or break a match with just one move.

Those interested in friendly competition meet every Friday in room 321. Founded by senior Micah Margolin, the Chess Stars club strives to be a safe and supportive environment for anyone enthusiastic about chess. 

“I wanted to have a place to meet others who are also passionate about chess, and this club is a good place to do that,” Margolin said. 

Club sponsor Mr. Bradley Margolin says that although he had always played chess as a kid, his interest really sparked when his son started playing chess. Mr. Margolin learned to help his son improve, and watched him go on to participate in tournaments held by the United States Chess Federation. 

“I was never really into it until the last seven or eight years when my son started playing,” Mr. Margolin said. “I got interested in it. Now I really like it.” 

The club is focused on fueling students’ interest for chess with a growth mindset. By facilitating matches, the club helps members improve their skills.

Whether you are an experienced player looking for a match or someone exploring a newfound interest in chess, the club is open to all eager to learn and hone their skills.

Senior Brandon Bernal, the Chess Stars club vice president, has some advice for people interested in the sport. 

“Don’t worry if you are a good player or not,” he said. “This club is here to mentor you. Everyone will have a different strategy when playing.”

Although most new members have prior experience in chess, if a player needs to learn the concepts or refresh their memory, there are members willing to assist. 

“If members need to learn or relearn the concepts, we show them the basic moves with a chess set on what moves would be best for the game,” Bernal said.

He recommends practicing five hours per week whether it be in person, or on, to keep the mind sharp and ready for matches. 

Bernal encourages students to join the club, where each member gets the chance to challenge another student or even Mr. Margolin during a match. 

“In the chess club, they come in and play each other,” Mr. Margolin said. “Once in a while, I play against a kid in the club.”

In addition to the friendly competition, Mr. Margolin has remarked that playing chess is beneficial to its participants. He believes that it strengthens the mind and a person’s ability to plan ahead, as it is a vital skill needed for players. 

“I think chess itself is a great game where kids have to have deep thinking,” he said. “When they play, whatever amount of time they are in the game, they have to be in deep thought, thinking ahead and planning several moves ahead.”

Chess can sharpen your mind and improve cognitive function, as it reinforces problem solving, critical thinking, creative thinking and decision making skills.

If you are enthusiastic about finetuning your chess skills, it is important to keep playing and practicing. Repetition is key.

“It is important to practice daily and to always learn from your mistakes when playing against your opponent,” Bernal said.

When playing chess, it is important to be diligent, persistent and open minded. Although losing might lower your self-confidence, it is crucial to improving your abilities. 

“It is important to keep sticking with it even after losses,” Margolin said. “If you keep at it, you’ll get better and it will get more fun.”

The abridged version of this article appeared in the Fall 2023 print edition. This is an uncut version.

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About the Contributor
Skylie Molina
Skylie Molina, Staff
From catching a wave alongside a dolphin to studying for the next exam, my days are packed with a little bit of everything. I am a junior in my first year of journalism. Passionate about conservation and climate change, I am the founder and president of the VNHS Environmental Club. Involved in many other activities, I am a 3rd year varsity cheerleader, and found love for surfing. Outside of school, you can find me reading, spending time with friends or family, or doing math homework, and listening to some pop music.
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