Amherst’s newest chess champion: Ryan Breed


Hayden Colligan

After three weeks of frustrating competition, Ryan Breed, ignites the study hall classroom with his boasts of victory, after defeating Tyler Soulsby in chess. 

Both boys, grade 12, competed in an open pool chess competition in a 12th grade honors study hall, dating back in December. The pool of 16 Amherst High School students was formed into a bracket, which consisted of male and female players. Each participant, with different levels of experience, decided to join in a friendly chess competition to prove their intellectual capabilities. 

“Sedate; A thinking man’s game,” quotes Mr. Van Lanen, an Amherst english and communications teacher, who overlooked the competition.

Breed now holds the unofficial, Amherst chess champion title. Breed is completely self taught, without the aid of books or online lessons, he taught himself how to play at the age of 8. An older brother of Ryan introduced him to the game, from there, he played often, but never competed. Breed’s ambition started to dry as his interests started to expand more into physical sports. Chess is sometimes portrayed as a, nerdy, game, but Ryan Breed disproves this stereotype by having a highschool career in football. Breed played as a varsity line-backer for Amherst throughout high school, that being said; Breed proves that, “…anyone can play chess.” Breed took a nine year absence from the 1500 year old game, before rediscovering his skills in early November. It can be inferred that the tournament wouldn’t have been possible, without Breed’s competitive nature and Mr. Van Lanen’s love for chess. 

Within the hundreds of awards and trophies, glittering in Amherst High’s trophy case, one would fail to find any about chess. Many of the teachers at Amherst have a chess background. For example, Doug Spadoni, the assistant football coach, has played on and off throughout his life. As Ryan Breed said, “Yes, anyone can play chess;” however, some may be better than others, Mr. Van Lanen quotes: “..takes a math brain to play good chess. You don’t find art majors playing chess, it takes a certain type,” but there is no solid evidence that can confirm Van Lanen’s take. But what about football coaches?

Since Amherst doesn’t have a chess club, what about Waupaca? Bryan Fay, the Waupaca chess coach, can give some insight on what a competitive chess club looks like. Fay is the chess coach, as well as Waupacau’s football coach. He’s currently been in the chess world consistently for 15 years. Fay has coached hundreds of kids throughout his coaching career, in both football and chess. Fay teaches chess from different angles; watching film, pointing out strengths and weaknesses, showing maneuvers and strategies, and simply keeping the game fun. “But most important to me is keeping it casual and fun,” continues Fay; “I want students to enjoy being there, enjoy competing and ultimately succeeding which I’ve been very fortunate to have happen.” Fay prepares his students for tournaments against other schools, his students having ratings as low as 101, and as high as 1425. A rating of 1400 is considerably high; according to, a rating of 1500 can be achieved in roughly 4 years of strong dedication to the game. It may be a while before we see any social action, taken by Amherst in the chess world, but when might Ryan Breed’s unofficial title be threatened?

Mr. Van Lanen plans on hosting another tournament this spring. Word around Amherst High has spread about Breed’s victory, which has sparked other study hall classes to take a step into the game of chess. Maybe there will be a chess trophy in Amherst’s halls one day.