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Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016

ICC takes eighth state chess championship

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Two ICC seniors, a junior and two freshmen teamed up to take 12 of 16 matches to win the school's eighth state chess championship on April 27. From left: Eric Vest, Andrew Walker, Marcus McCormick, Carey Behm, Chandler Holt, and Coach Steven Walker. Photo Richard Irby [Order this photo]
Izard County Consolidated High School has an unbelievable record in state chess tournament play, and a case full of trophies to prove it.. ICC won the state title in 2002, the first year a state tournament was played and has been to the finals every year since and claimed seven championships altogether.

No, make that eight. After its April 27 Class 1A-2A victory in Beebe, the school has captured eight state championships.

"We were kind of shocked," ICC Chess Coach Steven Walker said of the latest title, the school's first since 2008. "Three other schools were real good, and we knew it was going to be tough." The team, which included two freshmen, had to defeat defending state champ Bradford and a good Blevins team to claim victory.

During state championship play, each player plays four matches. Freshman Andrew Walker and senior Cary Behm both won all four of their matches. Senior Chandler Holt won two, lost one and had one draw. Junior Marcus McCormick and freshman Eric Vest split the remaining matches, both winning one match and losing one.

After winning their regional tournament in February, team members faced a two month wait for the championship. They practiced regularly to stay sharp, and senior Chandler Holt admitted, back then, a championship would be nice. "It is always wanted. You just have to play your best," Holt said, and ICC did just that, ignoring the pressure and winning 12 of 16 matches to finish first.

After a long day of play, it was time to celebrate. "We took them out to eat at Colton's," Coach Walker said. That and pats on the back from fellow students is the payback for months of dedication to an activity that doesn't get the recognition that football and basketball does.

"We've got some dedicated players here. There is a tradition of taking chess seriously and winning," is how Coach Walker, a first year science teacher who was on two of the state champion teams as a student, explains ICC's amazing chess run.

The school's expertise will likely continue considering the Junior Chess Team won its regional and North Central Arkansas Education Co-op tournaments, the ICC Elementary Team recently won its Co-op tournament, and the Kindergarten to third grade team (they start 'em early at ICC) placed third overall.

"Losing two seniors will hurt, but it usually takes two or three years to get ninth graders ready, and our two freshmen got some good experience this year, so we should have a pretty good chance," Walker said, already looking ahead to the chances of repeating next year.

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