Nearly 120 high schools competed this weekend at the IHSA state chess championship in Peoria.
But only the top six teams earned the honor to play within a roped area reserved for the elite.
Stevenson High School started as one of the six top seeds and stayed in the area, while keeping other teams on the ropes.
The Lincolnshire school ran the table, going 7-0 and sweeping its way to the state title Saturday at the Peoria Civic Center.
Scott Oliver, the team’s head coach, said the past four years the team had finished in fourth, fifth and sixth place.
“I kind of expected them to continue that, to be in the top six. But it was a very pleasant surprise to be No. 1,” he said.
One of the teams Stevenson beat on its way to a perfect tourney was New Trier High School, which ended up finishing third.
Its penultimate match was against Cary-Grove High School, which finished with a 10th-place ranking. Both Stevenson and Cary-Grove were 5-0 going into their match.
“In chess, one of the things you always like to see is whoever is doing the best play heads up,” Cary-Grove coach Peter Spizzirri said.
Stevenson sealed the deal with a defeat of eighth-place Barrington High School. Oliver said one of the major factors in this year’s success was assistant coach Rob Krause, a Stevenson alumnus.
“This summer, he started having summer meetings once a week. I think that helps,” Oliver said.
The players’ dedication also played a role, Oliver added.
“In the last couple of years, the students have really done a lot of work on their own. They spend a lot of time studying games, playing back some of the games they have played, and I think that has really helped them a lot,” he said.
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