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"Villanova Cup" brings together some of the best high school chess players in the area

"Villanova Cup" brings together some of the best high school chess players in the area

Some of the finest high school chess players from the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board (WECDSB) competed against each other last week.

St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School hosted the second annual “Villanova Cup” high school chess championship last Friday. Organized by Villanova teachers and chess coaches Darren Gravalese and Robert Bondy, the event brought over 40 students to the Villanova gymnasium for the tournament.

“We have seven schools taking part,” said Gravalese.

Gravalese said Cardinal Carter was unable to send a team last Friday but the remaining seven WECDSB high schools had teams in attendance. There were over 40 players at the “Villanova Cup” chess tournament along with moderators and teachers.

“It’s exciting,” said Gravalese. “It’s the second year we’ve been doing it.”

Calling it “a dream come true,” Gravalese said it was great to have an outlet for high school chess players to compete. There were six round-robin games that each school participated in with each school playing each other at least once.

“Our hope is to continue it on and invite the public board,” he said.

Gravalese said not every student plays other sports so having them continue playing chess beyond elementary school is important.

“Not everyone makes the basketball team. Not everyone makes the volleyball team,” said Gravalese. “It’s something to do. Kids are involved with sports and clubs. It’s an outlet. It’s a sport. It’s just as hard as anything else.”

“Villanova Cup” organizers were grateful to Kathleen Westlake of the Windsor Chess Challenge for assisting with chess materials such as boards, pieces and timers. Westlake said the Windsor Chess Challenge hosts 82 elementary schools from around Windsor-Essex County at the Ciociaro Club every year. She said she is happy to see chess continuing at the high school level.

“Everybody has an opportunity to play,” said Westlake.

Many students have a passion to play chess and a tournament such as the “Villanova Cup” allows them to continue to play the game. According to Westlake, there are studies that show students playing chess become smarter and benefit academically.

“Some kids are not going to be athletes,” she said. “This is a way for students to be on a team and represent their school.”

St. Thomas of Villanova principal Danielle Desjardins recalled playing chess with her grandfather and the time they spent together. She thanked Bondy and Gravalese for their efforts in organizing the tournament.

“I’m so proud to be part of this day,” said Desjardins.

Gravalese said after seven rounds, two teams were tied with Catholic Central and St. Joseph facing off in a tie-breaker. Catholic Central would go on to claim the “Villanova Cup.” "Villanova Cup" brings together some of the best high school chess players in the area

By Ron Giofu

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