Chess Club Growing Fast

First in-person tournament will take place Saturday

By Austin Hunn, Current Staff 

The West Bend High Schools chess club, which has been in operation for over a year, is finally starting to take off. With an estimated 85 members and plans for an in-person tournament, it can now be considered an official club. 

Thanks to the planning skills of supervisor Robert Muehlbauer, the WBHS chess club will travel Saturday to Thomas Jefferson Middle School in Port Washington for a tournament expected to bring in possibly hundreds of students from local chess clubs. It will be the first in-person tournament for the WBHS club.

In only one semester, the chess club has nearly tripled in size, with more students expected to join after the tournament.

“When I got into this, I did not imagine this level of interest,” said Muehlbauer, a West High science teacher. “I thought I’d make a club and maybe 10 people are going to join, but I would say as of this interview, there are like 85 people that are on the list for resource (period). And maybe on any given week I can actually get 60 to 70 of those.”

Muehlbauer believes the chess club is doing well on numbers, so there are finally enough people to start attending tournaments. Not many students in the WBHS chess club are attending their first tournament, but this is expected to change in the future. Muehlbauer currently expects 5 to 10 students to attend their first in-person tournament, and hopes to raise this number to 15 to 20 students soon. 

“Long term I would want to have several in-person tournaments per year where we try our best and have fun playing chess,” Muehlbauer said.

The chess club gathers Wednesday in the West cafeteria. Photo by Austin Hunn, Current Staff.

Muehlbauer hopes that within a few years they will attend an in-person tournament each quarter. They have the raw number of students interested in chess, now they must convince the students to get more involved. One strong chess player in the club, West ninth grader Adam Hasenstein, enjoys the competitive nature of chess and believes that attending more chess tournaments and comparing themselves to other players would convince members to be more involved.

“I’m excited to see new ways of playing, everyone has a different way of playing chess,” Hasenstein said. “It would be interesting to see my skills compared to theirs.” 

Muehlbauer stresses that chess is a mentally stimulating game that is a great activity for competitive students looking to improve their strategic planning and analytical skills. Learning other players’ strategies will only help each player get better.

“Chess is all about strategy, seeing into the future, and planning for every possibility,” Muehlbauer said. “Every move you make is sort of an anticipation of what you want your plan to be, and the reaction to what you think your opponent’s plan is going to be. I can’t think of a more strategic game than chess.” 

WBHS chess club members are excited to compare themselves to players from other chess clubs, but they are also nervous about attending their first in-person tournament. Fortunately, they have accepted that no matter the outcome, it is necessary to improve.

“It’s a little nervous going in because of the whole failure thing,” Muehlbauer said. “In chess, man, there is an outcome. You’re either going to win or you’re going to lose, and very rarely you will tie the opponent. So if you go in as a newer person or a newer team, you have to accept the fact that loss is part of getting better.”

(Top image: West ninth grader Adam Hasenstein plays a game of chess against club supervisor Robert Muehlbauer Wednesday in the West cafeteria. Photo by Austin Hunn, Current Staff.)

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