When the pandemic occurred nearly a year ago and extracurricular activities came to a halt, Jonathan Gomez ‘21 took that time to innovate. Using the shutdown as a catalyst to launch a company that began as an idea years ago, he created Gambit.
“Gambit hosts chess tournaments,” said Jonathan. “I had often wondered why Belen Jesuit hadn’t hosted a chess tournament, and when I spoke to Chess Coach Dr. Goodall, he encouraged me to pursue the idea. The pandemic gave me the time to get this idea off the ground.”
In order to establish Gambit, he had to become a chess tournament director through the United States Chess Federation. Once that was accomplished he began planning the first tournament and joined forces with alumnus and chess player Brandon Vila '19 for his guidance.
“I was overjoyed when Jonathan reached out to me about Gambit last year,” said Brandon. “Before the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, there were over-the-board (OTB) scholastic chess tournaments occurring almost every 2 weeks in South Florida, then it all stopped. The Gambit tournament we hosted was our first time taking the role of certified chess tournament directors. Watching the kids finally return to battle over the sixty-four squares made me reminisce about the times as a young Wolverine when I competed for the Belen chess team. The whole experience was very fulfilling for me and Jonathan, and I hope our efforts can motivate other local clubs and organizers to start hosting OTB tournament chess again!”
On February 27, the Gambit Spring Scholastic Tournament was held at the Blue Lagoon Hilton with 37 participants. In addition to local chess players, competitors from around the country also joined the event.
“I called 32 local schools and kept running into the same roadblock,” said Jonathan. “None of them were allowing after-school activities and they couldn’t even advertise the event. So I had to think out of the box and approach chess coaches directly and other places like the US Chess Federation and Mathnasium to help get the word out.”
For the Belen Chess team, this was the first over-the-board tournament in a year. In the K12 Under 1500 division, Belen won the 1st place team trophy. In the same division, Matthew Johnson ‘21 went undefeated with 4.5 points to win the 1st place individual trophy. Also contributing to the team score were Avery Villasuso ‘24 with 1.5 points and Alejandro Munilla ‘26 with 3 points. In the K12 Under 1000 division, Belen won the 1st place team trophy. In their very first across-the-board tournament, Wadih Pazos ‘21 scored 3.5 points, Armando Cruz ‘27 scored 3 points, Eduardo Carlos Costa '27 scored 2 points, and Carlos Amaro ‘27 scored a point. Also contributing to the team effort were Andres Hoyos ‘26 and Aiden Mendieta ‘27 with 2 wins each. In the K12 Open division, Aidan Pevida ‘21 scored 2 points.
“Tournament day was stressful,” said Jonathan. “We had technical difficulties throughout the event but somehow got through it and were able to pull it off. When all was said and done the participants didn’t even realize the behind-the-scenes craziness and were very happy with the tournament overall.”
"Jonathan has shown remarkable initiative,” said Dr. Lawrence Goodall. “In the first tournament he has organized, he produced one of the most smoothly-run events I have experienced as a chess coach. He is to be commended! I am very proud of him!"
Looking ahead, Jonathan envisions at least one more tournament before graduation. With lessons learned from the first tournament, he hopes it will run a lot more smoothly. “I am really excited about putting on another tournament and confident that it will be an even bigger success.”
Fast forward to when Jonathan is in college. He hopes that Gambit will continue to operate and host tournaments remotely. “I plan to study engineering,” said Jonathan. “Gambit is a stepping stone to what I want to do. I’ve learned so much about business because of this experience and one day, if I open up my own engineering firm, I know that the lessons learned from this will come into play.”
Jonathan joined the Belen Chess Club as an 8th grader and fell in love with the sport. Now, as a senior, he sees himself as a mentor to the younger players on the team.
“My job as a senior is to teach the younger kids everything I know about chess,” said Jonathan. “We have a lot of middle school students in the club so it’s exciting to know that chess at Belen will continue going strong in the years to come. Dr. Goodall is a great chess player and coach and with his guidance, you learn certain patterns and techniques that expand your mindset.”
For more information about Gambit and the upcoming chess tournament, click here