By Jason Freeman, correspondent
Ever since he began playing chess in kindergarten, Evergreen Park teenager Brian Schmitt has had one unshakable ambition that far surpasses merely trying to get his rook in the right position or planning the perfect time to castle.
“My dad got me started when I was about five, and ever since then, I have had a goal in chess to beat my dad,” he said. “I haven’t done it yet. I almost got checkmate once, but he took my king, and I only had a rook and five pawns and my king, so I couldn’t win.”
Schmitt took one step closer to his goal by taking third place in the Evergreen Park Public Library’s communitywide chess tournament.
Although his dad wasn’t one of the 12 Evergreen Park residents who competed in the bracket-style playoffs for trophies and bragging rights, Schmitt said the experience of playing against the village’s best will nonetheless help him in creating the best strategy to finally best his father.
“I like to think a lot and I like to plan strategies,” he said.
Joyce Krohne, a math teacher at Central Junior High School who also heads up the school’s chess club, prepared the players for the tournament during a three-week course at the library in basic gameplay skills.
“I’ve been doing chess at Central for 22 years, and I love it,” she said. “It’s a math game. All the pieces move geometrically, and then you’re just using clever strategy (to beat your opponent).”
Participant Brian Schoenhofen, 13, also a student at Central, said how he plays chess depends on who his opponent is.
“There’s two different ways to be a strategist,” he said. “You can plan out in the beginning what you’re going to do or you just play along with it. I like to play along with it sometimes because it brings out better strategies when you’re playing.”
“If someone has a trick up their sleeve, (over-strategizing) can hurt you, but if you’re playing against someone that’s not very good, it’s better to go out with a plan,” he added.
Emilie Cruz, 11, a student at Southeast Elementary School in Evergreen Park, took home the second-place prize.
“I’ve been playing since I was little and my dad taught me a lot,” she said. “I’ve been in tournaments before at my old school and I like it.”
Emilie’s father, David, also participated in the tournament and said chess is the perfect game for families to play together.
“I began teaching her chess when she was about eight years old, and then she began just picking it up from there,” he said. “It’s a chance for me to spend more time with her, and it’s nice because we can also socialize while we’re playing and have more family time together.”
Unlike a lot of other sports, David said one can be successful at chess even if they’re not physically strong or athletically graceful.
“The advantage of the game is that no matter how physical the other player is, mentally, the playing field is level,” he said. “A young person could play an older person and yet still be very competitive. Physicality doesn’t matter; it’s all about (intelligence).”