We at KBIA have found strength in our community during the COVID crisis. In our series, “Where You’re At,” we’re talking to our family and friends to see how their coping during the pandemic. Here is Veronica Mohesky’s interview with Chess Grand Master and member of the MU chess team, Chris Repka. Chris is in his second year at MU as an international student from Slovakia.
So, Chris, how have you been doing since the pandemic started?
Well, the pandemic has been hard for all of us and I haven't been able to go home. And twice I've tried, twice, it failed. And I didn't get to. I go to the airport, but they didn't let me through the gate because my flight got canceled and that that part sucked. But I think I was really lucky to already know a lot of people here and I have a pretty good life here. So, I missed my family. But I think there are people that have it much worse.
So COVID-19 has affected your family, but how has it affected chess? Have you played an in-person game since March?
No, not at all. All of my games were online, which is not the same. It's not the same feeling you also… there's little things that you miss, like when you're crashing your opponent then you see the distress on your opponent’s face or, or even like, yeah, simple things like that. And I also have to say that the pandemic kinda helped chess in some regard because a lot of people started watching online chess. We have record numbers of viewers all the time. I guess people are just so bored. They started watching chess.
Can you explain your background in chess?
Both of my parents were chess players. And they taught me chess. So basically, my first tournament was at the age of nine, we just kind of played for like the best chess players. And most of them start at the age of five, which is kind of surprising. And I remembered that my mom never wanted me to play chess because she saw that chess is hard and painful and you don't get that much reward because there's not as much money in it as in, let's say other sports. But after I started that, achieving some results, I think she started to be happy. But she was she never coached me which was which is kind of funny because she was six times second in the World Championships. So, she's a really good chess player.
How long has it been since you've seen your family or your mom?
It's been I've seen them on the winter break in January. And but it was only for a week. And since then I didn't come home. I know your grandpa passed away this over the summer.
Was that hard on you not being able to get home?
Yeah, definitely. I was supposed to get home before he passed, but they canceled my flight. And then I knew that I wouldn't make it because he basically passed away two days after the flight was canceled. So that that was kind of tough, but I was talking to him on the phone and I'm happy I got to say goodbye at least that way.
What's your support system here?
Coming here, I didn't know anyone. And I was lucky to have really good relationships within the team immediately. So, I wasn't here totally alone. I had some international chess players around me that I felt comfortable with. And Missouri is a really good place for people because people are really friendly, and it was easy for me to make new friends. I would say the transition went smoothly and I was kind of proud of that that I managed to come to a new environment and adjust.