BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — High school chess teams from across Illinois will compete in the first sectional competitions this weekend to try to earn a spot in the state finals.

The Illinois High School Association says it’s a sign of the activity’s growing popularity. Until this year, any school that entered the tournament got to compete at the state finals.

Chess has been an IHSA activity since the 1974-1975 school year. IHSA Assistant Executive Director Scott Johnson says almost a quarter of member schools have chess programs and the numbers continue to grow.

He says 149 teams participated in last year’s state tournament, sparking the decision to hold sectional competitions.

Johnson says “we were running out of room” at the state tournament.

Nearly 160 teams will compete Saturday at sectionals in eight cities.

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