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Southwest Chess Club sees success

The team is already competing in statewide competitions.

Southwest High School’s chess club is getting ready to make their next move.

This is the club’s second year as a team, but they’ve already found success.

Last year, they were the first Bibb County public high school to go to the Georgia High School Chess Team Championships at Emory University in Atlanta. They placed 25th in the competition.

The team was started in 2016 by English teacher Adam Pelletier.

“We had a couple young men who were reading a chess book in my classroom. After I told them to put the book away, I said, ‘But we’ll play sometime,’” Pelletier said. “They came to me about a week later and asked, ‘Mr. P, can we start a chess team?’”

In 2017, they competed in their first tournament where they won the high school division.

This year, the club has around 15 active members. They have already competed in four tournaments, both in Macon and Atlanta, but according to Pelletier, those tournaments don’t come without a price.

Pelletier said each tournament costs around $20 to $30 to enter. They also account for travel costs for the Atlanta-based competitions.

“We’ve been very dependent on generous donations and fundraising,” Pelletier said. “The kids sold close to $600 in doughnut certificates from Krispy Kreme.”

Pelletier said the students have set high goals for the next state competition.

“They set a team goal to finish in the top 20 this year, and in 2020, they set a goal to finish in the top 10 and they’ve committed themselves to that,” Pelletier said.

15-year-old Vaughn Owens said he likes chess because it makes him think outside the box.

“The thing I like most about doing chess is to come in and help other people play, too. I also like to see new strategies,” Owens said. “To see if I can do something different to open up to new things instead of just playing the same old stuff.”

The team will be participating in a rated competition Saturday. This means the United States Chess Federation will give them a score based on skills. According to Pelletier, it will take them to more intense competitions.

Owens said he’s ready.

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