Chess takes fourth against other competitive Illinois programs

Rafi DiCrescenzo, Staff Writer

On Oct. 29, ETHS’ varsity chess team placed fourth in a statewide competition between over twenty other Illinois high schools. Other winning teams include Neuqua Valley (first place), Stevenson (second place), and Walter Payton (third place). ETHS’ JV squads, Evanston Orange and Evanston Blue, took first and third place, respectively, in the JV division.

“The way [the tournament] works, each school has eight varsity players who play the other schools,” ETHS chess coach Keith Holzmueller explained. “Until we get to the state tournament, it’s possibly the strongest of these regular season tournaments.”

ETHS has historically had a successful chess team. Last year, the Kits placed third in the IHSA state championships, and ETHS has won more matches at the state tournament than any other Illinois school. The last time Evanston took gold, however, was back in 2006. According to Holzmueller, the unpredictability of chess may be partially to blame.

“We’ve always been a strong program,” he said. “But [chess] is a bit like baseball or soccer. One team may be ‘better’ than another team, but they won’t win every time.”

Still, Holzmueller is confident in a victory at this year’s IHSA championship.

“I’ve been very pleased overall [with the team’s performance],” he said. “[The seniors especially] have been a terrific group, very focused on playing and improving, and they’ve set a good example for the juniors, sophomores, and freshman … We’ve got a great team, and it’s getting better every year.”

Regardless of the team’s placement in the championship, ETHS chess will continue to grow. 

“It’s not just about the team,” Holzmueller adds. “[Chess] is about encouraging people, and helping others learn how to play chess and enjoy it … No matter how much you keep playing, you always run into games where something new is going on. You never stop learning.”

And for those considering trying their hand at chess — it’s not too late to sign up. 

“We’re happy to welcome anyone who would like to play,” Coach Holzmueller says. “It doesn’t matter your level of experience … We’re happy either way. We’re promoting chess.”

If you’re thinking of signing up for the chess team, contact the coaches at [email protected] and [email protected]