Dulnaka Jalath (12) won this year’s inter-school chess competition at West High. Photo courtesy of Marina Soen (12).
Dulnaka Jalath (12) won this year’s inter-school chess competition at West High. Photo courtesy of Marina Soen (12).

West High Games Club Hosts Inter-School Chess Competition

May 19, 2023

   Before West High’s Games Club Co-Presidents Anika Agarwal (12) and Claire Perry’s (12) efforts, there hadn’t been a chess competition at West High for years –– much less one between multiple schools. Now, West’s Games Club is proud to take home a first-place individual competitor medal, won by finalist Dulnaka Jalath (12) in a tournament of more than sixty students and seven schools. 

   Previously, Games Club hosted a chess competition limited to the students of West High. But this year, the tournament received around 64 contestants — more than triple of last year’s count.

   Of course, such a large-scale event required substantial planning to organize. Perry detailed how the club had been preparing for the tournament as early as fall, with the goal “to get everybody connected and get a tournament going, because there really hasn’t been a tournament within TUSD or even the area in a long time.” Agarwal also described the grueling, extensive hours the board had put into outreaching towards other schools to see if they were interested: “Once we did, we talked to Mrs. Eriksen (Director of Student Activities) about custodians, finalizing the date, the paperwork, and coordinating the budget.” According to Agarwal, her primary goal was to see her efforts pay off in the enthusiasm participants showed. “We [the Games Club Board] spent countless hours meeting and planning with other schools as well. If people enjoyed it, then it was definitely worthwhile,” she commented, smiling. 

   The tournament wasn’t without its challenges. Before the competition even began, the Games Club ran into their first hurdle as hosts: the internet collapsed, leaving the organizers at a loss as to how they were going to restore the data spreadsheets lost online. At one point, Agarwal admitted to nearly having canceled the tournament as a whole: “In the process, I could have given up. But that was when my quick thinking abilities were tested, and it worked out fine in the end.” 

  Indeed, the Games Club had pushed through –– instead of recording scores on laptops or cell phones, they used the tried-and-true pen-and-paper method to keep track of points. Although it proved difficult to not record scores digitally at the beginning, the tournament ran smoothly for the rest of the course. 

   Though many competitors are bound to be slightly anxious before a nerve-wracking game like chess, Agarwal reassured her team that “one round doesn’t really determine whether or not you go off to the next round or finals.” She further advised them to “enjoy the game, because at the end of the day it’s still for fun!”

   Thinking one step ahead of your opponent is one of the key traits to victory in chess; it’s slightly akin to a puzzle, in which the solver must figure out what their competitor will do next. All under a mere ten minute timer. “You want to know how the other side is going to react according to your own set of moves,” Agarwal stated. “It’s kind of like you’re playing your own game but also your opponent’s at the same time,” she added insightfully. 

   Agarwal’s goals for the future went beyond a successful tournament: as the seeds for more inter-school competitions had been planted, she anticipated the legacy of Games Club growing with them. “We’ve laid the foundation for building connections with other schools, now the club just has to continue that and grow from there,” she expressed, a note of hope in her voice.

   Being an expert at chess isn’t a prerequisite to joining the Games Club. Perry explained that “there’s always something for everybody here.” “We have different kinds of games, not just chess,” she added. Perry encouraged students to take a leap outside their comfort zone. “Just try it out and see if you like it! Whatever and whenever you want to play, come hang out with us,” she beamed.

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