Chess mates: Wang and Wang rise to the top at state tournament –

Posted: March 16, 2020 at 1:46 am

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Lourdes High School juniors Yiping Wang and Peizhan Wang are not brothers, Wang being as common a last name in China as Smith or Johnson is in the U.S.

Yet even if they had different last names, it would be easy to think of them as a tandem, not only because of their nativeness to China but by the way they play chess.

And last weekend, they proved how good they are, with Yiping taking second place and Peizhen third place in the 9th- through 12th-grade under 1200 division at the Minnesota State Chess Association Tournament.

Yiping, 16, is from Shandong Province. Peizhen, 17, is from Shanghai. From the time the two landed in Rochester three years ago, chess became their calling card, a language to connect to their new community first at Kellogg Middle School and later at Lourdes.

Both came to Rochester as exchange students, accompanied by parents who were researchers at Mayo Clinic. They now live with host families after their parents returned to China.

"Chess is the way that connects them with the Lourdes community and the other Lourdes students," said Lourdes chess coach Dennis Mays. "You can see them joking and having fun with the students. That's really satisfying."

Their performances led the Lourdes chess team, which went undefeated this year, to a second-place finish at the state championship with 16.5 points. Mayo High School came in fourth with 15.5 points, followed by John Marshall's 8th place in the dozen-team division.

Each student played six games during the two-day tournament. A player wins a point for a victory and a half point for a draw, with 6 points being the maximum number a player can earn.

Home-schooled junior Michael Kern finished 6th overall in the top-tier K-12 Championship division, and Mayo senior Henry Lange finished 9th.

Kellogg Middle School finished in fourth place, led by 8th-grader Ethan Zhang, who finished 8th.

Stephen Jones of St. Francis placed 19th in the K-8 Championship and Isaac Ann of Schaeffer Academy finished 11th.

Yiping and Peizhen are friends and chess rivals. Although Yiping tied for first in his category and was awarded a second-place trophy by virtue of a tie-breaker, Yiping acknowledges that Peizhen is "slightly better."

"He has slightly more wins," Yiping said.

"Slightly?" Peizhen said.

"I'd say slightly," Yiping said.

Peizhen was still kicking himself over how one game he should have won ended. His opponent was down to a king, while Peizhen had his king, rook and several pawns. One move away from winning the game, Peizhen moved his rook to "another square" and the game ended in a tie. He ended with four wins and two ties.

"I was definitely winning," Peizhen said. "But probably, it's too late and too tired."

Yiping said he first began playing chess in China as a form of relaxation and reprieve from his homework. Then he stopped. At Kellogg, his passion in chess were reignited, thanks to a "fantastic music teacher" who also loved the game. He soon found himself in an "awkward situation." He was beating his teacher, but "I didn't finish."

In one game, he was a move away from checkmating his teacher. Instead, Yiping called the game a draw and extended his hand in handshake. Instead the teacher gave him $10 in acknowledgement that Yiping had won.

Thirty-seven Rochester students participated in the state tournament. For Mays, the number and the skill displayed by the players at the tournament reflected how much a culture of chess has taken root and grown in Rochester.

The Rochester teams had their own meeting room at the tournament, and in between games, coaches went over the games with students, "discussing what they did well and what they thought they could improve on."

Peizhen said he can't imagine a time when he won't be playing chess.

"People need to to keep their bodies healthy," he said. "Chess is exercise for the brain. It keeps your brain active."

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Chess mates: Wang and Wang rise to the top at state tournament -

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March 16th, 2020 at 1:46 am

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