Playing on the Mount Lebanon High School Chess Team

by James K. Sayre

In fifth grade, I got a chessboard, the pieces and a couple of books about the game of chess. By eighth grade I had studied several books and understood some of the major openings. In ninth grade, instead of being the oldest grade in junior high school, our (large) class was moved to Mount Lebanon High School. One activity that interested me was the Chess Club. I started playing against some of the older members of the team and they were pretty good.

I may have made the team, which consisted of the top five players or "boards." Mount Lebanon was in a high school chess league around the Pittsburgh area. After school, the team would drive itself to another school for an afternoon of friendly competition. The next day we would announce our chess team's record over the school public address system. We never got "letters" since chess wasn't an athletic sport; we sometimes got some good natured kidding from some of the other students, who were probably a little awed and put off by this public display of "brains."

My my junior year, I was the best player and so I was captain for the chess team for my last two years of high school. My interest in chess faded once I got to college; I had to study calculus, chemistry, physics and economics for one thing. Carnegie Institute of Technology was much tougher than Mount Lebanon High School. Everybody was at least fairly smart, and many of the students worked hard at their academics.





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