The group draws all types of students; some play sports, some love music, some are younger, some older, they all come together for one reason Monday nights at the Wiebe Media Center, to play chess.
This season’s Hillsboro Chess Guild features 15 members ranging from elementary school to high school.
Guild sponsor Leah Rose said they all teach each other the tricks of the game.
“The group fills a niche for a lot of kids who have been playing since elementary school and excel at playing,” she said. “It requires a lot of concentration, and to sit still for awhile. Studies show that chess can improve school performance.”
She said that because the game requires a lot of thought and focus, it better prepares them for school and life.
“They learn to play in their head and to think ahead and realize that your opponent is too,” she said. “I think it’s an important skill to have because in our world of instant gratification, they’re learning you don’t just take a piece because you can; you think and realize that if you leave that piece and make another move you could have a checkmate further down the line.”
Gabe Purdy, director of chess at the Karpo Chess School in Lindsborg, attends Monday night practices to coach the guild.
“He’s very good and they learn a lot from him,” Rose said. “Gabe is currently competing in an international chess competition in Russia.”
The students all practice together and offer tips and coaching to less experienced members to better the team, Rose said. One of those students is sophomore Jordan Fryhover, who spent a good portion of Monday night’s practice teaching his friend and new teammate, Franklyn Jost, the finer points of chess playing.
“I play by ear mostly, and do what he tells me to do,” Jost said.
Jost joined the team after some urging from Fryhover, and said he enjoys playing chess.
“It’s a hard game and really makes you think,” Jost said.
Fryhover’s love for chess began at a young age, stimulated by his father.
“My dad played, and when I got old enough I wanted to play because he did, so I started playing,” Fryhover said.
Fryhover said his goal is to win the state tournament March 8 at the University of Kansas.
“I doubt that will happen because there are a lot of kids my age that are amazing,” Fryhover said. “I practice every day to get better and go to extra tournaments sometimes.”
Fryhover was one of six guild members who attended a tournament at Canton-Galva over the weekend to compete.
“We go to eight or nine tournaments a season, but students can go to more by themselves if they want,” Rose said. “A group did that this weekend and did pretty well.”
At the tournament, the middle and high school teams took third. Fryhover took third in his age group.
“It’s fun to play,” Fryhover said. “It’s fun to be on the team because I can hang out with my friends, and every time I play a game I always learn something new.”
Teammate Matthew Denholm said learning something new is his favorite part of being on the team. The sophomore has been on the team since he was in 4th grade.
“Chess is entertaining and it allows me to think,” he said.
The team will host a home tournament on March 1.