Chess in an unpredictable world

Alexander Ursu

Chess is one of Whitney Young’s strong suits. Boasting five state titles over the last ten years, our team is no doubt one of the best in Illinois. However, Coronavirus has had a very large effect on not only our chess team, but IHSA chess as a whole.

Chess is one of the most accessible hobbies in the world. With many free, online chess websites, such as and the open-source, anybody can play a game anytime they have an internet connection and a computer or smartphone. With the quarantine keeping everybody in their home and chess hitting the mainstream media through its recent success on YouTube and Twitch along with the recent Netflix Series “The Queen’s Gambit,” online chess is now more popular than ever.

However, this accessibility has its downfalls. After Deep Blue first beat Garry Kasparov in 1996, computers have completely outclassed humans in chess. Today, you can find a free chess engine that can beat any grandmaster on practically every chess website. Coupled with the relative difficulty to prove that someone has used one of these engines,  there is a large concern about cheating in the tournament scene. Aria Hoesley ‘22, Whitney Young’s top player, felt that “cheating has been a massive issue this year,” and went on to say “I have seen cheating occur in the games of my teammates, my own games, and in the games of several friends as well. It’s disappointing to see that many players are resorting to unfair practices in an attempt to win a few online games,” and hopes that the punishment and security measures will be increased. These worries have been echoed by the chess team head coach, Mr. Kash, who stated that because of the pressure to win these tournaments, he is “sure that some [kids] have resorted to cheating to win.” The state competition on February 12-13 will havegreater precautions. All teams must play online at their respective schools under coach supervision. These alleviated many of the worries. Walter Payton player Christopher Gora ‘21 said “I think at state [cheating] won’t be that big an issue since the whole team is gonna be in the same room.” This, however, brings up a concern about safety against the Coronavirus. Many players at other schools and even our own team feel at risk and will not attend this competition if it is held in this fashion.

Beyond this, many chess teams around the state have been struggling with training and inspiration. On top of the added difficulty of organizing practices, Aria noted, “the biggest impact that quarantine has had on the chess season is on motivation levels of players” due to both cheating and solitude. Mr. Kash also explained how “much of the value of the team centers around being together at practice and tournaments.  The team chemistry that is created cannot be replicated in a remote environment.” Despite all this, the Whitney Young chess team is still putting in the work. Last Saturday, our team managed to pull out a win at the City Championship over Payton and Northside. They are keeping this energy up and are preparing for the State Conference in two weeks. When asked about her hopes for winning the tournament, Aria was optimistic, saying, “Whitney Young is definitely a top contender for state once again.” I guess we will wait and see.

To continue to follow the chess team, you can look them up on Instagram at Whitney_Young_chess, and you can find more information about the State Championship here.