“During the awards ceremony, my name was announced as the 2009 Stilwell Winner,” said Saagar Gupta, of Niles North High School in Skokie, IL. “I was totally shocked and surprised! I really didn’t expect anything. Honestly, I was hoping for our Board 5, Michael Chinitz, or some of my friends such as Michael Auger from Whitney Young, or Justin Feng from Illinois Math and Science to win. It was a pleasant surprise and I am honored to receive such a prestigious award.”
Naming awards in the memory of a person isn’t something new – look at the Edison Award, Albert Einstein Award, or the Pulitzer Prize. The Illinois Chess Coach Association has carried out this tradition by annually bestowing the Larry Stilwell Award to an “Outstanding High School Sophomore”.
Larry Stilwell, coach for Proviso East High School, was known by his colleges as an individual who promoted chess for what it could do for individuals rather than for personal gain, pride, or power. He wanted chess players, especially high school students, to experience the enjoyment of competition and to promote comradeship. This award, given in his honor, is not only bestowed on the basis of a sophomore’s playing skills. Besides being a skilled chess player, award winners are individuals who foster team camaraderie, are generous with their chess knowledge, accept directions well, and display other personality traits as illustrated by Larry Stilwell.
The 2009 recipient, Saagar Gupta’s name now graces a list of players that include Ilan Meerovich and WFM Yelena Gorlina, who played in the 2000 US Women’s Chess Championship.
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