LCS checkmates state competition
Published 9:45 am Saturday, February 11, 2023
Students on the Lafayette Christian School chess team recently won high honors at the state level.
The middle school team won the state championship and the high school team was the state runner-up in the Georgia Association of Private and Parochial Schools (GAPPS) state chess tournament.
Three Cougars — Alex Tusing, Amos Nehring and Michael Morgan — went undefeated at the state tournament helping their teams earn state recognition.
Chess coach Nick Nehring said the school has high school, middle school and even elementary school-level teams.
“We’ve got all the way down through first graders. It’s mostly third through fifth grade, but we’ve got some young ones too,” Nick said.
The kids typically get involved with the school’s chess club, and then join the team.
“We usually practice during lunchtime,” Nick said. “They’ll bring their lunch to a designated area, like a classroom, and we’ll set up chess boards and all eat lunch, and we’ll play. Sometimes we’ll do lessons.”
Nick said a parent, Jim Kelly, has been a great help working with the kids over the last four years.
“Other parents help out, too, but Jim’s just been a great help,” Nick said, calling Kelly his co-coach.
Nick said they start around August, when school kicks off, and go pretty much all year round. For the last two years, the school has hosted a tournament on campus in late spring, which has served as the end of their season.
On Wednesday, the team traveled to Macon to compete in the GAPPS State Chess Championship.
The tournament had 12 teams of four from each division (elementary, middle and high school) that qualified through their region tournaments.
“You’re talking like 150 kids there playing chess. It’s intense,” Nick said.
The high school team came in as a four-seed after winning the region. They finished first in their initial pool and advanced to a four-team playoff, where they ended up beating the defending state champions Konos Academy in the semi-finals to go to the championship round.
The high school team then lost in the championship round to Creekside Christian Academy, coming in second in the state.
“They came in as runners-up, but they had a great day overall,” Nick said.
The middle school team also advanced to the state championship tournament after winning the region. They too finished first in their initial pool and advanced to the four-team playoff. There they defeated first-seed King’s Academy to advance to the championship round.
“It was a tremendous match. They came down to tiebreakers, and Michael Morgan won his match with seconds on the clock to checkmate his opponent,” Nick said. “It was amazing.”
From there, LCS advanced to the championship round where they defeated the defending state champs, Veritas Academy, out of Savannah, Georgia.
Nick said it came down to tiebreakers again and his son, Isaac Nehring, ended up winning with another checkmate with seconds on the clock.
The day was particularly good for the Nehring family. Nick said his older son, Amos was undefeated on the day.
Amos said his grandfather taught him and his dad to play chess, but he improved his game by seeking help online.
“I went to chess.com and YouTube and just watched some videos and learned the basics and learned openings. I got better and played with some of my friends,” Amos said.
Amos said playing on a team is more pressure than singles games.
“There’s a lot of pressure to do good because your teammates can’t help you. If you lose, you’re letting your team down but you’re also letting yourself down. That encouraged me to learn more and study more openings to get better because I know I don’t want to let my team down,” Amos said.
“Every time I walked in to play a game, I got really nervous and started shaking and sweating because it’s the state, and we’ve been to state four times and I’ve never won. I really wanted to win this year, so every game I was really nervous. I spent a lot of time thinking on every move.”
The nervousness and careful deliberation seemed to work out for him though. Amos was 7-0 on the day, winning all of his games.
Amos is currently in the eighth grade and will be moving onto the high school team next year.
Senior Alex Tusing also went undefeated the entire day, winning seven chess games against really good competition, Nick said.
Tusing said that he initially started learning to play chess so that he could beat his brother who usually won their games.
“He would be able to beat me all the time, and I was kind of tired of that. I just wanted to be better than him,” Tusing said. “Then, it became something that I enjoyed to do. That was the initial drive, but now it’s fun. I was like, ‘OK, I want to get better at this.’”
Tusing said that to be a good chess player you have to think ahead to analyze positions and do so in an orderly manner of time.
Tusing said the GAPPS tournament will be his last at the high school level.
“I can do it in college but not at the same kind of competitiveness that I’ve done in high school, so that’s kind of sad,” Tusing said. “But it’s also promising looking forward that I can still be able to play because chess is not just something you’re one and done with. You can always keep going because there are other tournaments around.”