Stevenson’s Chess Team secures win at IHSA Chess State Championship, reflects on their road to success


It was the last round of the IHSA Chess State Championship and Eduard Danilyan ’25 was locked in an intense game against Barrington. While his opponent had a minute left on his clock, Danilyan had only two seconds. In the game’s dying moments, however, Danilyan’s opponent made a fatal blunder, resulting in a resignation that sounded the victory for Stevenson’s Chess Club.

The Chess Team’s season has officially concluded with Stevenson’s victory at the state championship. Despite challenging stressors and facing many competitive teams, the Chess Team finished with a record of 28-0.

As a freshman, this was Danilyan’s first state championship and he played second board, a position earned through his performances in the matches leading up to state. According to head coach Vincent Springer, Danilyan’s fighting spirit and ability to be creative under time pressure allowed him to win the determining game.

“You need to play really fast and make sure you don’t lose time,” Danilyan said. “You can’t look for the best moves because you won’t be able to find them in such a limited amount of time. Instead, you need to find a good enough move that will help you hold the game.”

One hundred twenty-eight teams competed at the IHSA Chess State Championship, which took place in the Peoria Civic Center. Consisting of seven rounds spread across two days, each player had 55 minutes to play each game, opposed to typical chess games which can last for hours.

“IHSA Chess is a little bit different from regular competitive chess where you’re competing individually at a tournament,” Springer said. “It has significantly shorter time controls which adds an element of stress and intensity because the better player tends to use their full allotment of time. So there’s quite a few games where each player might have seconds left on their clock.”

As the tournament progressed, the matches got increasingly more challenging. According to Springer, one of the team’s biggest strengths was their depth and the ability of the lower boards—boards five, six, seven and eight—to perform well.

Saanvi Adusumalli ’25, who plays sixth board, didn’t lose a single game with four wins and two draws. Like Danilyan, this was Adusumalli’s first IHSA Chess State Championship.

“It’s not every day that you meet people who play chess,” Adusumalli said. “So being in a room of over 1,000 people who play chess was very exciting.”

Adusumalli says her favorite game she played was against Whitney Young, the reigning champions who have won the state title six times in the past 11 years. Prior to the tournament, Adusumalli scouted her opponent’s opening and discovered that he frequently played the Sicilian, so she modified her strategy accordingly.

However, once the game started, her opponent caught Adusumalli off guard by playing the Pirc Defense and moving his pawn to D6 instead. Despite this, Adusumalli pulled through and managed to win.

Leading up to the state championship, the Chess Team put in many hours of work and dedication during the qualifier and sectional tournaments. Adusumalli spent two to three hours on chess alone every day.

Reflecting on the season, the Chess Team specifically focused on building character, mental stamina and mental fortitude. According to Springer, knowing how to respond to bad games and mental challenges are what made the difference at state. He says that when your opponent knows the game just as well as you do, it’s creativity that determines success.

“I like the art and beauty of chess,” Danilyan said. “It can be exhausting but I feel like it’s worth it. The beautiful positions that occur in chess games are very interesting to analyze.”

The Chess Team’s supportive environment and ability to work as a team also contributed to their success. According to Danilyan, the team helps each other out with openings and strategies for playing the game.

“It’s been great getting to know everyone and spending time with other people who play chess,” Adusumalli said. “I feel like we’ve all gotten closer and after winning state everything was tied together.”

For those who’ve been a part of the Chess Team for a while, like Ashley Yan ’22, winning state felt like a culmination of all the hard work and effort the team put in throughout the season and years past. For Yan, it was a satisfying way to conclude her senior year of high school.

“While I’m not quitting chess, I definitely won’t be able to play as much now that I’m going to college and I’ll miss the experience of playing in-person tournaments,” Yan said. “Chess is a complex game that’s very mentally demanding, but calculating new plans and formulating new ideas is what makes it so fun and special, and it’s what I’ll miss most about playing.”

The Chess Team has high expectations for next year, planning to be even more competitive given their young roster. Danilyan specifically is looking forward to playing chess, participating in future tournaments and hopefully winning the state championship again next year.

“We’ve had some wonderful human beings cross the threshold into Chess Club,” Springer said. “Not only are they really good chess players, but they’re great people and I think that’s a big part of our success.”