Whittier Union Correspondence Chess Players Gain National Notoriety – Cerritos Community News

WUHSD_CHESS1: Whittier High School Correspondence Chess Players left to right: Isabel Luna, Soledad DeAguayo, Mary Lusinyan, Sadie Cruz, Sophia Reyna, Amanda Guevara and Samantha Silva. Not pictured: Ena Pejovski.

WHITTIER – When Whittier High School senior Isabel Luna joined the school’s chess club, she was looking to challenge herself and connect with her peers in ways that went beyond the lecture Zoom. At first intimidated by what she perceived as a male-dominated sport, Luna learned that chess can be mastered with patience and dedication.

Quarantined at home, Luna learned about correspondence chess, which is usually played by mail or email. Using correspondence chess, Luna honed her skills from the comfort of her home, made new friends and exercised her brain. In the process, Luna became one of the highest ranked correspondence chess players in the United States.

Luna, along with eight of her Whittier High Chess Club teammates, are listed in the American Chess Federation’s Top 20 Correspondence Players for May 2021. Joining Luna on the list are Whittier High seniors Sadie Cruz and Amanda Guevara; juniors Sophia Reyna, Mary Lusinyan, Samantha Silva and Marie Molina; sophomore Ena Pejovski and Whittier High Class of 2020 graduate Lee Chu. Several other members of the chess club are working on qualification.

“I wanted to show myself and others that anyone can play chess,” Luna said. “Correspondence chess is a great way to learn and develop your chess skills. Anyone can play, regardless of age or gender, and it’s never too late to start learning. I encourages everyone to play, especially girls who are interested. Give chess a chance. You might surprise yourself.

Growing student interest and participation at Whittier High resulted in Chess Club advisor Kele Perkins securing a $2,500 grant from US Chess Women to develop his correspondence program.

“Correspondence is a great way for new players to learn the game, and it’s perfect for these times,” Perkins said. “Our children play by e-mail. Although it can take weeks or even months to complete a correspondence game, the pacing allows players to take their time and slow down in critical positions. Kids learn more this way than they would playing a quick timed game.

In 2020, Perkins noticed that the Top 100 list of American Women’s Chess Correspondence Players was almost completely devoid of names, with only the top two spots filled. Perkins sensed an opportunity to expand chess club membership and diversify its ranks with female participation. Perkins launched a recruitment drive, with students responding enthusiastically.

The match list is one of many memorable moments for Whittier High chess players during the 2020-21 school year.

In March, Whittier High was the top performing high school in the 2021 Southern California SuperStates Chess Championship, K-12 Division, a competition that included public and private high schools from across Southern California and a number of players who have obtained the title of International Master and National Master.

Junior Joaquin Perkins led the six-member team with four points. Perkins, who has won 9 national school titles and is the son of Kele Perkins, survived six grueling rounds and finished in fourth place overall.

“I’m glad the team was able to compete despite the limitations,” said Joaquin. “We each had our tough games and losses, but everyone managed to score points.”

The SuperStates Championship is Whittier High’s first college state title since 2017. Whittier High won JV state titles in 2016, 2018, and 2019.

“Chess has been a tradition at Whittier High for many years, thanks to the hard work and dedication of Kele Perkins and his students,” said Whittier High Principal Timothy J. Liggett. “It’s exciting to see our cardinals gaining national recognition, but it’s even more gratifying to see the enthusiasm and rising participation rates among students. »

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