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Local chess enthusiasts working toward establishing first chess league

Date: 3/15/2018

AGAWAM – A high school chess league for Western Massachusetts is in the works and underway, according to Agawam High School Chess Volunteer Joe Linares.

Ten students from Agawam High School and the Springfield Renaissance School – five from each side – were scheduled to face off at the Agawam Public Library on March 14 for a friendly chess match. Although the match was cancelled due to weather conditions, it was a step in the right direction toward establishing the first Western Massachusetts Scholastic Chess League.

Linares, who teaches chess strategies to the students of the Agawam High chess club, has been trying to form an official chess league for years now. He also runs a chess program at the Roberta Doering Middle School.

“Chess teaches logic. It teaches deductive reasoning, teamwork and comradery,” said Linares. “It helps tremendously with being able to focus and to come up with a solution to an extremely complicated problem – it provides them with mental capabilities. This is something a video game is never going to do. There are a lot of kids that are not the athletic types – who don’t want to be, or can’t be – and this provides them with the ability of the brainy kids.”

Agawam’s next match will be against Hampshire Regional High School with a tentative date of Mar. 21.

Linares is working with other chess volunteers and coaches from area high schools, namely his “partner-in-crime” Micah Winston, to make the league official. They are working to put together a schedule for matches between all participating schools and groups, which include Agawam High School, Springfield Renaissance School, Hampshire Regional High School, Longmeadow Chess Academy, Minnechaug Regional High School, Smith Academy and Wilbraham & Monson Academy.

The chess enthusiast is currently trying to secure funding for transportation for Agawam students. The Massachusetts Chess Association has provided chess sets for each school.

As of now, the league is still in its informal stages, explained Linares. However, he hopes to eventually expand the league to include regional middle schools and elementary schools. He also hopes to get to a point where they can offer prizes and trophies for tournament winners. The tournaments will take place around the end of the school year. The matches that are currently taking place are only considered “friendly” matches, he said.

Agawam senior Jacob Sawyer told Reminder Publications he has been practicing with the chess club for a year and a half now.

He said he is excited about the prospects of competing in a regional league.

“It’s a fun-competitive type of thing, not a serious-competitive type thing,” he said. “I like puzzles and I like challenges. In chess, you have your pieces and they have their certain types of moves. There’s a million different ways you can play chess, but you have to adapt while you’re playing your opponent – so you learn which strategies are best.”  

Sawyer meets with the Agawam Chess Club every Wednesday. The 12 students gather with their coach, Keith Ireland, to listen to a presentation or lecture given by Linares on strategies and techniques. The goal of the club is to encourage the students to eventually become rated by the United States Chess Federation, said Linares, which is the body responsible for officially rating chess players. An individual can become rated by paying a fee, in which they can then compete against other rated members.

To find a schedule for the Agawam Chess Club’s matches, or for any of the other scheduled matches within the league, contact Linares at