On behalf of the State of Wyoming, three students from Jackson Hole Classical Academy, along with one student from Jackson Hole High School, competed in the U.S. Chess National Invitationals held July 30 through August 2 at the Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort & Spa in Rancho Mirage, Calif.
This past May, Jackson Hole Classical Academy hosted the first scholastic chess tournament held in the State of Wyoming in over five years. The tournament drew 34 students in grades K–12 and produced four State champions, three of which were JHCA students. These students went on to represent Wyoming in the National Invitationals. Chess is part of the core, classical curriculum at JHCA and teaches students critical thinking skills, logic, and the virtue of patience.
JHCA student August “Gus” Brooks Mitha, 5th grade, represented Wyoming in the K–5 Division Tournament, known as the Rockefeller Tournament. His sister, Matilda “Tilly” Brooks Mitha, 3rd grade, competed in the Haring Tournament of Girl State Champions. Eighth-grader Luke G. competed in the Barber Tournament of Middle School Champions.
Recent Jackson Hole High School graduate and participant in the JHCA tournament, Will Aepli, also represented Wyoming in the High School Division Tournament, the Denker Tournament of State High School Champions. He had an impressive win against a player ranked two classes above him and will be attending Princeton University this Fall.
“Our kids were amazing,” said Coach Jay Stallings, an internationally-recognized chess coach and teacher at JHCA. “While our students did not experience the wins they may have hoped for, they entered every game with a fighting spirit, eager to do their best. Their games lasted anywhere from one to three hours! In many games, our students were just one move away from a draw or even a win.”
According to Coach Jay, Gus played a three-hour game with the State K–5 Champion from North Carolina, and was winning at the two-hour mark. Remarkably, Tilly played several 90–120 minute games against many high school opponents. Luke earned a draw against a strong player from South Dakota.
After most games, the students came out with big smiles, proud of the way they had played, and eager to learn where the game turned against them. Together, Coach Jay and the students reviewed each of their games, 18 in total, and the students repeatedly said, "Look, I played this move because of what I learned in that other game!"
Regarding the success of the trip, Coach Jay said, “I know that through this trip, our players and families have experienced first-hand the level of commitment necessary to compete at this level. They have fought hard, and will be even more ready to compete next year!”