Hoffman Estates High chess team commended for response to rival’s medical emergency

Hoffman Estates High School’s chess team is being praised for its sportsmanship after members took draws rather than wins when an opposing player suffered a medical emergency during the state finals over the weekend.

A student from East Peoria High School experienced the medical issue while in a match against Hoffman Estates senior Devanshu Pandya.

The stakes were as high as could be for Devanshu, a four-year member of the team who was competing in his final high school tournament.

There is no standard response to such an unusual situation, so when Devanshu turned to coach Patrick Swanson for guidance, he was advised to follow his conscience.

“As much as we wanted to do well, it’s just a game at the end of the day and I took the draw,” Devanshu said.

“He’s a kid of pretty high character,” Swanson said.

Devanshu initially wasn’t sure how his teammates would respond. But when other members of the East Peoria team bowed out of their matches in concern for their classmate, other Hoffman Estates players followed Devanshu’s lead and accepted draws as well.

The decision to take draws instead of easy wins almost certainly had a negative affect on the team’s finish in the state tourney, where they placed 38th out of 128 teams.

“They made that decision on their own,” Swanson said. “I told them I was very proud of how they acted.”

And so did others.

Hundreds of rival players and their supporters at the tournament gave the Hoffman Estates students a round of applause Saturday morning.

And Illinois High School Association Assistant Executive Director Dan Le sent a letter to the school on Monday.

“The empathy and sportsmanship of your school’s team are to be commended,” Le wrote. “Please pass along our appreciation to your students. It is moments like this that remind us of the genuine spirit of interscholastic competition.”

Devanshu not only declined to take advantage of his opponent’s health scare, he was the one who alerted everyone else to it.

He noticed the other player looked like he was locked in the anticipation of a big sneeze. “I said, ‘Are you good?’” Devanshu related. “He said, ‘No.’”

When he returned with help, his opponent was nearly on the floor. The East Peoria player was barely able to communicate, but complained that he was feeling hot.

To the relief of the Hoffman Estates players, the stricken opponent was released from the hospital and back at the tournament the next day, even though he wasn’t yet ready to compete again.

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