Between a Rook and a Hard Place

Kristopher Fraser

The Oberlin College Chess Club is working to restore its once distinguished reputation. For the second consecutive year, Oberlin will attend the Pan American Intercollegiate Team Chess Championship, striving to beat last year’s record of fourth place in the division. The tournament will take place in Lubbock, Texas, from Dec. 27–30.

In the 1990s, Oberlin’s team was considered the most successful chess team in the country. The College hosted a collection of state and national tournaments, but mysteriously stopped meeting at some point in the latter half of the decade. Three years ago, College juniors Kalind Parish and Ali Amiri decided to revive the organization, of which they are now currently co-chairs.

Parish and Amiri gained support from the Student Finance Committee and have assembled a promising team. The team’s first forward for the upcoming December tournament is College first-year Walker Griggs, a three-time state champion, who qualifies for the +1900 s. Although Griggs is only a first-year, he has read over 500 books on chess and first competed at age 12. Despite his very impressive standing, Griggs merely “play[ed] [chess] online” in preparation for the tournament.

As with most state and national tournaments, attendance simply involves enrollment. According to Parish, Oberlin is likely to win its division this year.

“We have a few +1900 players,” Parish said. “It will be interesting to see how it goes.”

Chess team Coach and Head Women’s Tennis Coach Constantine Ananiadis agreed.

“This is by far the strongest team, and we’re taking two teams … so I’m excited to see what we can do,” Ananiadis said.

In preparation, Ananiadis helped his team organize the G60 tournament last weekend, which took place in the Root Room and featured several acclaimed international chess players, some of who hold the distinguished title of Grand Master. In addition, Ananiadis also teaches the Chess ExCo, which he says has helped several of his competing players sharpen their skills, including Parish, College senior Jeremy Potterfield and College junior Drew Wise.

Although Oberlin’s team is a relatively underground organization, Ananiadis believes that their anonymity is an advantage. “A good piece of advice for us would be ‘play the board’ and not look too much at others’s ratings or reputation.  We’ll be underrated on many occasions, as with the exception of a few, we don’t have players who have tons of tournament experience. But we have lots of ability on both teams nonetheless, so we can actually use the fact that our ratings are low and no one knows about us to our advantage and sneak up on people.”

This tournament, which culminates any team’s season, will feature teams from the United States, Canada, South America, Central America and the Caribbean.

“We’re definitely in the favorites for our division,” Parish said. “I don’t know [who our biggest competition will be], but that’s exciting.”