The words "check mate" still ring as Izard County Consolidated brings home lucky number seven from the 2008 Arkansas State Chess Tournament to set a first place winning streak span, breathing down the neck of a decade.
"The first round, all four of our players won their games," Steven Walker Izard County Consolidated Chess Team captain said. "You have to have two-and-a-half players win their games for the team to count as a win. If you win two, then it is a draw between both teams, but we ended up winning all four which gave us one point."
"The second round we played, we won four boards which gave us another point for our team. Then the third round is where it got close," he said.
"We drew that round with a team," he said. The team drew round three with two board ties, one win and one loss. Going into round four the stakes were high.
"We were like, 'If we get beat, we are through. If we draw we are still OK,' but we won the round by two-and-a-half boards," Walker said.
With the seventh consecutive trophy this millennium in hand the team went to celebrate.
"We went and ate at Colton's in Batesville and they took the trophy in and held it up for everyone to see it. They were really gloating," Walker said.
Walker admitted he was nervous about this year's team. "I will say one thing, with a bunch of ninth graders at the start of the year, me and a bunch of other people did not think we would make it," he said.
The team practiced twice a week and in the second semester Walker said his reservations began to change as he saw the level of play start to climb the ladder.
In practice the team uses computer software to challenge the players in conjunction with hands on instruction. Derek McCandlis, who Walker said is the best player that has ever attended ICC along with holding an admirable ranking in the 1,800, assists the students in their learning.
"He has had a chess master teach him how to play and he knows all the strategies about it," Walker, who can think ahead six moves himself, said. McCandlis attends the practices and shows the students solutions to different chess situations. "He says if they do this then we need to do this. Just basically shows us how to play the game," Walker said.
Normally the team competes in several tournaments but this year due to students being involved with other activities, opportunities to compete outside the main two tournaments were limited, Walker said.
"Usually we go to three or four tournaments but this year our state basketball team won, we had baseball, girls softball, girls basketball and it has just been hard to work around," Walker said. "This year was a lot harder because there was always a player that couldn't make it."
Kendall Wallis is the coach for the team and he said he is proud of their accomplishment. The team was already established at the school before Wallis started teaching and said to be the coach he had to study up.
"When I took it over, Derek and others actually taught me how to run with the kids and we just kind of went from there. The older kids could already beat me so I had to get to the point where we could at least play. It has really been fun," Wallis said.
The team already has their eyes on first place victory number eight in 2009 and Wallis said he is confident.
"This has been the hardest year because we pulled up four ninth graders, but we will have a whole year to work with them and get them really up to speed," Wallis said.
Bringing home the trophy along with Walker were team members Trish Arnold, Doug Reeves, Ryan Walker and Steven Dipierdomenco.
Along with the big first place win, the team experienced another first, not just for the school but also for the entire history of the state. Team member Trish Arnold was the first female to compete and win the state title. ICC is also the only 1A school to ever win as well.