Whittier College Chess Invitational Checks into Campus

Whittier College Chess Invitational Checks into Campus

Mary Devine
Sports Editor

From Friday, Nov. 17 to Sunday, Nov. 19, the Whittier College Chess Club hosted their very first Chess Tournament. Members of the club and other Whittier community members participated in the tournament which ultimately resulted in an outstanding 3-way tie. 


The club has had a year full of activity, though it was just recently founded. During Fall semester last year, fourth-year President and Founder Sean Yarrow Sternberg decided to establish what is now the Whittier College’s Chess Club. Once the club received their allowed funding, Sean and the core of the team went to work marketing in order to recruit new members. 

“There is a huge body of undiscovered chess talent at Whittier,” said Sternberg. “A lot of people have competed in tournaments in the past, but now just play casually or don’t play because there is no access to it.” 

 The club has a total of ten members who are actively participating. These ten members consist of both experienced and inexperienced members who  want to understand and compete in the game of chess. “That’s the point of chess club. Although you have serious chess players here, we hope to attract people who just want to learn about chess,” said Sternberg. 

In hopes of attracting new members, the club now has a huge chess board with large-scale pieces that anyone passing by can come play with. This giant board has made an appearance several times during lunch at the Campus Inn (CI) and has been the highlight to recruiting this year. 

However, the life-sized chess board is not the only way the club recruited members. During the activities fair this past fall, the Whittier College Chess Club recruited several people. Having these new members was a perfect opportunity for Sternberg to bring his idea of a Whittier College Chess Tournament to life. With the help of Kelly Perkins, the Whittier High School Chess Club Director, Sternberg organized the event. 

“It’s something that I’ve always wanted  to do because of the environment it creates and gives to the people who participate,” said Sternberg. “We wanted to reach out to high schools in the area, too, so they could have their players come and play because chess is a communal thing, not just a Whittier College thing.”

 Although the tournament was Sternberg’s brain child, there were many other members who participated in the creation of the tournament. First-year Naya Sawah, the Secretary of the club, was a big contributor in helping plan the event. Sawah helped create the fliers for the tournament and helped promote it all over the campus. Along with Sawah, first-year Emily Koda volunteered her time sitting next to the CI to market the tournament, which resulted in six new sign-ups.   

A typical chess tournament is called a Swiss system, which consists of pool play. A player plays within their own pool to gain the highest score of wins. However, the Whittier College chess club did something a little different. Everybody played everybody in what is called a Round Robin. Out of the 16 players, the top eight players were ordered in a bracket-style seating system from the strongest to the weakest going down from the middle of the line up. 

The tournament was held in two locations, Mendenhall third floor on Friday, and in the Campus Courtyard on Saturday and Sunday. The top eight players competed in a match with the international time limit of an hour and a half  with a 30-second delay that could be added onto a player’s clock. However, because of the amount of newcomers, the games lasted on average about 30 minutes.

 “The event was good. We had a good turnout,” said first-year Casino Apte. “We had a professor or two  show up,and lots of upperclassmen. I think I was the only [first-year] playing.”

Although the match time average was pretty short, as the tournament continued and the more advanced players remained, the game time increased from 30 minutes to two hours. On top of the main brackets, the tournament consisted of an elimination bracket that gave those who had lost in previous rounds a chance to gain a place back in the main tournament. 

Not only was this a way for the players to win their way back into the main tournament, but it was a way for inexperienced members to practice and better themselves. 

“You could really see some of the people who had never played in a tournament and never played long time controls really thought out their moves in more intense areas of the game,” said Sternberg. “Some people had some really sharp games and used their time effectively. That was really cool to see because that is the point of holding a tournament like this.”  

 The tournament finished late Sunday night in a miraculous three-way tie between Sternberg,  Perkins, and fourth-year Chess Club Vice-President Ty Lopez. The tournament has been a great experience for the Chess Club, and they plan to hold more events in the future so members of the Whittier College community can come experience a new activity. For many, this was their first time playing in a tournament. 

“This  was  my first tournament,” said Apte.  “It was fun. I did mess up,you know. I’m not used to playing with a timer,  so there’s that, plus having to write down your moves. Also, you are not allowed to touch pieces or else you have to move them.”

 This group of chess players meet up once every two weeks in the Campus Courtyard. The club is welcoming of all new members who are interested in participating in the world of chess. Despite the nerdy image people have of this mental sport, members believe there is much more to chess. 

“Chess club [is seen as] a stereotype, and it may be just a geeky activity and the people involved are introverted and quiet, but I think Whittier does a great job of bringing out the fun in chess,” said Apte. “We are playing underneath the CI with loud music, so it’s not really super intense. A lot more people are joining, even people who don’t know chess because it is such a warm and inviting environment. I think Sean [Sternberg] does a really good job of doing that and managing everyone. I give props to him for that.”