Maryland tackle Spencer Anderson is a chess ace off the court

Ever since his first game as a kid at summer camp, Spencer Anderson has been passionate about chess. He gravitated towards strategy and anticipation. Now, as a senior tackle at Maryland, Anderson applies his skills on the chess board to the football field, where he anchors the right side of the Terrapins offensive line. Heading into another Big Ten road game Saturday against Indiana, winning in the trenches will be key as the Terps attempt to checkmate the Hoosiers.

“The way I see it, the O-line is like the pawns, the guys that make everything happen. We’re out there up front,” Anderson said. “I see it as an attacking team, it’s like you have 11 players against 11 other players, and you never know what the next person is going to do. It’s just calculated movements all over the pitch.

Chess came with a steep learning curve for Anderson, which one would expect for an 8-year-old. He remembers constantly losing matches against older campers during the first week he played, trying to figure out the pieces and their movement on the board. But after learning from his losses and watching others play, he quickly improved. A month later, Anderson competed in a camp chess tournament, competing against 14-year-old campers.

“I finished third, which I wasn’t too happy with,” Anderson said. “But I was kind of shocked at the same time, like I was able to do this.”

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The experience sparked Anderson’s passion, but his chess career was cut short when he struggled to find players to play against – until he joined the chess club in high school. of Bishop McNamara in Forestville. Rumor has it that he never lost a game.

“I heard there was a band playing chess, and I was like, ‘I want to be in it,'” Anderson said. “I was just sitting there and they were shocked because they didn’t know how I was winning or what I was doing. Three-shot mates and all sorts of things.

Anderson said he still uses a chess-like mindset on the football field. He specifically cited the importance of anticipation, understanding what your opponent is trying to accomplish and knowing how they will react to your actions.

“[If] you see the safety going down or the corners are a little bit different than they usually are, you know some sort of blitz is coming,” Anderson said. “You just anticipate the next thing because you always want to get the better of your opponent in chess. I feel like it’s the equivalent on the football field because if you know, for example, that a blitz is coming, you can react faster instead of being behind the block or being delayed.

Although the Terps offensive line has put up some solid streaks this season, there’s still room for improvement. Going into Saturday, Maryland is tied for seventh out of 14 Big Ten teams in sacks allowed, averaging 1.8 per game.

In last Saturday’s loss to Purdue, the Terps (4-2, 1-2 Big Ten) allowed three sacks, and junior quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa was often under duress. It doesn’t get any easier against Indiana (3-3, 1-2), which is tied for fourth in the Big Ten in sacks, averaging 2.3 per game.

“They try to play fast on defense,” Maryland coach Michael Locksley said of the Hoosiers. “It’s a big blitz team. This is a team that will attack our quarterback. About 60% of snaps, across all downs and distances, are pressures. It’s a pressure of six, seven, eight men, which we must be able to handle with confidence and confidence.

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To decipher Indiana’s exotic looks, which are unlike any of the Terps encountered this season, communication will be vital. The responsibility lies with the entire offensive line.

“There are times when the center cannot see much because he already has his hand on the ball. He is already down, so there are already things he cannot see”, Anderson said “We can look at the rotation of the safeties or the linebackers. You can kind of see the linebackers change something or the weight in someone’s hand and position, just trying to anticipate the next move and to anticipate what you are going to do.

As Maryland prepares to take on the challenge of Indiana’s pass rush, Anderson continues to work on his anticipation on and off the court. Although he doesn’t play chess as often as he would like, Anderson finds time to hone his skills against computer opponents. Going forward, he said he would continue to pursue his hobby, hoping to find more human opponents to play against.

“I want to play more,” Anderson said. “I feel like I’m going to be that old man in the park with my clock and my chessboard.”

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