The Chess Boiz

By: Natalie Eaton

Chess is a board game of strategies and tactics. A sport that takes practice, time and thought, and a smart set of minds. Just like other sports, chess is competitive and mentally challenging. 

Eight brilliant students, Ryan Amburgy, Liam Glynn, Juan Diego Hernandez, Hakeem Hussain, Parker Haras, Roman Miller, Sarabjot Singh, and Brooke Waters, are all part of the Jenks chess team. Just like other sports, the team travels to different competitions around Oklahoma and tests their skills. 

The Jenks chess team proved themselves to be strong underdogs compared to other schools. A team that is not sponsored, self-driven to competitions, and almost student-led, the team became Oklahoma chess state champions. Filled with young and experienced talent ranging from freshmen to seniors, some members have played all their life while some just recently started to play competitively. 

The Jenks chess team holding the state championship trophy. Photo Credit: Oklahoma Chess Association

Roman Miller (9), only started to play chess at the competitive level a year and a half ago. He was inspired to start playing chess after watching The Queen’s Gambit, which is a show about a woman in the chess field. Miller became interested and watched a bunch of Youtube videos on the show. He soon got into chess sets and fell in love with the game and the competition. 

“My uncle is really smart and is a professor in mathematics, he taught me how to play chess,” said Miller, “the game is really challenging, and when you win you feel really good about yourself. You get a high whenever you win. It is very competitive, and I feel like I am a very competitive person.”

Chess competitions may seem like a sit-down in complete silence sort of competition. Some people don’t believe chess is a sport. But, in reality, the game is social and very exhausting. 

“That’s why chess grandmasters don’t make a lot,” jokes Liam Glynn (9). “As much as people wouldn’t think this, you get a real fast adrenaline rush in your body. You’re sitting at the table, freaking out, thinking bro they’re better than me there’s no way I can do this.”

Glynn, who is another first-year student on the Jenks chess team, grew up playing the game. At competitions, he has gotten to know other kids from different schools during the long rounds of chess games. 

Typically in competitive chess tournaments, there is a clock set at a standard forty-five-minute mark. If both players are super good, the round will take around two hours for one match. But if both players are struggling, the round will take less than an hour. In between rounds, Glynn has gotten to know kids from other schools. In total, a normal day of competition takes about five to eight hours.

To prepare for the long rounds of games, the members of the chess team all have different ways of practicing. For Glynn, he finds someone in his family to practice with. But practicing for a chess game is more complicated than it sounds. 

“There are tactics, but those happen in the chess game. So, to prepare for it, you have to study openings and what you play for the first ten moves of the game,” said Miller, “you can’t really show up to a chess game with a set plan because anything can happen and someone can play a movie that you didn’t expect or prepare for.”

Miller in his spare time plays online chess for convenience but also uses books. Many books contain information on how to play the game better. One book, called the Endgame, teaches players what to do when there are no more chess pieces left.

Preparation for chess competitions is not easy. But, the players enjoy the benefits of playing and the result of winning. One chess player, Ryan Amburgy (12), enjoys the hard work and how much it has paid off for him 

It takes a lot of hard work,” said Amburgy, “not everyone can enjoy spending hours playing chess, but I enjoy it a lot. You use your mind a lot more than other sports.”

Amburgy holding his first place trophy with his parents. Picture: Courtesy of Ryan Amburgy

Amburgy finished his final year on the Jenks chess team by winning the individual state championship tournament in April. This summer, he will get the opportunity to represent Oklahoma at the National Tournament of Champions in Palm Springs, California. 

Along with his teammates, the Jenks chess team competed as underdogs with only eight boys at the Oklahoma Scholastic State Championship. Amburgy scored 4-0, impressing the competition by going undefeated in his age category. Miller scored 2-2, and some scored 4-5. 

“Some schools showed up super hardcore,” said Miller, “we were just wearing normal clothes and other schools were wearing official school team outfits and had a table full of snacks. There were thirty people on their teams, and we only had eight.”

Remarkably, Jenks beat all the schools with only two people scoring. 

“I didn’t think we could do it, but then next thing you know, boom, we were state champions,” said Glynn, “I was very surprised. These guys were full-blown hard-core chess players.”

The Jenks chess team has a bright future ahead of them. Although the team is losing a key player, Amburgy, who is graduating and going to Tulsa Community College next year, the team is strong with their love of chess and competing. 

Interested in joining? Come by the Freshman Academy and meet with Ms. Dooley. Also, to gain more experience in the world of chess, make sure to join the chess club! (Not required for being on the chess team)

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