THIS ARTICLE FIRST APPEARED IN THE D & C
DUE TO SERVER CHANGE AT D & C, THE PHOTOS WERE LOST
• February 3, 2014
Remember the Fab Five who took the college basketball by storm in 1991? Today the Rochester high school chess world has its own version.
Last year, while competing as 8th graders at the Wilson Foundation Academy, the Wildcats swept through an undefeated season to capture the Upstate New York Interscholastic Chess League (RCSD team wins again )
The team would then play in the Super Nationals. Their sixth place finish was the highest a Rochester area team has finished in a national level chess tournament in at least 15 years. (Wilson chess completes season in spectacular fashion at the Super Nationals )
This year as freshmen at Wilson Magnet the squad has continued its Fabulous success, winning the first five matches, scoring overall 208 points to 46. The squad has its sights set on defending its UNIVL title with hopes of making another run at the Nationals. To do so, the Wildcats may have to face another powerhouse city team, the School of the Arts, in the playoffs. Led by Matan Presberg and Oliver Perez-Baez, SOTA is an impressive 5-3. All City holds a respectable 4 – 5 record, as does East at 2-3. (See the first three week recaps at end and UNIVL standings)
Wilson coach Tom Mueller is excited to inherit a championship caliber team. As importantly, he likes how chess is becoming more popular throughout the high school, emphasizing that, ”the goal of the Wilson Chess Club is to offer a safe and fun environment for all Wilson students to play chess. ”
So far, Mueller has 15 players who gather every Monday for practice. Normally, 7 students travel to the Thursday matches. Furthermore, the club has constructed a website and recently designed and received team sweatshirts (as seen in photo). From an educational perspective, Mueller rightly adds that students can enhance their cognitive thinking and strategic skills while playing chess in an interactive and competitive atmosphere.
While All City is not yet as successful as Wilson and the School of the Arts, nowhere in the District does chess seem so popular. The Club and Team is run by teachers Aaron Boucher (Head Coach) and Glenn Edwards (Assistant Coach). Boucher aptly describes Edwards, who founded the School Without Walls Foundation Academy program, as “a local legend within chess circles,” and in many ways his mentor.
As explained to me by Boucher, “the All City High Chess Club & Team were established as avenues for students to socialize, compete and share in their love of chess– our focus is on inclusivity and offering every student the opportunity to play.” This diversity of the team was certainly evident last year where DeAnthony Terrell, the 4th board, was also the Section V football defensive player of the year (and is now a freshman at SUNY Brockport).
On the day I was there, at breakfast in the cafeteria students were already playing. At lunchtime, there were about twenty students–boys and girls–back at the boards. In the cafeteria a chart displays the results of last year’s All City Chess Tournament. Last year two different “in house” tournaments were held. Each tournament had 64 students participate. Quite impressive.
Finally, I asked Alex White, two time Green Party Rochester mayoral candidate and Webster Schroeder chess coach, to offer his perspective on city chess (in which White–as expected–adds some social commentary):
“The bad news about the Rochester City School District seems to keep coming. Between failing schools and shortage of funds, they seem to be failing in every way. Thus it was surprising to see the Wilson Chess Team defeat a powerful Pittsford team, particularly as chess is an activity generally associated with ‘smart people.’
Yet there it was a convincing 30-10 victory which kept them undefeated in what is perhaps the Rochester Scholastic Chess Leagues’ toughest division. This is not the RCSD’s only powerful team either. [After the second month of the season] All-City and School of the Arts are tied for first place at 3-1 in another division. It seems that in some very cerebral activities the city students can compete and excel even against the likes of Pittsford Sutherland, Webster, Harley, Gates Chili, McQuaid, and Greece Arcadia. The Wilson team in particular is very good, and I ought to know as I have coached a team for over 30 years winning 9 titles over this time.
With all the time the district spends defending themselves, perhaps they should start highlighting the excellence of the RCSD as I am sure chess is just one of the many remarkable stories.”
I agree with Alex. City chess might never be as acclaimed as football or basketball. But just watch as those trophy cases keep filling up.
(On a personal note, in high school I also competeted in the League. The picture below is from a 1981 contest between Brighton and Alex’s Webster squad that appeared in the Democrat and Chronicle. Much to my dismay, the caption writer was gratuitously harsh in reporting the outcome.) Tagged All City High, RCSD, Rochester Chess Center, school of the arts, Wilson High School