Sweat runs down the faces of the players. Their minds and bodies are embroiled in intense battle. It is army against army, strategy versus strategy, brain pitted against brain. It is chess, and the ancient board game has finally been brought back to MAST Academy.
Last year senior Miguel Del Rivero, alum Harold Gonzalez, and junior Dylan Leathe co-founded the MAST Academy chess team with the help of Math teacher and club sponsor Jennifer Garnett.
“Without [Garnett’s] help, we wouldn’t be as successful as we are today” said Leathe.
The club very quickly set out to dominate the high school chess scene, breezing through the State competition last year and battling its way to second place at the US National Chess Tournament. Leathe got first place in the individual junior bracket at the tournament, Del Rivero got second place in the individual senior bracket, while freshman Ajay Suhkwani got third place in his division. The team also got third place in a different national competition last year, the Divine Savior Chess Tournament, and second place at yet another national championship, the National Chess Day Tournament. Del Rivero is proud of what his club has managed to achieve so early in its infancy.
“We’ve accomplished so much in such a short time, considering the small size of our club” Del Rivero said.
The club shows no signs of slowing down in its second year. Decimating the competition at the South Florida District Chess Competition this year, the team brought home the first place trophy for MAST. Del Rivero earned third place in his bracket. And this is just the beginning; the team has its eyes on winning the State championship again and ultimately ascending to the position of national champions at the US National Chess Tournament.
In addition to their competitive success, the club prides itself on the closeness between its members. The small size of the club has proved to be an environment conducive to strong relationships between each and every member of the team. A smile lights up Del Rivero’s face when asked about this closeness.
“We’re a very close-knit club. Everyone is extremely dedicated. We’re basically just a bunch of bros playing chess” Del Rivero said.
With their first place win at the South Florida District Chess Competition this year, the team remains optimistic about their success in the coming year. The fortuitous success of the newly-formed MAST Academy chess team promises great things on the horizon for the club.