The Hornet Chess Team is headed back to nationals this week to defend their back-to-back title, and this year the girls are leading the way.
Henderson placed first in the JV and Novice divisions and earned the title of Grand Champion title at the 2018 Texas Scholastic Championship. Half of the 24-member team is made up of girls – a rarity among chess teams in the country.
“To my knowledge this makes them the first Latina students to win the state competition from El Paso,” coach Saul Ramirez said. “We are looking forward to competing at nationals again in Atlanta this Thursday.”
And while the boys helped the team qualify for nationals, Ramirez said the girls outdid the boys at state. They earned top awards in the individual competitions with eighth-graders Aime Argandona and Zahira Pichardo placing first in the Novice and JV divisions, respectively.
“It’s exciting because we have never had a team like this,” Ramirez said. “We are very happy to have more girls on our team. We grew from only having one to having 20 to 30 girls on the chess team, with 12 on the travel group.”
Eighth-grader Aime Argandona loves being part of the chess team, especially since more girls have joined since she started.
“I like it very much. I feel very proud of the girls on the chess team,” she said. “This is my first first-place individual trophy. I felt very good about myself, proud of myself. I proved to myself I am capable. It’s not just the boys earning first place.”
Joining the chess team was dream come true for sixth-grader Dalilia Ibanez.
“Ever since I was eight-years-old, I wanted to play chess. I thought it was interesting,” Ibanez said. “When I was in fifth grade they brought us to Henderson for a tour. I saw the huge trophies, and I said, ‘I want to win one.’”
True to her goal, Ibanez scored ninth at state, bringing home her own trophy and helping boost the team’s overall score.
“I feel proud. It’s very cool to win a trophy,” she said. “I feel really happy to win because all those tactics and problems we have been doing the last six to seven months helped me to win.”
She feels empowered being part of a club that promotes the success of girls and boys, especially since chess is a very male dominated sport.
“I like it because we are girls and we are strong. We have to prove that we are good,” Ibanez said. “When we do our mini tournaments, the girls always win.”
Besides helping students practice nonstop, Ramirez finds other way to inspire the young chess players. Recently, he invited Woman International Master Ivette Garcia Morales to speak to the team. Morales, who is only 24-years-old, talked about her upbringing in Chihuahua and competing at the international level.
“I felt very honored to have a master chess player come to Henderson to talk to us,” Argandona said. “It felt really good because she talked to us about her life and how girls can go up in the world. Now that I got first place in state I know that I can get there like she did.”