Argo High chess team “phenomenal”
Boys team enjoys best season in school history
By Steve Metsch
If you run into a member of the Argo Community High School chess team this summer and he challenges you to a game, it’s probably not a good idea to test your luck.
Chances are you won’t last long against someone who’s part of the most successful chess team in school history.
The school’s chess team won its division in the state meet, and then performed very well in the nationals held in Nashville in May with several team members finished near the top.
“We did really well – I’d say phenomenal – in the national event,” said coach Lucian Bogdan, a math teacher at Argo.
In Nashville, players compete in different classes, ranked by skill.
“I had two full teams. One in the unrated section, these are beginner players who don’t have much experience. They just started. But I also had five players in another section who played players at their strength, and I had two more in another section,” Bogdan said.
“The two teams won national awards. The unrated, our team came in second place in the country and the other team finished sixth in the country,” Bogdan. “Oh, yes, I’m very proud of them. They worked very hard.”
The unrated team consisted of sophomores Edgar Viurquez and Andres Lopez, junior Julllian Delgadillo and freshman Elliot Van Wagner, Bogdan said.
The U1200 Team was composed of seniors Greg Walkosz, Armando Patino and Rashmin Patel, junior Justin Turziak and sophomore Roberto Albor, Bogdan said.
Individually, Albor and Walkosz finish 6th and 35th, respectively, of 365 students in the U1200 division, Bogdan said.
Viurquez and Lopez respectively finished 8th and 11th, of 44 players in the unrated section.
Sophomore Andrew Orlos, and senior Stefano Herrera, in the more advanced U1600 section, respectively finished 12th and 15th of 110 students, Bogdan said.
The national completion was held May 12-14.
Earlier in the school year, in February, Argo enjoyed its top performance ever at state.
“State was the best performance in our history. We took 14th place overall out of 149 schools competing. And we won first place in our division,” Bogdan said.
The state competition was held at the Peoria Civic Center.
“You play seven rounds and there’s a tiebreaking system. It’s a formula they use. If you’ve won against a school that’s done well in state, you get more points. The stronger the team, the higher (points) you get. That’s how it goes,” Bogdan said.
The top eight players competed in the state meet. Argo won a plaque for doing well in state, he said.
This year is a result of continued success and plenty of practice, he said.
“Each year, we’ve slowly played better and better. The students are working harder, spending a lot of effort. This year, our focus was character,” Bogdan said.
That means he sometimes charged them minor fines – 25 cents – if a player were to tease or make fun of an opponent, he said.
“Also, I made sure when someone lost a game, the whole team encouraged that person saying ‘It’s okay, we’ve got this, we’ll be alright.’ Just to make that effort to be a team, to support each other. I think that made a big difference,” Bogdan said.
The team practiced three days a week at school. Matches started in October and ran through January in the conference.
School officials at first were concerned about sending the team to nationals, citing concerns over it being just before finals. But in the end the team was allowed to go and it worked out very well, Bogdan said.
“I think the success we had at state made the school decide to change their mind. There was definite concern about academics because it was right before finals week for the seniors, but (school officials) decided to give them a chance after the success we had at state,” Bogdan said.
Looking back, he thinks it was all about being prepared.
“I always told the kids, ‘If you come to chess to win trophies, don’t expect any. If you come to chess to get better, make room for your awards.’ I think this was very important for the students to understand that just coming to chess practice will not make you a much better player, but spending extra time at home as well to prepare will make a difference,” he said.
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