Chess checkmates opponents at state

The chess team takes a break from competition at the state tournament. (Logue photo by Jerry Moon)

The chess team takes a break from competition at the state tournament. (Logue photo by Jerry Moon)

Scott Lenz, Lead Sports Editor

Down 22.5-33.5 against New Trier with one match remaining, the chess team needed a victory by their top player, senior Nathan Xu, to finish out a record-setting weekend at the IHSA State Chess Tournament. With less than a minute left on each competitor’s clock and spectators surrounding the table, Xu closed out the season with a win.

The victory over New Trier vaulted Fremd into fourteenth place overall and secured them the highest finish in program history at the state finals on Feb. 12 and 13. After winning the MSL championship, the team knew that they had the skills to succeed at state.

Senior Nathan Narasimhan details the Vikings’ mindset of focusing on only that which they could control – their individual matchups.

“We hoped to go 6-1 to get us a top ten school placement and our strategy going in was to find the best move in every situation,” Narasimhan said. “We wanted not to necessarily worry about how the rest of the team was doing, but in each game to find the best move.”

The team started out the tournament with strong performances against Moline and Plainfield South. Senior Chiranth Kishore understands that those victories were key to getting them on the right track to do well at state.

“We knew that we had to do really well in the first couple of rounds, so everyone made sure to give it their all,” Kishore said. “Those victories were proof of our hard work over the course of the season.”

After the two consecutive wins, the Vikings fell to Maine South 21-47 in the third round. Although the loss wasn’t ideal for Fremd, it came against one of the top teams in the state, as Maine South ended up in sixth place.

Moon highlights the importance of the tough loss to the overall success of the team.

“We lost but we were able to get about 20 points against them, which is quite a bit,” Moon said. “So those points really ended up helping us with the tiebreakers and that’s how we finished fourteenth.”

The Vikings rebounded after their loss with wins against Charleston and Mahomet in the fourth and fifth rounds respectively. In their sixth matchup, Fremd lost to Highland Park, who finished fourth in state.

Narasimhan demonstrates that even when they lost, the Vikes proved they were one of the best teams in Illinois.

“Overall I think that we exceeded our expectations,” Narasimhan said. “We were faced with two really tough teams, they both finished in the top ten. We did the best we could against those teams and each match was very close, but we ended up losing.”

Individually, Fremd had five players finish in the top 30 on their respective boards, and two players, freshman Abhy Venkatasubramanian on board two and junior Matthew Kennedy on board six finished in the top ten.

Kishore knows the team’s dedication and effort throughout the season paid off this tournament.

“Finishing fourteenth out of 146 teams shows the hard work and effort that every single player on the team put in to create that success,” Kishore said. “It was a culmination of a lot of hard work and a lot of chess.”

With five graduating seniors on the state roster this year, Fremd will have to rebuild next year, but the success of this team will only serve to motivate the program in the future.

Moon will use this team as an example of what can be achieved through hard work and determination.

“We had a lot of freshmen this year,” Moon said. “For them to witness, experience, and be part of the team that’s setting new ground sets a higher standard for them.”