The Marengo Community High School Varsity Chess Team received its first state chess title at the Illinois High School Association’s State Chess Team Tournament on February 9 and 10, 2012 at the Peoria Civic Center.

The IHSA State Chess Team competition is the largest team-paired chess tournament in the United States, and possibly in the world, said Erik Czerwin, MCHS Chess Team Coach and Language Arts teacher. This year, 125 teams competed in the state tournament. The MCHS “A” team played against Rolling Meadows, Dolton-Thornridge, Bismarck-Henning, Oak Lawn Community High School, Hinsdale South, Naperville Neuqua Valley, and Aurora Metea Valley, and won 4 rounds out of 7. Marengo also finished at the top of the smallest school division.

“Our overall score with tie-breaks left us 39th overall for the tournament,” Czerwin said. “What most people don’t understand is that we compete against every other chess team in the state, regardless of school size. In chess, we compete against all the schools in the state whether they have 200 students or 5,000. So, our 39th place finish means that we are 39th out of all the high school teams in the state.”

Team members that went to state included: Max Millikan, Jacob Patterson, Dan Wade, Jacob Voller, Valentin Diaz, Kaje Jennings, Ben Klick, and Faith Dooley. Greg Harreld went to the tournament as an equipment manager, and Stacey Moorhouse worked with the IHSA on public relations about the tournament.

“This is a huge accomplishment for Marengo,” Czerwin said. “Chess is very intense near Chicago. The winning team, Whitney Young, employs four coaches and actively recruits for chess players. For Marengo to compete in the top tier against that level of play is an incredible accomplishment. And for that to happen in only four years makes it all the more remarkable.”

Czerwin was also named the Illinois Chess Coaches Association 2012 Chess Coach of the Year out of six highly-qualified chess coaches, he said. Czerwin said it is an honor to receive the title.

“Mr. Czerwin is hands-down one of the most dedicated coaches in the entire school,” said Dooley, a senior at MCHS. “He taught himself and a few other people to play chess four years ago when it was still a club. When it finally became a team, he bought equipment with his own money and spent sleepless nights going over chess games. What I've learned the most from Mr. Czerwin these past few years is that chess isn't just a game to win; you have to enjoy the struggle and learn from it, just like life. There was no other person who deserved Coach of the Year as much as him.”

Patterson, a junior at MCHS, said it was an awesome experience and a very nice surprise when they called their teams’ name for their division.

Diaz, a senior at MCHS, said it was fun competing this year and it feels great to have won. At a city council meeting in February 2012, Don Lockhart, Mayor of Marengo, said he would like to congratulate the chess team for their accomplishment.

“This is another great honor for the high school,” Lockhart said. Czerwin said the Marengo Chess team has been a central part of his life over the past five years.

“I could not be more happy for the team and what they’ve accomplished,” he said. “They have made me a very proud teacher and coach. I know the hours they’ve sacrificed to earn this achievement, and I’m glad that it paid off.”

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