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Sterling High School Chess Club heading to state

Published: Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014 1:15 a.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014 1:27 a.m. CDT
Sterling High School sophomore Tyler Swanson squares off against fellow chess team member Drew Welch, a junior, during practice Wednesday. The team will compete in its fifth state meet Friday and Saturday.
Sterling High School junior Nick Byington makes a move during a practice game against fellow chess team member Dylan Kenney, a sophomore, during Wednesday's practice

STERLING – They’ve got the moves.

The Sterling High School Chess Club again is headed to state competition in Peoria.

The competition, the largest high school chess tournament in the nation, will take place Friday and Saturday at the Peoria Civic Center.

The 10-teen team won the Illinois High School Association Northern Illinois Chess League Conference tournament for the first time Feb. 8. It goes to state ranked 32nd out of 140 schools and is the second-highest ranked team in class 2A, coach Joel Penne said.

Prospects are good, Penne said.

“There are seven matches, and we hope to win four – anything more than that, and you’re really talking elite teams from schools that are much bigger than us,” he said. “To go any higher than that is really exceptional. It would be kind of the icing on the cake.”

The team has competed in state four times; last year it ended 34th out of 130 teams, its best showing ever, he said.

High school chess teams compete with eight players on a team, ranked from first board to eighth. Sterling’s lineup is Dylan Kenney on first board, senior captain Chase Pipes on second, junior captain Nick Byington on third, senior captain Colton Donahue on fourth, Tyler Tichler on fifth, Tyler Austin on sixth, David Martinez on seventh and Tyler Swanson on eighth.

Jacob Kyritz-Dennis and Drew Welch round out the team.

Most of the team could return next year: All are juniors except Donahue, who is a senior, and Swanson, who is a sophomore.

Sterling takes on Bradley Bourbonnais in the first of four rounds Friday; the team plays three rounds Saturday. Winning four or five of the rounds could be enough to win a 2A state championship, Penne said.

Go to for tournament results and other information.

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