Q&A: Checkmate! Students discuss chess

By Kira Auchenbach

Jose Smokowski, senior

What do you like about chess?

“Everything, it’s a lifestyle. So how you play the game, how you learn about the game can be used in other types of life like studying chess can be incorporated in studying in school.”

How else do you use it in your life?

“I use chess in my life for a big component of my life was moving. So I’ve been to four different high schools okay, and so everywhere I go there is a network of chess clubs. So I moved from North Carolina to Arizona, and Arizona I found chess clubs, met new kids at schools and got new friendships then here. [I] came here met Apramay [Mishra], met Raj [Patel]… Kiana Hajiarbabi. I met a lot of other people through chess and then they befriended me and I befriended them.”

Senior Jose Smokowski plans his next move at Chess Club on Wednesday, Nov. 9. Photo by Ian Jones

What awards have you won?

“I won lots of regional awards in North Carolina. [I] got 15th [place] in the K-8 and the next year I got 5th through eighth. Our North Carolina team got 1st place from 2005 and then 2006. And then we went to nationals and we got 12th. Then in Arizona I got 2nd in the state. And then here our Kansas chess team got 1st in state last year and five of our players got top five in state so we pretty much dominated.”

Who is your favorite famous chess player?

“Nocomora is my favorite because he’s an American chess player and we don’t have many American top chess players because they’re all from other countries.”

What’s your favorite chess piece?

“There’s so many. I’d say the bishops are, the ones that move diagonally. They’re versatile and in the end game — which I’m the best at — in the end game, they’re really good pieces for opening positions.”

What are your plans for your future chess career?

“I plan on playing in college and I have a have a few colleges that have already been looking so I plan on playing in college and then I plan on continuing to play outside of college and helping others to learn the game of chess.”

Do you have any cool or fun chess experiences?

“I like going to chess tournaments that are a week long or several days so then you can go swim in the pool in the hotel, hang out in hotels just have fun and then go to one chess game a day so it’s just a lot of enjoyment.”

Anything else to add?

“I think that a lot of people should learn how to play chess, I know it’s being mandatory now in lots of other countries that there’s a chess school in elementary school and I think it would help improve everybody’s life.”


Kiana Hajiarbabi, junior

What do you like about chess?

“Well it helps me in my homework, my classes. It just helps me especially in math because it’s connected to math.”

How else do you use it in your life?

“Sometimes you just have to wait and think about some stuff so you don’t hurry up.”

What awards have you won?

“In eighth grade, I got first place in state. And then for four years I got first place in state girl’s champion and last year I got second in girls. And I got seventh place in nationals — girl’s nationals — and eighth place and ninth place.”

What’s your favorite chess piece?

“The king. It’s the most important one.”

Future plans?

“I’m just going to keep practicing and see what happens.”

Cool or fun chess experiences?

“In summer there are chess camps that are really fun in St. Louis. We get to see the place too.”