U of I heads to national championships in chess - FOX 10 News | myfoxphoenix.com

U of I heads to national championships in chess

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

There's no official team and they don't have a coach, but a group of students from the University of Illinois is quickly becoming the schools best kept winning secret.

They're nationally ranked now after winning enough games in chess to make it to the championship.

Most of those players are playing at schools where they earned a scholarship for chess.

The boys at U of I don't have one and they are trying to change that.

Michael Auger and Eric Rosen have been playing chess since they were 7 and 8 years old.

Now they're both in college at the University of Illinois and are getting ready for the Pan AM Collegiate Chess Championships coming up this spring.

They are the only qualifying school in the nation that doesn't offer scholarships to its players. They don't have a coach and none of the players are at grandmaster-level.

"When we go there we're competing with some of the world's best players--so it's very exciting because we don't get to play with such world class talent," Auger said.

Auger is the club's president and a year older than Rosen, who was offered a full scholarship to the University of Texas to play chess but turned it down to help his friend revive the chess program in Champaign.

He says it was the toughest decision he'd ever made.

"I have so many friends at U of I and we've known each other for such a long time and it's great to stay home and represent the state," Rosen said.

Here's how they represented. On Quad Day, this year, when classes began in the fall, the small chess team along with another A-team member promised to hand out gift cards to anyone who could beat them.

Out of 500 students, one person did win - a top player from China who had not played in years.

Leo Luo is now the teams fourth player.

When practicing, a quick game can be played in two to five minutes.

Tournament play lasts a lot longer, such as six hours or more.

"I like tournament play better because you have to think about all of your moves deeply and you've invested so much time in the game so all of your wins at tournament play is really wroth while," junior player Akshay Indusekar said.

The National Championship will be in Manhattan in April. Currently, they're still trying to find sponsors to help pay for the trip.

To help the University of Illinois chess club, visit their website.

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