The Language of Chess

The Nobles chess club had a great year of match play—and recently competed in the Massachusetts State team chess tournament with impressive results. Chess club adviser and science teacher Chris Pasterczyk shared these remarks in Assembly about the game, the players and the wonderful ride this season has been:

People who love chess think of it as tactical ballet; poetry; obsession; war.

Chess has a vocabulary all its own. There are strategic moves called skewers, pins, forks, and X-ray attacks.

One of my favorite attacks is the “fried liver”—a series of moves I learned six years ago from Conor McClintock ’11.

Some of the vocabulary of chess is French; there’s a pawn capture rule called “en passant.”

Some of the vocabulary is Polish or Russian. In the middle of a game, I swear I once heard Max Sheerin ’17 say, “Try to make good move. I will crush you.” *

People who misunderstand chess will say that you have to be a genius to play it well, but the truth is that becoming an expert at chess (like becoming an expert at anything) requires years of focus, patience, perseverance, passion and practice.

One of the youngest players ever to achieve the title of chess grandmaster was a Hungarian woman named Judit Polgar. In 1991, she achieved grandmaster status at the incredibly young age of 15. That’s not normal.

I remember meeting Grant Rheingold ’12 when he was 15. He came to chess club and offered to play a game. Back then, if Grant and I played 10 games, I’d have beaten him 6-4. Three years later, Grant has worked so hard at chess that if we played 10 games today, he would destroy me in every one.

I also remember meeting Jett Oristaglio ’12 for the first time. Jett was a brand new player, and he was so excited by chess that when he saw a brilliant strategic attack, he would wag his tail so hard that his whole body began to shake.

On Sunday, April 28, eight players from Nobles gave up an entire day to participate the Massachusetts state team chess championships.

Our Upper School team included Grant, Jett, Ryan Simshauser ’12 and William Wang ’16; and our Middle School team included Max and Iain Sheerin, both ’17, and Paulie Apostolicas and Camden Filoon, both ’18.

As an observer, I was inspired by the commitment these boys made to one another and to the challenges they faced on Sunday. Our high school team finished fourth in the state, behind monstrously strong teams from Lexington High, BU Academy and Newton North — each of which had at least one player of expert status; and our Middle School team placed second in the state, finishing just behind the Ephraim Curtis Middle School from Sudbury.

Footnotes:

* pronounce with Russian mafia accent

** by the way, Max would have never said this. His style of play is far more insidious.

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