TUPELO, Miss. (WTVA) -- In 2019, the MHSAA acknowledged chess as an official club activity in the state of Mississippi. They were supposed to start having statewide tournaments in 2020 but the Coronavirus derailed those efforts. At Tupelo Christian Prep, the chess club used to meet five times a week and had a 100 participants K through 12, but that was before Coronavirus.
"Now we're down to 20 participants, 20 kids playing, some of the parents are still waiting to see what happens," Chess Club director John Salisbury said.
Salisbury also said parents were concerned about kids getting exposed to the virus through playing, but he is ensuring the club is as sanitary as possible.
"You know there were some issues, you could possibly transmit the disease on the pieces even so there were some issues about that," Salisbury said. "We've sanitized the rooms and the pieces."
And all players must wear masks. Chess is a competitive game, players, even the young elementary schoolers, want to show off their knowledge of the game. Salisbury is a chess master himself, and he wants to see one of his students win on a national level but most tournaments have been canceled amidst the pandemic.
"My goal was to be the first national champion from Mississippi," Salisbury said. "It hasn't happened yet and COVID slowed us down definitely, the national tournament got canceled last year so we weren't able to participate."
Coronavirus even changed how the club operates. Each school, elementary, middle, and high, have to meet separately. For example, when the elementary schoolers are using the chess room, the middle schoolers have to play outside.
"It's a nice breeze at least," 8th grader Richard McCluney said. "It's different, we haven't been able to do anything like competitive."
Participating in tournaments, now sanctioned by the MHSAA was something both players really looked forward to doing.
"We were really excited about it just and we trained really hard," McCluney said. "Then all of a sudden, COVID comes and we can't do anything."
Salisbury said the national tournament in the spring is still on for now. Locally, since most state tournaments take place at the universities, he doesn't know when they'll allow large gatherings for MHSAA competitions. So for now, the TCPS chess club will continue to operate under its new normal.