'Good game!': Drexel medical students launch chess tournament nationwide

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. (WPVI) -- A brain-wracking game of chess can be challenging. But for these medical students, it's about the easiest thing they've done all week.

"Playing chess is very similar to solving problems in the medical community," said Cruz Sevilla, a second-year student at Drexel University College of Medicine. "There's patterns, repetition, you have to be able to basically just think on your toes to be able to manage those things as they come."

Sevilla, originally from Chicago, Illinois, decided to study medicine so he could help people with his own two hands. As if the workload wasn't difficult enough, the COVID-19 pandemic brought many educational opportunities and social activities to a stalemate.

"As a medical student, we're trying to figure out these problems every day and that's one of the main reasons why I started the chess club," he said, noting the similarities in problem-solving.

Sevilla realized chess was popular within the greater medical community. But upon further investigation, he realized the absence of a nationwide cohort to bring players together.

"I had been sitting on the idea of starting a Pennsylvania chess tournament," he said.
However, only two of the state's schools stepped up to the board.

"So at that point, I was just like, well, why should I stop at Pennsylvania," he wondered. "I should just ask all of the med schools."

Sevilla rallied fellow Drexel Chess Club members to contact roughly 150 medical schools nationwide. They earned the support of 20 schools, even those who did not have established chess clubs. Their hard work will pay off this weekend with the first-ever 'Dragon's Cup,' a virtual tournament played using the website, Chess.com.

"Oh, I think it's been absolutely immense in getting me connected to students at campus and, like, actually meeting people during a pandemic," said Ozdemir Erdemir, a first-year student.

Erdemir and his friend, Rohan Joshi, worked alongside Sevilla to make this dream a reality. Shockingly, today's scrimmage marked the first time the group had ever met in-person.

"Yeah, it's a really weird thing to think about," said Erdemir in the presence of his otherwise-virtual friends.

Nevertheless, these students hope their calculated moves will bring out the best of a pandemic-era college experience.

"The strength and resilience that we're showing hopefully will translate to our professional careers in the future," said Joshi.

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