Holy Ghost Prep enjoys chess success
One of Holy Ghost Prep’s successful teams doesn’t play on a court or a field. And it doesn’t compete in front of hundreds of loud, screaming Firebird fans either.
This championship-caliber team plays a classic board game, where strategic knowledge, commitment, and perseverance have guided it to success in a relatively short period of time.
Following its 5-0 win over Father Judge on Jan. 26, the Holy Ghost chess team sits atop the Lower Bucks County Scholastic (LBCS) Chess League. The Firebirds lead the league in total boards won, notching 32 wins in their 35 total chess matches.
Coached by HGP teacher Tom Murtaugh, the members of the chess team are Tom Barbaro (team captain), Andrew Somogyi, David DeAngelo, Tom Xiao, Matt Young, Owen Sienko, and Dino Cerquetelli. The team’s season runs from mid-November through mid-March, and the Firebirds have one match per week (10 regular season matches) and also practice once a week.
Nine years ago, Murtaugh was approached by an enthusiastic student named John Ciecka, who wanted to re-establish a chess club at HGP.
“He came in the next day with chess sets he purchased himself,” Murtaugh recalls. “We ran a tournament that year among students and faculty and (HGP principal) Mr. (Jeff) Danilak even competed.
“Chess remained a casual intramural school activity until last school year when we joined the LBCS Chess League. Once again, our decision to join the league was driven by an enthusiastic student, Tom Barbaro, who came to HGP as an experienced chess competitor. He has been a great team leader sharing his expertise with his fellow teammates.”
Murtaugh sees real-life benefits for the HGP students competing on his chess team.
“The main benefits of playing chess for other aspects of life would be strategic thinking and problem solving which are 21st century skills that are becoming increasingly valued in today’s changing job market and also skills we try to instill in all of our students at Holy Ghost,” says Murtaugh.