Check mate: Chess club aims to recruit members, enhance minds

Sloan McKeehan

Chess is a game of skill, strategy, patience, and persistence. It’s competitive and complex; it’s a game of escaping with nothing but you and your chess pieces. One wrong move could give your opponent the game. A moment of distraction could be the loss of your army. Math teacher Alan Ponce is the leader of the chess club. This will be Ponce’s 7th year running the club. He constantly strives to get kids involved and socialize with their peers through the game of chess. 

“It’s been exciting, and I’m always looking forward to the chess club,” freshman Nolan Jones said. “We play every Wednesday morning and Thursday afternoon. We always have a lot of fun and enjoy ourselves, especially when we get new competition.”

Ponce’s passion for chess is not only for the game but for the experience of being part of something. 

“I’ve been playing chess since I was six and everytime I play, everything else in the world goes away except for those 64 squares,” Ponce said. “When I’m playing, I’m zoned in on what I’m doing, what move I’m going to make next, and how I’m going to be able to solve the game like a puzzle.”

While chess provides a way for students to meet new, like-minded friends, it also teaches them to think outside the box and expand their way of thinking.

“Chess taught me to think ahead,” Nolan said. “If I just acted all the time and didn’t take the time to try and figure out my opponents moves, then I would lose before the game even started.”

Ponce understands how chess can also help in real world situations including the classroom by teaching players in a different way. 

“Chess helps students think through and analyze their moves,” Ponce said. “It helps them start seeing problems and how they can solve them for chess and eventually with their other classes too.”

Students focus on the game play and camaraderie instead of trying to beat their opponents.

“Lots of people are going into it to learn something new,” Nolan said. “So that makes chess club casual and takes a lot of the pressure off people who are just starting to play.”

Ponce’s expectations do not focus on winning but instead on a deeper understanding of the game.

“Chess definitely teaches the students how both win and lose,” Ponce said  “I believe in the saying: ‘you learn more from your losses.’”

Ponce is always looking for new students to join the chess club. He loves the game and the chess club, but he loves teaching kids how to play even more. 

“I encourage people who don’t know how to play to join,” Ponce said “I would love to teach new people how to play, and show them what all chess has to offer.”

Ponce believes that chess is more than a club, it’s a way for students to open their world to a new way of thinking.

“Students come to chess clubs because it’s fun,” Ponce said. “It’s about learning and building a community, and wherever you are in life, you can always take that skill with you.”