S.H.S. Chess are kings of the boards once again


  Once again, the chess team had a dominant season. This is becoming an annual occurrence for the S.H.S. chess team. 

  Finishing with an 18-4-1 record this year, they didn’t have much trouble with many opponents. They were able to grab the number one seed at the sectional tournament and finished second, clinching a spot in the state finals once again. This is their 12th straight appearance in the state tournament, where they finished 25th out of 128 teams. For schools the size of Sterling High School, Sterling outperformed nearly all. 

  After a year where the tournament was virtual, it’s hard to not compare this year’s in-person state tournament to last year’s tournament. 

  Junior Jack Graves said, “The main difference between this year’s state tournament in Peoria and last year’s tournament was the fact that this year we got to be in person again, as opposed to being virtual, which is a completely different experience. When participating in a virtual tournament, there is no commuting to the tournament or living in the hotel environment for the weekend. It also adds an entirely new stress factor when you’re sitting across from your opponent compared to when you’re sitting in front of a screen – the stakes feel higher. Overall though, the in person environment, though higher stress, is an experience like no other: the energy after the team wins a match, the massive team area with hundreds of other players that all share similar interests, and even the hotel environment which adds a completely different aspect, adding even more fun to the two day, seven match, 126-team state tournament.”

  Head coach Joel Penne continues to push his team toward success year in and year out. Many people who played chess in high school and graduated have come back to be alongside Penne to coach and help the chess members improve. He credited the numbers they have every year. Playing chess at a young age is beneficial to becoming successful in the sport. Challand Middle School has a chess team, which helps start kids younger within the community. He also states that they have a lot of alumni come back and help him. 

  The chemistry this team has has been the key to success for the team this year. They treat each other like family, which creates more support and love for the game of chess. The members of the team are committed to improving. It also helped that they returned seven of their eight varsity players. 

  Penne mentions, “Some of my favorite memories from the season include playing disc golf for our fall cookout, eating at Portillo’s after the Bolingbrook tournament, and shouting at the top of my lungs after defeating Kaneland in an intensely close match.” 

  From the outside looking in, this chess program looks like it’s running very well. It appears to be one big happy family. If you are interested in joining the chess team make sure to get a hold of Mr. Penne.