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Emily Lu, Staff Reporter

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For many sports teams, the IHSA state tournament is the climax of a year’s preparation as they compete to be crowned the champions. The same applies to Miranda Liu ’19 — but she didn’t go to state to show off athletic skill. Instead, she engaged in one-on-one battles of strategy with other players as a member of the chess team.

The team competed and won third place at the state finals on February 8 and 9. Stevenson consistently places highly among the 128 schools in the tournament, and it is the second consecutive time they have finished third.

According to Liu, the team members did not expect to do as well at the beginning of the year due to the strength of the previous year’s graduating seniors. Stevenson also faced strong competition from schools such as Whitney Young, the winners of this year’s championship.

“Whitney Young were obviously the favorites to win,” team member Ricky Wang ’21 said. “But schools like them and IMSA are able to specifically recruit students, while we just have students coming from the area.”

As a result, Stevenson is arguably at a competitive disadvantage compared to these selective enrollment schools. Coach Vincent Springer views the team’s success despite this as a testament to the students.

“I’m just really impressed with the young people that cross my threshold and want to play chess,” Springer said. “It always amazes me that there are such wonderful human beings that come to this school every day.”

Liu appreciates the same qualities in her teammates and has formed strong friendships with them due to their shared interests in chess. Though each chess match itself does not involve teamwork, the IHSA format combines the results of matches into the team’s overall score.

“Because high school chess has become a team thing and not just individuals playing by themselves, I think it adds a sense of camaraderie to the game,” Liu said.

As an adult and a coach, Springer views chess differently now compared to when he was younger. Though he stopped playing chess in college, Springer took it up again after suffering from a life-threatening case of meningitis as an adult.

“I sometimes joke with students that you only need one game on your iPad, and that’s chess,” Springer said. “It will literally challenge you for the rest of your life.”

Many players on the Stevenson team, including Wang and Liu, developed an interest in chess at an early age and have been playing since then. Out of Wang’s extracurricular activities, he enjoys chess the most.

“On the surface, people view it as a board game where you just play the pieces, but it’s honestly an art,” Wang said. “It brings out your creativity and your imagination, and you have to have those traits to play the game well.”

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