Nathan Broek | Sports Editor
“Check” and “checkmate.” Those are words students will hear in the Central Lyon school library around 3 p.m. each Tuesday afternoon as various students challenge each other during Chess Club.
The club has only been around for about three months, but it has taken off in recent weeks with about 30 students involved in the extra-curricular program.
“It’s been amazing. I expected maybe eight kids to come in and we have close to 30 kids coming in to play chess. They all really enjoy it,” said Chess Club advisor, Staci Haselhoff who is also the high school’s media center paraprofessional.
The idea for Chess Club came about from students who were interested in starting one.
“I really like chess, so I just thought it’d be fun to teach other people how to play and to have more people to play chess with,” said Central Lyon senior Justus Poppinga. “It’s a game I grew up playing with my dad and others. It’s just a game I like a lot.”
“Faith (Henrichs) and I just talked to each other about the idea and we just really wanted to learn,” said Central Lyon senior Emily Vande Kop.
Students who have joined the Chess Club have a wide range of experience.
“My older brother (Mitchell Riibe) and I used to play in Yankton (South Dakota). It’s been fun because I get to play people I wouldn’t usually get to play and I really like it when I win. It’s just been good so far,” said freshman Josh Riibe.
“I have never played chess before. This is my first time playing,” said sophomore Jarrett Meyer. “But being in Chess Club I’ve learned the strategies of the game, how it all works and what each piece does.”
“When Chess Club first started I wasn’t in it, but then I made a deal with (Haselhoff) where if I didn’t have any homework and I joined the club then I could play chess during study halls,” said freshman Beau Daniels. “So then I just practiced chess during study halls and I joined Chess Club. That’s how I got into it. It worked out pretty well.”
Haselhoff added that Daniels’ time in Chess Club has helped him become a better player.
“I’m able to practice it quite a bit. Mostly for 45 minutes during study hall and I have gotten decent during my time in Chess Club. I’m top-four right now in the March Madness tournament, so that’s an accomplishment I think,” Daniels said.
That March Madness tournament started at the beginning of the month to give Chess Club a bit of a twist and to honor the NCAA men’s and women’s Division I basketball tournaments.
“We drew up a bracket and it’s just like the basketball tournament. They play each other, we have eliminations and we’re getting down to the top-eight right now,” Haselhoff said. “It’s pretty exciting, but we didn’t do seeds because most of the players are still pretty new. We didn’t know who was good and who was not so good. But we wanted to do something fun because of the fact March Madness in basketball is here.”
However, the players have already picked out their No. 1 seeds.
“I don’t feel like I will win. Not at all,” Riibe said. “The freshmen are really good this year. I think Luke Rassmussen could win. He’s pretty good.”
“Right now I’d have to say Ian Wells, “Daniels said. “He got me into Chess Club and he is my next opponent. I hear he is one of the best. I don’t know what makes him so good, but I learned in his last round he beat his opponent in just a few moves really quickly. I believe he used the ‘fool’s gambit’ or something like that,” Daniels said.
There are only a couple weeks left of the March Madness tournament but the students do not feel Chess Club will end any time soon.
“There are a lot of underclassmen, so hopefully it goes on forever,” Vande Kop said.
“There are a lot of people in it, so I hope we continue to have a lot of people in it,” Poppinga said. “I feel a lot of people are learning more about chess and I’ll admit I have a lot more to learn myself.”
Haselhoff added that Chess Club is open to anyone who would still like to join.
“We really hope to continue it. Hopefully we can bring some of the teachers in. I know some of them are chess players too and maybe we could get them involved in tournaments. That would be fun. The kids are always excited about trying new things like that,” Haselhoff said.