Northwest Chess places First in County Tournament


The Northwest Chess team poses with the first place trophy. Senior Harrison Burns, junior Dylan Alderfer, and sophomore Nathan Vescio all placed first and senior Nolan Kessel and senior Tyler Hebert placed third

Chess. It is a game of strategy and patience, taking many repetitions of practice in order to master an opening sequence or pinning your opponent to a corner for checkmate. But that doesn’t stop the students of Northwest from figuring out clever techniques to become a skilled chess player.

Chess at Northwest is to give people the opportunity to learn the game or to have fun while playing. This code of the chess club has attracted many students from various skill levels and experience.

“The goal is and always has been: play if you want to play, learn if you want to learn, improve if you want to improve, compete if you want to compete,” science teacher and chess teacher Steven Russillo said. “In club I’ve taught the game to someone who didn’t know a pawn from a Queen, and I’ve played against people who were so good it made my head spin.”

Russillo first became interested in chess when he read an article by David Foster Wallace where he describes a cruise he took and found himself engaged in chess games throughout the duration of the trip.

“[Wallace] is a chess player and in the ship’s library he squared off against a middle school age girl and got completely kicked to the curb,” Russillo said. “That got me thinking about chess seriously for the first time in my life and I started playing against computers and occasionally, people.”

Students who attend the club are usually proactive in enhancing their skill level. Not only that, they are fond of the game just as Russillo.

“I’d always wanted to learn how to play,” senior Noah Lohr said. “Since I had Russillo, I thought might as well learn. It’s really fun and I play it all the time.”

This past weekend, Northwest hosted the county wide tournament and the team had success with the team placing first overall for the first time in four years. Senior Harrison Burns, junior Dylan Alderfer, and sophomore Nathan Vescio all placed first and senior Nolan Kessel and senior Tyler Hebert placed third. Students gaining experience through chess club allow them to transition more effectively to tournament chess. However, the atmosphere of a tournament is more extreme than in a classroom playing for fun.

“Tournament chess is more intense,” Lohr said. “You have a clock and you’re playing against kids you’ve never played before, so you can’t predict their moves.”

Chess can be difficult when trying to learn the first steps and learning which pieces can move where, but chess at Northwest is all about learning the game and having fun.

“When I see someone get frustrated over a chess board I try to remind them that it is, after all, a game,” Russillo said. “A complicated and beautiful and artistic game, one that has been played by people rich and poor, east and west, north and south for 1500 years…. but a game nevertheless.”