By Ashley Hocking
When it comes to chess, three students have all the right moves.
Senior Eddie Wilson, junior Kaustubh Nimkar and freshman Apramay Mishra competed at The United States Chess Federation’s National High School Tournament in San Diego, Calif., earlier this month.
“All three students competed in the Championship Division, which is the highest level of competition,” chess club sponsor Andy Bricker said. “Lawrence High finished 36th out of 51 teams. LHS [was] the only team from Kansas.”
The three who competed nationally represented the largest group Lawrence High had ever sent.
“From Kansas, we don’t often get very many representatives, and it feels nice to be able to represent our state,” Mishra said.
While Mishra was competing for the third time, it was Wilson’s ninth time representing Kansas at the national level.
“I’m glad that there were more people going this year,” Wilson said. “That’s the most we’ve ever had from LHS go to nationals. I’d like to see more people in the future going. I’ve been going to nationals since fourth grade, so I really wanted to finish it out in my last year.”
Because traveling across the country is a difficult financial burden, Wilson and his family created a GoFundMe project. GoFundMe is an online fundraising forum that enabled the Wilsons to raise $945.
“Family funds just weren’t really there, so we decided to reach out and see if there would be any people willing to support me and to everyone that donated, I really appreciate it,” Wilson said. “It was really nice to be able to go to my last nationals.”
With the financial means to get to the national competition, Wilson next had to mentally prepare himself for seven chess matches during the course of three intensive days.
“The tournament, I’d say, is a lot more intense than scholastic tournaments around here,” Wilson said. “Matches can last four hours, even over sometimes. There’s really no point in going unless you’re prepared for the competition. It’s a lot of playing chess.”
Before he competes, Wilson studies strategies for opening moves and works on tactics to improve with each move he executes.
“The best way to get better is to play people better than you,” Wilson said. “If you just play people who you know you can beat, you’re not going to get any better.”
Wilson’s highest finish was four years ago when he placed 15th out of 350 competitors in his section.
“There are multiple sections at nationals, and I played in the highest section,” Wilson said. “I’m sort of used to the competition around here, so it’s nice to play some people with some different styles and meet some different people.”
Alongside Wilson and Mishra at the national competition was Nimkar, who won a first-place trophy in his section in 2012 as well as two state championships in the past three years.
Though Nimkar didn’t place as high as he had hoped this year, he was glad to have the opportunity to refine his skills.
“It was really competitive and very serious,” Nimkar said. “Many people came prepared. I thought I came prepared, but I wasn’t able to translate that onto the board quite yet. I learned a lot and played a lot of good players. I got better, and came back here, went over the games and improved my mistakes.”
Mishra, Nimkar and Wilson players agree chess is a mentally stimulating and challenging game.
“You just have to be psychologically prepared to play and have good mental strength when you play,” Nimkar said.
Nimkar remains optimistic for future tournaments at the local and national level.
“I practiced lots of hours and lots of weeks,” Nimkar said. “I have another year, and there are a lot more upcoming tournaments that are not scholastic-based. I’ll be more prepared for those tournaments.”