Few Burlingame students are aware that they go to school with one of the best chess players in the Bay Area. Ivan Ke, a freshman, has a standard World Chess Federation (FIDE) rating of 2287, making him a top 20 U.S. player under age 16.
Ke learned how to play chess from his father at age nine. Since then, he has earned the title of National Master - a title only awarded to players who have earned a FIDE rating of 2200 or higher.
Ke plays for Bay Area Chess, which is a chess organization located in San Jose. Ke, who hails from New Jersey, says that chess in both the Bay Area and in New Jersey is played at a high level.
“It’s really competitive,” Ke said.
Chess in Burlingame, however, is a different story. BHS has never been known as a chess school, and there was no chess club at BHS last year. Ke started a club this year and hopes to eventually take members to tournaments around the Bay Area.
“I thought it would be cool if we could organize a team to play in high school tournaments,” Ke said.
Freshman James Varah, another chess player at BHS and one of Ke’s friends, agrees that the chess atmosphere at Burlingame could use some work.
“Chess in Burlingame is something that a lot of people do, but that’s not organized. I think it would really nice if everyone got together and improved together,” he said.
Ke and Varah are already taking steps to solve the problem. On May 14, the BHS chess club played against Hillsdale’s club in a mini tournament. At some point, Ke and Vera hope to make SMUHSD chess tournaments a reality.
Though the current chess situation at BHS may be bleak, Ke could be the messiah to bring it out of its dark ages. Hopefully, with Ke at the helm of the chess program for the next three years, an era of prosperity and greatness the likes of which have never been seen before at BHS will be ushered in. If anyone is going to bring chess into relevance at BHS, it will be Ke.
“When you play chess, you think you’re good, until you play Ivan and you realize you know nothing about the game,” Vera said.