Keeping It In Check

Mason student among the top in the world in chess rankings

Andrew Little | Sports Editor

A chess player who is in the top one percent of players in the country walks the halls of Mason High School.

Sophomore Jason Wang has a rating of 2,448 from the US Chess Federation, the highest among active players in the state. In chess, players are categorized through a rating system that ranges from 100-3000 (the highest ever is 2,851, held by former world champion Garry Kasparov) and takes into account all of a player’s matches to measure their strength. 

With a rating well above 2,200, Wang has garnered the title of National Chess Master, as well as the title of International Chess Federation (FIDE) Master for having a rating of over 2,300. He is in the top one percent of players in the country. 

Wang also competes in the Greater Miami Conference (GMC) as a six-time reigning champion. The team has dominated the conference for over a decade now, winning ten of the last eleven championships. In Wang’s two years on the team, Mason has not lost a match, and this season he was named GMC player of the year.

Wang has grown accustomed to high-stakes matches with fellow top players that have a contrasting style to the more casual high school competition. Serving as the Comet’s first board, Wang matches up against other schools’ top competitors, but they are rarely as accomplished as he is. Wang said that he enjoys the laid-back and more social nature of high school matches.

“The GMC for me has a little bit more of a relaxed attitude,” Wang said. “In between games, we get to have some fun and joke around a little bit. The competition is not incredibly strong, so I’m not under so much pressure to win. Just playing normally, I’ll beat them without much trouble. [It’s a] good atmosphere.”

While the team has several top competitors, with all five varsity players named to the all-conference team, Wang is used to being challenged in tournaments by players as strong or even stronger than he is. Instead of taking it easy or acting as if he is above the team, Wang said that he uses high-school practices as a chance to help his teammates improve.

“During team practices, I’ll look over some of my teammates’ games and I’ll try to direct them and talk them through what I would play if I were them,” Wang said. “I just try to motivate my teammates and maintain a positive mindset overall.”

Wang has been participating in competitive tournaments since he was seven years old. Wang’s eight-year career spans from his first ranked tournament in Kentucky to traveling to the middle east to finish fifth in the world for his age group at the 2016 World Youth Chess Championship in Batumi, Georgia. Wang said that his favorite accomplishment in his already vast career was representing Ohio to win in the Tournament of the K-8 Champions between all 50 states.

“Every state nominated one player to go to the K to eight competition for chess and I was representing Team Ohio,” Wang said. “With all 50 states competing, I got first, so Ohio won.”

At the mere age of 15, Wang’s chess career is still in its early stages. He has traveled all over the country to places like Las Vegas, New York, California, Florida and Texas, as well as globally, to Greece, Spain, Bulgaria and Georgia. Wang is close to the title of International Master, the second-highest honor a chess player can earn typically awarded to players with a rating of 2,400 (which he already has) that has proved themselves against strong international competition.  

The highest title possible is Grandmaster which when awarded is held for life and is received by possessing a rating over 2,500 and earning three favorable results against other grandmasters. Wang said that he still has a lot he wants to accomplish and that he is determined to reach his goal of becoming a grandmaster.

“I’m still competing a lot in chess outside of school,” Wang said. “I’m hoping to get some higher titles like Grandmaster. I’m just working hard towards my goals.”

More than the numerous accolades he has received or the trips around the world, Wang said it’s the personal feelings of achievement that drive his passion for chess.

“[Chess] is quite special to me,” Wang said. “I feel like I’m accomplished in chess and it lets me enjoy myself and it gives me something to do, especially given my skill level. It’s quite memorable and enjoyable.”