Masterman students make all the right moves to win national chess title

Seven students from Julia R. Masterman Middle School in Fairmount competed in the SuperNationals in Nashville, Tenn., the Super Bowl of chess.

On Sunday, the team took home the middle school title.

“It was really, really happy because I’ve never been on a team that’s really won a trophy nationally,” said fifth-grader Torin Kuehnle, the team’s youngest competitor. “It was really big and not only was it a trophy, but it was No. 1.”

Over the course of three days, each player competed through seven rounds. At the end, the scores of the top four players were totaled. Each win was worth a point.

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“This is a real roller-coaster of emotion,” said Stephen Shutt, the team’s head coach. “You win and you’re at the top of the world; you lose and you’re devastated.”

Shutt, whose been teaching students the game for two decades, said it takes a special breed of chess player to compete at the national level.

“You have to be both competitive and you have to be very ambitious as well. And you have to be able to have a lot of stamina,” he said. “Stamina’s an important part because you only have up to a maximum of four hours for a game.”

Eighth-grader Alexander Wlezien, who has been playing chess for nine years, took home second place for individual competition in his age group.

On Wednesday afternoon, he was right back in a basement classroom playing chess along with his teammates. Though the competition was exhausting, Alexander said he never tires of the game.

“I want to keep on getting better and better,” he said.

The school will have to wait a bit longer to display the trophy that accompanied their big win. Shutt said it should be shipped out from Nashville this week.

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