Brains over Pawns


Chloe Kapica , Feature Editor

In a silent room with only the sound of a ticking clock resounding, he thought about his next move.

In January, the H-F Chess team qualified for IHSA State in Peoria. The team competed against 125 teams and ended up in 39 place.

The H-F Chess team progressed throughout each game, but behind the win was a team bonding and meeting new kids who shared the same interests throughout the weekend.

Senior Julian Garcia, who played third board, looks back at the fun times at State with fondness.

“We all played chess together and even right before we are about to play each other, you’ll see me and the other person cracking jokes and laughing our butts off,” Garcia said.

Chess coach Matthew Bonges was unable to attend the trip to State because he was on paternity leave. However, he was able to prepare his team members for the difficult journey.

“I would assign students to work together in pairs in practice games,” Bonges said. “At this point of the season, a lot of what they need to do is just stay on top of their game and be flexible with their thinking.”

Taking Bonges’ place was math teacher Tiffany White and social science teacher Colin Doyle. Doyle was excited to help support the team in any way he could and be a part of this group of inquisitive players.

“I feel like I didn’t need to really do anything in particular to motivate this group of players,” Doyle said. “They were all extremely focused all weekend and were eager to do as best as they could. I think any time your coach isn’t there it can be difficult, but each player was able to shoulder the responsibility.”

Even though Bonges wasn’t there to help support the team, senior Perry Hoag understood that he had to put in a little extra effort with Bonges being gone.

“We could adjust because we all know what we were doing, and he’s done a good job of organizing everything,” Hoag said. “Even though he wasn’t there, we were able to handle ourselves well and play well too.”

Alongside Garcia was senior Owen Kreis, but Kreis was challenged by the experience and faced many difficult opponents.

“My favorite thing about state was playing on table five,” Kreis said. “For that moment, we were in the top ten chess teams in the state, and even though we lost the games, we were close.”

Doyle felt that the group was unlike any other team at state.

“I was extremely impressed with the sportsmanship of our team, particularly at the start of the tournament,” Doyle said. “I just feel like this is not something you’ll see at a state tournament in other sports.”

As the weekend progressed, the matches got harder and the team finally felt the full force of State.

“The hardest thing about state was the exhaustion that came around game four on the first day,” Kreis said.

Garcia began worrying about messing up throughout each match.

“For me, I was constantly worried about making a mistake,” Garcia said. “My hands were even shaking, and I’m known on the chess team for laughing during my chess matches.”

Hoag played board one which was a lot of pressure for him, seeing as though he had to play multiple games throughout the day.

“It’s just hard to keep your focus because you want to play seven games over two days,” Hoag said. “If you mess up a little bit or you lose your focus for a couple of minutes then you’re done.”

The H-F Chess team is made up of mostly seniors and Bonges is proud that the group finished second-best for H-F High school in 20 years.

“Since the team is made up of a majority seniors, it was great to have them go out on a high note,” Bonges said.

In the end, the team is looking forward to what’s to come later on in the year as they progress from state to nationals.