Queen’s Gambit

“Queen’s Gambit” series brings out renewed interest to chess players

For Akash “Reno” Bhowmik, Chess Club co-president and junior, chess has been a major part of his life. He said he knew the rules of chess and how to play in kindergarten and has since been fascinated with the game. Bhowmik said he started playing competitively after fourth grade and has competed in many tournaments every year, mostly individually.

Akash “Reno” Bhowmik, Chess Club co-president and junior, picks up a chess piece to make a move against his opponent during the Feb. 24 meeting in F108. Bhowmik said he values the friendships he is able to enhance through Chess Club meetings. Photo by Valliei Chandrakumar)

“[In middle school], we didn’t have a serious chess team so most of what I did then was individual,” he said. “I would travel to tournaments in Indiana, Ohio, etc. to compete.”

When he came to this school, Bhowmik said there was already a Chess Club that competed in tournaments in the Midwest region, but last year the club was disbanded due to a lack of members. He said he and a few of his friends decided to revive the club due to their shared interest for playing chess. 

Thomas “Tommy” Klein, Chess Club member and freshman, said he got interested in chess from a much later age. 

“I started playing chess in seventh grade but I only played for a few weeks then quit,” he said. “At the time, I wasn’t quite interested in chess as I am now.” 

Klein said he got back into playing chess from watching a show related to it a few weeks back. 

He said, “I watched ‘The Queen’s Gambit,’ which got me back into chess. I wanted to see if the school had a club where I could play and when I found this club, I reached out and joined.” 

Because chess is such a strategy game, practice is key when deciphering the opponent’s moves. Bhowmik said in-person meetings for the Chess Club usually focus on analyzing these moves. 

He said, “Usually we just play games against each other and analyze different possible moves in those games. Also, we usually (prepare) for upcoming tournaments so the analysis we do helps a lot for those.”

Klein said he agreed with Bhowmik and also added that it is usually Bhowmik who explains the tactics during those in-person meetings. As for virtual meetings, Bhowmik said the club usually meets virtually to discuss some strategies and analyze moves from other matches. Klein said the club also discusses tactics for upcoming tournaments. 

Klein said, “When we play against each other (at in-person meetings), that just helps us with experience and general chess practice. When (Bhowmik) teaches us tactics and strategies, it helps us learn from our mistakes and helps us defeat our opponent swiftly. Sometimes, we might face the same position in the future so practicing those moves helps us in those situations.” 

Chess Club sponsor Robert Holman said he typically puts “The Queen’s Gambit” on during in-person meetings so the team can learn from other possible positions on the chessboard. However, he said he does not interfere much with the normal proceedings of the club; instead, he said he just lets Bhowmik and the rest of the members just play and learn from one another.

Bhowmik said most weeks the club practices three to four hours across the week. He said most of these practices are by themselves and there is an hour-long practice at the weekly meeting.

Bhowmik said the club has several goals in mind, one of which includes placing as a top 10 team at the Supernationals chess tournament in May. 

He said, “Because there is no qualifying round for that tournament, many teams show up to that so we would like to get a top 10 honor at that tournament. If we do, it would be great to know we practiced hard enough for that spot.” 

Klein said he likes the Chess Club because he gets to increase his tournament experience. He said, “I think it was pretty cool to have played in my first every chess tournament, and I feel like this club has allowed me to find a new activity I enjoy.” 

Bhowmik shared a similar sentiment. He said, “Since I started playing at Chess Club, I’ve been continuing to practice my technique for our tournaments, and I sometimes set aside time to look at tactics, opening theory and strategy. I also sometimes play training games against other members of the club to diagnose my mistakes in certain positions, and I’ve been more confident in sharp and unclear positions. 

“Chess Club has furthered my interest in the game,” he added, “and the opportunity to play with teammates at various events throughout the year has had a very positive effect on my progress. Indiana doesn’t have as big of a chess community compared to other states like Ohio and Illinois, so being able to play chess with friends at CHS is something I value.”

Graphic by Valliei Chandrakumar