The chess club takes a virtual step
EASTHAM — Most high school sports have struggled to maintain a playable season this year, due to strict safety rules and rescheduled games during a shortened season. But one club sport at Nauset Regional High School has managed to keep its season strong while adding new members: the Miles Tibbetts Chess Club.
The Independent covered the origin and early successes of the club in December 2019. Team Nauset began competing in the South Coast Conference Interscholastic Chess League in 2015 against students from Sturgis, Wareham, Dartmouth, Plymouth South, Plymouth North and Martha’s Vineyard.
Sean Mulholland, who teaches Latin at Nauset High, is the club’s counselor. Nauset won the league championship in 2018 and 2019. In the winter-spring 2020 season, “We had an incredibly competitive team,” Mulholland said. “We were looking forward in March to playing the championship game against Martha’s Vineyard. We were the best team in the league and they were second.
But they were never able to play that match, as the Covid-19 lockdown brought everything to a halt. Even so, the pandemic turned out to have a silver lining.
Mulholland corresponded with chess advisers at Plymouth North High School and Sturgis Charter School to coordinate a way for students to play online. The three schools have organized a network of more than 30 students who compete online at chess.com on Thursdays at 4 p.m.
“Once a week we play indoor tournaments,” Mulholland said. “It was fun because we got to know different people and got to teach and learn along the way.”
Students meet via Zoom, and Mulholland randomly assigns pairs to play against each other. When the Miles Tibbetts Club won the league tournament in 2019, they had six committed members, but most were upper classes. Senior Michael Whitney is the only Nauset student from this group who is still in the club.
A number of underclass and newbie chess players have felt encouraged to join the club now that it is online and a little more laid back.
“I joined out of curiosity,” debutant Olivia Horton said during the club’s weekly match session on February 11. “It’s an inviting space to learn and grow. It’s not as competitive as in previous years.
Beginners are encouraged to ask experienced players mid-game questions if the two are paired.
Provincetown sophomore Suzanne Burns and Wellfleet rookie Cypress Rushby are also newcomers.
Rushby said Mulholland, who he had as a teacher this year, encouraged him to join. “He told me he would teach me how to play,” Rushby said. “I wasn’t very good, but I’m still learning. I’m trying to convince my sister to join.
Mulholland maintains student scale rankings which are updated weekly. Rankings can be skewed if students skip a game: Whitney, for example, is considered the club’s best and most experienced player, but was ranked 14th after February 11 because he missed a week or so. of them.
Some newcomers showed great skill. After Feb. 11, Nauset’s underclassmen Tye Moore and Will Bilowz were at the top of the leaderboard.
“I had never heard of him,” Mulholland said of Moore, who even beat Whitney this year.
Freshman Bilowz won the previous week’s in-house tournament on Feb. 4. “It was only this summer that I was playing online,” Bilowz said. “I became intermediate over the summer.”
Nauset’s second student Alexander DuToit of Truro defeated Mulholland in a match earlier this month. “I’ve been playing since I was 10,” DuToit said. Although he grew up playing on set, he is a fan of the online version. “Clocks make it move faster.”
Chess.com allows players to set a time limit for each round. Other players can log on to watch a match and vote on what they think the next move will be – this is called “voting in chess”, and the computer keeps a ranking of the number of observers who guessed correctly.
“Sometimes you can understand the psychology of the player,” Mulholland said. “It allows people to get involved and engage.” Being online has, in some ways, been easier than in person, he added. You can’t find “10 people crowding around each other [so] you can’t always see. The more games there are, the more chances there are to see other people playing.
Mulholland said he was happy to have these promising newcomers involved, as he was unsure when Covid hit whether the club would continue. He hopes the South Coast Conference Interscholastic Chess League can host a major online tournament next spring.