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Utah Chess Champion Plots His Next Move

With the rise of online gaming, chess is experiencing something of a renaissance — and at the top of his game in this newly competitive arena is Alta High senior Aurelius Mlynar. 

What started as a fun pastime about 10 years ago has become a source of pride for Mlynar who at the age of 17 is ranked among the top 15 players in Utah. He won first place at the 2023 Utah high school chess championships and took 2nd out of 817 players at a recent national esports tournament.  

“In the 11 years that I’ve been teaching, there hasn’t been a student or teacher I haven’t been able to beat. Aurelius is the first,” said Alta High’s Chess Club adviser Matthew Stanford. “I’ve faced people who have been evenly-matched, but not someone I just couldn’t beat.”

Stanford said Mlynar, in order to challenge himself, has started playing blindfolded at Alta Chess Club meetings, which means he has to call out his moves and recall from memory the entire board as the game unfolds. Online chess, available through Alta’s growing esports program, also has helped expose him to a larger talent pool.

“I was walking through Alta’s commons, and they have these big boards for announcements where there was something posted about the esports team and chess. I was like, ‘Hey, I can do that,’” Mlynar said. “So, I talked to Mr. [Aaron] Edwards and he said, ‘Sure, let’s do it!’”

Online chess, and apps like Chess.com, which experienced meteoric growth in users during the pandemic, are credited with adding to the game’s renewed popularity.

Mlynar likes the competition, though he also enjoys the experience of sitting across from an opponent. “In person is good, because it’s a different experience. You get to see your opponent and there are more mind games,” he said. He has been working with a chess aficionado from another school to set up more high school chess tournaments.

It was his Mom who convinced him to give a summer chess camp a try, and while he enjoys the game and has excelled, he insists he’s no prodigy. Like anything else, getting good at chess takes hours of play and practice. Famous chess moves like the Queen’s Gambit or English Opening will only take you so far in this ultimate game of strategy. 

“As far as getting better, it’s really about repetition for me. I’ve been playing as many tournaments as I can,” Mlynar said. “Of course, there are methods like memorizing all the openings. But for me, what gets me better is just kind of opening up my mind and getting the experience.”

Mlynar, who also plays golf, downplays his prowess even though his chess rating is at 1,954, putting him within reach of “expert” or “candidate-master” territory. 

Medals and trophies are nice, he says, but chess has given him much more, including tolerance for stress and a patient mind. “You learn a lot of patience,” he said. “It’s like, ‘Hey, I messed up, but I can still play this out and maybe come back from this,’ you know?”

Plotting his next moves: Mlynar is enrolling at the University of Utah where he hopes to continue to play chess, maybe get involved in esports, and explore earning a degree in engineering.

He’ll take with him a winning strategy he learned in high school where there’s something for everyone, from sports and arts programs to clubs and service activities. 

“Ever since I can remember, I’ve kind of always not wanted to shut any doors. I wanted to keep as many options open as possible,” he said. “But you can’t do everything, so I’ve come up with the philosophy of, ‘If you can’t do everything, do something you can’t regret.’”

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Lucie Chamberlain

Alta View Elementary

If a movie about super teachers were ever made, Lucie Chamberlain would be a prime candidate for a leading role. Fortunately for her kindergarten students at Alta View Elementary, she already thrives in a supporting role for them. Parents thank her for being a “super teacher.” She is also described as an “amazing colleague.” Whether students need help in the classroom or from home while sick, Lucie goes above and beyond to help them learn, overcome fears, and feel important and cared for. Lucie is the reason a number of kids went from hating school to loving it, according to parents. The way she exudes patience, sweetness, positive energy, and love for her students with special needs melts is appreciated and admired. One parent noted: “Both my kids wish she could be their teacher forever.” Another added:  “She treats every student like their learning and their feelings are her priority.” Super teacher, indeed!

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