Senior Mag 2023: Parking Lot Pawns

August 30, 2023 — by Jason Cheng and Atrey Desai
Photo by Atrey Desai

Strategizing alongside Jason Cheng, Ryan Jain battles it out in the midgame against the computer.

Let them eat cake. More like, let them play chess.

As soon as the bell rang, signaling the start of lunch, a mad rush of students flooded the hallways, eager to escape the confines of the campus and begin their mid-day escapes. But amid the chaos of students shuffling their way to the exits, there was one car that remained in the parking lot: a sleek blue Tesla that seemed to defy the urgency of its surroundings.

Inside, curious onlookers would find us: four seniors — seniors Jason Cheng, Atrey Desai, Ryan Jain, and Suraj Mehrotra — crowding around the Tesla’s center panel strategically playing against the crown jewel of Tesla Chess AI — Level Four OMNI.

The tension in the car was palpable, the air thick with anticipation. Each move was calculated meticulously, executed with precision. The computer struggled to keep up with our maneuvers, as if unable to comprehend the depth of our strategic choices. We reveled in the thrill of outsmarting the AI, congratulating one another as we believed we had made a genius move.

But just as our confidence reached its peak, the computer struck back with a vengeance. It cunningly forked our queen, leaving us defenseless and vulnerable. In a swift, decisive motion, the game came to an end — we fell victim to yet another checkmate.

Oh well. There was always next time.

Disappointed yet undeterred, we acknowledged our defeat with a mix of frustration and determination. We knew we were outplayed by a formidable opponent, but our passion for chess burned brighter than ever.

Thinking back on those lunchtime chess battles, we couldn’t help but smile. The memories were etched in our minds as vividly as the chessboard itself. We were a tight-knit group, brought together by our shared love for the game. Of course, some of us were better at the game than others. While Atrey preferred to eat lunch in the back, Kabir stood out as our guiding force with his extraordinary talent, pushing us to constantly challenge ourselves.

Our journey into the world of chess began rapidly, during the fall semester of senior year. As the online chess craze enveloped our school, our friend group dove headlong into the sport. Every possibility — tutorial, lunch, and even after school — was consumed by the ever-growing desire for ELO.

Of course, we were (and still are) quite rubbish.

We started playing chess together because we all loved the challenge of the game. We loved the feeling of outwitting our opponents, and we loved the feeling of satisfaction when we won a game. We also loved the fact that on the Tesla, there was an ‘undo’ button to reverse our temporary stupidity.

Though our encounter with Level Four OMNI meant sure defeat, it only fueled our determination to improve. In the future, when we gather and reminisce about those lunchtime chess battles, we’ll remember the exhilaration of each move, the thrill of challenging ourselves, and the camaraderie forged through our shared pursuit. We’ll recall the defeats as valuable lessons that made us stronger, and the victories as moments of triumph that filled us with pride.

Chess became more than just a game for us — it became a bond that connected us, shaping us not only as players but also as lifelong friends.

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