STORY BY CAITLIN LEIKER
PHOTOS BY NOAH PARKER
The Kansas Scholastic Chess Association (KSCA) hosted a tournament on Saturday in the old Kennedy Middle School building. Six different teams entered the competition, as well as individual players. A total of 28 students from across Western Kansas participated in the event.
This event was Saul Carrillo’s first time playing tournament-style chess. Carrillo, who is a student at O’Loughlin Elementary, first started learning this past Christmas.
“We go to the [Hays Public] Library quite often,” Carrillo’s mother Valerie said. “He wanted a chess set for Christmas, so I’m like, ‘Okay, I’ll get this for you, but there’s this club that meets every Friday at the library…so if you get this, you have to go.’ He was really excited about it.”
Saul was inspired by wanting to try something new. His favorite part of the game is how challenging it is. A proud moment was when he first reached checkmate while playing against his dad.
“When he really sets his mind to something, he wants to do everything he can to excel in it,” Valerie said.
Homeschooled 8th grader Kamden McBride has been playing chess for about four years, and strategy games are his forte. He regularly enters tournaments with the Hays High School Chess Club. The group’s comradery is always uplifting.
“Every time someone places on the Hays chess team, everybody goes wild about it,” McBride said. “Honestly, that’s my favorite thing– to see everybody happy.”
TMP-Marian teacher and event organizer Kevin Nyberg has played chess for almost 60 years. He first learned when he was 10 years old, began studying the game more seriously at 15, and he started directing players by the time he was 20 years old.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the KSCA ran their tournaments through Chess.com, even holding their State Championship online– “We didn’t really miss a beat,” Nyberg said.
However, he did observe a difference in online gameplay that can affect players in person.
“I’ve noticed that the kids tend to play rather hastily online,” Nyberg said. “They’ve played a lot, and their online games are usually only five minutes long.” – a contrast to the full hour that’s allotted for each game at the in-person tournaments.
The KSCA now schedules online tournaments alongside in-person events. While online chess requires some adaptation, Nyberg stands by the mental benefits of the game.
“This is a great way to develop analytical thinking,” he said. “It teaches resourcefulness in the face of adversity.”
Nyberg turned around in his chair, pointing out a quote on the back of his TMP-Marian Chess Team shirt: “Chess is everything – art, science, and a sport,” spoken by Anatoly Karpov, former Soviet chess grandmaster and World Chess Champion.
Fellow tournament facilitator and TMP chess coach Randy Brull agreed that chess fills those three categories. He has played the game for 70 years. He said that most kids are ready to start playing chess in elementary school, and that parents play a crucial role in supporting them through that.
“Once you start working with kids, you see the creative aspect and the personality coming through in a chess game,” Brull said. “You see some of these kids and think, ‘Wow…how did they ever think of that?’”
Brull, who has helped start other chess programs in Western Kansas, said that chess opportunities can be created wherever the interest exists. All that’s needed is somebody who knows a little bit about chess, two or three people who want to learn, and some parent and teacher support.
Brull noted that one of the biggest takeaways from chess is sportsmanship.
“If you are a strong player and you understand the rules, you will get respect from your opponents,” Brull said. “Once that builds in a group of kids, it’s worth a lot. It’s being able to recognize that your opponent’s got skills too, and that you’re not going to win every game. Those are life lessons.”
The results are as follows:
High School Division (grades 9-12)
1st place: Blaise Staab – TMP-Marian
2nd place: Aiden Burton – Hays High School
3rd place: Staton Clark – Hays High School
4th place: Sergio Lara – Bishop Carroll Catholic High School
5th place: Eli Jackson – Sterling High School
**HS Team Leaderboard
1st place: TMP-Marian (17.5 points)\
2nd place: Hays High School (15.0 pts.)
3rd place: Ellinwood High School (9 pts.)
4th place: Bishop Carroll High School (7 pts.)
Middle School Division (grades 6-8)
1st place: Carson Pinkney – TMP-Marian
2nd place: Kamden McBride – Homeschool
3rd place: Evan Staab – TMP-Marian
4th place: Zack Billinger – TMP-Marian
5th place (tie): Cedric Durr – Hays Middle School, Luke Walker – Ell Saline Jr/Sr High School
**Entering team: TMP-Marian Jr. High (15 pts.)
Elementary School Division (grades K-5)
1st place: Jason Whitmer – Holy Family Catholic Elementary School
2nd place: Jackson Berges – Roosevelt Elementary
3rd place: Elizabeth North – O’Loughlin Elementary
4th place: Saul Carrillo – O’Loughlin Elementary
**Entering team: O’Loughlin Elementary (5 pts.)