EASTHAM — A record 42 students participated in the Miles Tibbetts Chess Tournament that got underway at Nauset Regional High School on Nov. 23 — so many that the final round could not be played before the buses left to take students home that day.
When the finalists resumed play on Wednesday, Dec. 1, freshman Joey Smith emerged as this year’s winner, with senior Tye Moore in second place, and junior Joseph Vouvakis taking third.
The tournament has grown steadily since it was created eight years ago, said Sean Mulholland, a Latin and Spanish teacher at the school. That first year, Mulholland welcomed all students, whether they were good at chess or not, to gather and play in honor of Miles Tibbetts of Wellfleet.
Tibbetts was a chess natural, admired as a teacher of younger players. He was killed while riding his bicycle to work in the summer of 2013, after his sophomore year at Nauset. Students’ $5 tournament entry fees go to a scholarship fund established in his name to honor outstanding volunteerism and community service.
By 2015, there was such strong interest in the game that students formed the Miles Tibbetts Chess Club, with Mulholland as adviser. The club began competing in the South Coast Conference Interscholastic Chess League that year, making their adviser a coach, too.
Nauset didn’t win a match in its first season, but quickly turned it around to take the league title in both 2018 and 2019. Last week’s chess action in the high school cafeteria showed promise for this year’s crop of players as well.
The season will begin in a couple of weeks when Nauset faces Sturgis, Mulholland said. Other teams in the league are Wareham, Dartmouth, Plymouth North, and Martha’s Vineyard.
In the tournament semifinals, Tye Moore defeated Joe Vouvakis while Joey Smith defeated Jewel Snaer.
Moore and Smith are the two best chess players in the school right now, Mulholland said. Both are members of the chess club.
Meanwhile, Vouvakis and Snaer are newcomers who are not members of the club — yet.
“We had two new discoveries,” Mulholland said. “One who just came to Nauset from New York is Joseph Vouvakis. We’re going to try and get him to come to our club meetings.
“Jewel, he was a sleeper,” Mulholland continued. “He’s a very quiet senior who just registered at the last minute and went all the way to the semifinals.”
In a December 2019 story in the Independent about the creation of the tournament and the chess club, Miles’s mother, Joyce Tibbetts, said that, as much as her son loved playing chess, he enjoyed teaching others even more.
He is still remembered for that today.
“I remember him teaching younger kids to play,” said Silas Watkins, who grew up with Tibbetts in Wellfleet. “He was most certainly confident in his abilities and would always rise to a challenge. He also had a habit of pointing out your mistake just as he was about to take advantage of it.”
“Miles was brilliant,” said longtime friend Hannah Trott. She and Tibbetts met when they were in seventh grade. “He was mischievous, curious, and persistent,” Trott said. And, she remembered, already very good at chess.
Tibbetts was in Mulholland’s Latin class at Nauset. That’s how his teacher learned of his chess skill.
“He was one of the top-ranked students in his grade,” Mulholland said.
When the scholarship fund was created and the tournament launched, Mulholland said, he didn’t know it would lead to a growing number of chess players and a successful club at the school.
Miles Tibbetts wanted friends, family, and students to learn the game of chess. The competition this year — which besides including a record number of competitors also attracted plenty of onlookers and students there to play just for fun — showed that his wish is coming true.