Waupaca High School’s chess team traveled to Columbus, Ohio, to compete in the U.S. Chess Federation’s National High School Tournament.
Nine Waupaca students competed in three different sections of the tournament and played in the Blitz and Bughouse side events.
Waupaca’s team in the Under 800 Rated Section competed in a field of more than 250 players from more than 60 schools from around the country and brought home a national championship, the team’s second. Waupaca High School had previously won the Unrated Section in Milwaukee in 2006.
Drake Hiddemen led all Waupaca players, taking 12th place with five wins, one draw and one loss. Eugene Pliska was 18th and Fritz LeBouef 19th with 5-1-1 records. Dante St. Thomas finished 35th with a 5-2 record and Erik Hemmila finished 166th with a 3-4 record.
Waupaca’s team in the Under 1600 Section faced tougher competition and also only had three players (team score is based on the top four players’ scores). The team finished 41st in a field of almost 80 schools. Waupaca had three freshmen in the field of 357 players: William Johnson went 4-3-0 and finished 98th, Ryan Hemmila was 3-4-0 and was 198th and Caleb Roggenbauer was 1-3-2 and finished in 298th.
“We have done well in the U1200, the U800 and the Unrated sections at nationals, but above that, the skill level rises exponentially,” coach Tim Hiddemen said. “To push your rating beyond 1400 or 1500 requires hours of study and problem solving daily, as well as training with a master level player. Caleb, Will and Ryan are rated between 1100 and 1400. I’m rated 1258 and don’t have the skills to get them much higher. They were feeling a little down after the tournament, but they got a taste of the next level of competition and see what they need to work on to take the next step.”
Fourth-grader Logan Janssen competed in the Unrated Section and tied for 10th place in a field of over 100 players and came out of the event with a rating of 928.
“Logan has a very bright future in chess.” Hiddemen said.
Waupaca also brought home a trophy for finishing 17th in the National Blitz Tournament. Blitz is a speed chess variant in which each player only has five minutes to complete their game. LeBouef went 7-5 and won the third-place trophy for players rated under 1200, while Ryan Hemmila went 6.5 out of 12 and won the second-place trophy for players rated between 1300 and 1399.
“Overall, it was a fantastic experience,” Hiddemen said. “I reminded our players in the U1600 that they are part of our national championship, even though they didn’t play in that section. They practiced and trained with the other players all year and helped them to improve and grow stronger as players.”
The team will continue to play informally over the summer then begin its season with the Waupaca County Open in October. The team is making plans to fundraise and be able to fly to next year’s national event in Atlanta, Ga., in April 2016.