Chess Club’s dedication and close bond brings victory


Megan Evans

Members of Chess Club play games against each other during practice. Members practice new strategies they have learned from their coach, Kevin Velazquez, who gives lessons every Tuesday.

By Megan Evans, A&E Editor

The atmosphere at Chess Club practice is inviting and entertaining. Students sit in groups, laughing and joking around while they practice chess strategies.

On one end of the room, Chess coach Kevin Velazquez sets up an interactive, online chess board where he will go over a new strategy for the week. During his lesson, club members eagerly raise their hands to give an answer on how to win the game. This is a typical Tuesday at Chess Club.

Velazquez is a Lane alum and has been coaching chess professionally since 2009. He played chess throughout high school, and explained that at most tournaments, there are eight different chess boards. Students with higher skills and experience usually play for board one.

“I came into the school as a freshman playing board one all the way through senior year,” Velazquez said.

Gretchen Faliszek, Div. 979, is the manager of Chess Club. Faliszek said that the club consists of students who are a part of the competitive team, along with other students who join the club to play for fun.  

“Some people during club practice are more chill about it, and they just come to play chess with their friends,” Faliszek said. “Then, some people are more competitive about it and they play serious matches during practice.”

Chess Club practices take place every Tuesday through Thursday.

Every Tuesday, Velazquez comes in to help the team practice different strategies and techniques. Having a professional coach is a new addition to getting the club prepared for tournaments. This is the first year that Velazquez has coached for Lane.

Each week, Velazquez introduces a new theme. One of the themes that Velazquez focused on during one practice was about “attacking a castled king.”

“We’ll set up a bunch of examples, and we’ll talk about them, because a lot of these examples may not end up like their game exactly, but the idea stays the same for every game you play,” Velasquez said. “After the lecture, usually I’ll go over their games that they have played in a tournament and then we discuss what they’ve done wrong or what they did right.”

With frequent practice comes frequent tournaments, which Faliszek said take place almost every weekend.

While still representing Lane, Faliszek mentioned that the team doesn’t always go by “Lane Tech.”

“Our official coach is Mr. Bartelt, and if he can’t come to the tournament, we can’t go as Lane Tech, even if a CPS employee comes, so we go as West Addison Chess Academy. So we can say ‘WACA’ at events,” Faliszek said.

Faliszek also said that the team will sometimes go to tournaments as “West Addison High.”

Gigi Wolf, Div. 984, is a member of Chess club, and she said that tournaments consist of teams competing to win over eight boards. The boards range from being worth five to 12 points.

“The first board is the most competitive board, and it gives you the most points for winning it, and then eighth board gives you the least points,” Wolf said.

The whole game is out of 68 points. A team that has a score of above 34.5 results in a win.

Wolf also said that tournaments last almost all day. Each round ranges from an hour to two hours, and most of the tournaments are located far from Lane.

Currently, the club is participating in “Prep Bowl,” which consists of city high schools competing against one another.

In January, the club hopes to participate in playoffs and city tournaments, as well as in the state tournament in February.

“We’ve actually finished really strongly in the tournaments. We’ve gotten third or above in all of them,” Faliszek said.

While winning tournaments is an important aspect of the club, another important aspect is the tight bond that everyone in the club shares.

“The team is like one big family. We’ve been together since sophomore year,” Wolf said. “The competitive team is like a huge friend group that all plays chess together. And we’re all conveniently good at it compared to the masses.”