Andover’s Chess Club hosted the “Challenge A Master” competition with International Master and current U.S. Women’s Champion, Carissa Yip ’22. On Friday, February 4, players gathered around tables in the Mural Room of Paresky Commons to simultaneously compete against Yip. Nearly two hours later, Yip emerged victorious from the simultaneous-match (“simul”) with 25 wins and zero losses.
Playing against up to 15 players at once, Yip was required to be quick with her decision making. According to Yip, the simul gave her the opportunity to play against unfamiliar competition in a low-stress environment.
“For simuls-style [competitions], it’s pretty spontaneous because there are so many people to play at once, so I can’t spend too long on each game. I usually take whatever seems to be the right move, and I just play it right away. They are generally pretty fun for me because I face people whom I don’t usually play against in tournaments. That allows me to be more spontaneous and not to make sure I don’t make a tiny mistake. I’m sure I made a lot of little mistakes today, but it also depends on my opponent’s ability to capitalize them when the mistakes are really small, ” said Yip.
Chess is a sport of contemplation and maximizing an opponent’s mistakes. Aaron Huang ’25, one of the simul players, expressed his awe at Yip’s expertise. Growing up, Huang competed in various chess tournaments but has been playing online for the past year. He appreciated the opportunity to play in person again.
“In chess, there are generally three stages of the game. I thought I played well in the opening, had a solid position. But there were several moments in the middle of the game where she was able to take advantage of my mistakes easily and convert them into her advancements using fantastic moves,” said Huang.
William Buehler ’24 had similar observations. Buehler notes how the uncertainty of chess pushes him to take risks and make predictions whilst analyzing each tactical step. After losing to Yip, Buehler reflected that he needs to calculate each of his moves more carefully going forward.
“The most challenging thing about playing was when you know that the options you have are crucial, and therefore, making the right move that eventually leads you towards winning the game. Generally, I am an opportunistic player who tends to be on the defensive. I would say it usually allows me to wait for the right moments in the game to push for an advantage as opposed to when I was younger when I would try to go all out, which would often end up losing a positional advantage or even a little bit of material. It allows me to play in a more solid way,” said Buehler.
Yip hopes to broaden the general interest in chess on campus through the Chess Club. She hopes that it will become a tight and vibrant community that inspires talent and passion in the game. Although Covid-19 has restricted meetings and competitions, Chess Club aims to host more events in the future.
“My biggest takeaway is seeing the number of people that are interested in chess as a whole. Honestly, in previous years, we never really had a lot of people in the Chess Club though it was a space where you came in to play and everyone knew each other. Since we haven’t met in person for two years, this meeting is the first time. I will be very glad to have more chances of having more people from the rest of the school to come in, since it is a lot more interesting to play with new people,” said Yip.
William Yoon ’24 first started playing chess when his older brother wanted to have someone to play with. Since then, he has come to appreciate the opportunity to meet people through chess, both online and in person. During the simulation, Yoon specifically enjoyed the crowd’s intense and enthusiastic atmosphere.
“My biggest takeaway was seeing and knowing that there are so many people passionate to play and learn more about chess. The seats were all filled after a short amount of time and everyone seems to be very devoted and focused on their own game. I was also really focused on my game, and it was pretty inspiring to see how chess has brought so many people together,” said Yoon.
The Chess Club plans to meet on Friday nights and welcomes anyone who is interested in playing chess, regardless of experience or skill level. The Chess Club offers members not only to practice their own game, but also observe others’ skills and tactics.
“I’m hoping for the chess club to become a more vibrant community at Andover. Previously, especially due to Covid-19, there were physically not a lot [of people] in the Chess Club. Now that we are in person, I hope to bring that spirit back,” said Yip.
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