Photo Credit: Zachary Bekkedahl
On Saturday, April 29 Fossil Ridge High School hosted the Chessmates team championship for elementary, middle, and high schools around the state. Josh Lee, Kayman Riley, XinXin Liu, Keegan Cook, Tyler Rife, and Kenny Hotra were Fossil’s six allotted competitors, and they finished the tournament in third place after a three way tiebreaker. Fossil chess has qualified for the state championship for the last three years and won it in 2015.
Team championships require each of the school’s competitors to play three games, and each of those three are against a different school. Fossil’s top participant, for example, would play a game against each of the other schools’ top students. Each round of four games between two schools is considered a match, and the team who wins the most matches out of three wins the tournament.
To qualify for this tournament, Fossil’s chess team had to win the PSD/Chessmates tournament series and be named the best team in the city. They then competed against Lakewood, Centaurus, and Williams on Saturday and finished their three matches tied with Lakewood and Williams. After a blitz round, where quicker games are played, Fossil landed in third, earning them the title of third in the state. Coach Zachary Bekkedahl said, “Our team had a great time and were very close to taking the title. We had some great camaraderie and I was very impressed with how our team handled themselves under pressure and with the class that Fossil Ridge expects of their young adults.”
The Fossil chess club has about 25 members and meets once a week to have a chess lesson and practice. They attend chess events throughout the year, and plan for those at meetings as well. As the players participate in tournaments, they receive a chess rating, which allows them to qualify for the final team championship if they are in the top six. Soon, the team will pick a new president and make goals about what they want to achieve and where they want to take their club next year.
Lee, a sophomore and team captain, has been a steady contributor throughout the last two years and competed as first board at this state competition. He said, “I’m proud of our team to be able to score so well at a high level competition.” Having played chess since fifth grade, Lee finds that it requires a high level of concentration and patience to play well.
Bekkedahl is very proud to be the Fossil coach, having taught many of the students when they attended Preston and Kinard Middle School. Some of them were even his students at Traut and Zach Elementary. He believes that, “Nobody is luckier than me to teach chess full time and I couldn’t ask for a better group of kids. Coming back and winning the team championship will be high on the list [next year]!”
The chess club supported each other throughout the season and the tournament, despite the common idea that chess is an individual sport. Photo Credit: Zachary Bekkedahl