After a strong start in the first two rounds, the GSSM Chess Eagles fought back hard from third round setbacks to regain the lead and capture the State Scholastic Chess Championship among high schools for a second consecutive year. The team defended its title on Saturday, March 3rd, at the SC State Museum in Columbia in the largest chess tournament rated by the U. S. Chess Federation ever held in the state. According to team coach Dr. Clyde Smith, this is the thirteenth state championship GSSM has won, the first being in 1993.
GSSM’s seven-member team included three returning seniors from last year's championship team:
Together, they were among 57 high school players from around the state competing for individual and team honors in the high school section.
One of the team’s leaders, Victor Ruan ’18, said he struggled with nervousness in the opening rounds, “I told myself to relax a little.” Reminding himself to have fun at the tournament, Victor finished strong, winning four of his five matches.
Dr. Smith said that, “each member of the team contributed something special," on Saturday. He singled out the efforts of GSSM junior Brian Torreon for his scrappy come-back after a mistake early in the fourth round nearly cost him the game, saying, “He fought his way back and won. It was without a doubt the best recovery I saw a Govie make on Saturday, and one of the best ever!”
This was Brian Torreon’s first tournament as an Eagle. Torreon reflected on the day, “I felt proud that we were able to defend our state chess title. It was a great bonding experience with my teammates and a great chance to face fierce chess competition. Chess is fun.”
Victor summed up the team’s defense of their 2017 championship, “It felt good to bring home the trophy, especially because it was such a tight finish between our school and D.W. Daniel.” Players from chess power-house Daniel High School played tough through the third round. The second-place team trophy this year went to Midlands STEM Institute.
In individual play, Brennan Ravan '18 won the 6th place trophy, Victor Ruan '18 won 7th place trophy and Richard Sandvoss '19 won the 9th place trophy.
A computer glitch prevented the awarding of individual honors at the tournament. However, the overall state champion and National Master Mr. Samuel Copland offered to bring the trophies to campus and play an all-against-one chess exhibition match with as many players as wish to take him on simultaneously.
What’s next for the Chess Eagles? Getting ready for next year. Dr. Smith reports, “We’ll spend the next few months identifying talent and getting some new juniors ready to compete next year.”
Pictured above: GSSM Chess Eagles team