Ah chess! Everyone thinks of a sophisticated, thought-provoking game. It is not generally thought of as a pursuit for the masses. The mental image is that of 2 old men playing for hours in the neighborhood park. Imagine my surprise when I took my son to school for his first day in the first grade when I saw about 10 chess boards spread out in the elementary school cafeteria.
This is the home of the #2 ranked chess team in the nation. Who would have thought you would find it at an elementary school in this rundown neighborhood? Here is a group of kids, many of whom qualify for the free or reduced lunch program, playing “the King’s Game” and quite well I must add. This school is very focused on war between blacks and whites but it has nothing to due with race.
“The Blue Hoard,” as they’ve been dubbed, swarms into state tournaments and takes home wins. These kids are not just the gifted and talented, and they are a long way from privileged. Here chess is the great equalizer. These kids are good, but they don’t brag about it. As Mr.Nichols says, “They learn sportsmanship. We teach etiquette is number one. Anything that Dennis Rodman ever did on a basketball court is not OK.”
This year, the chess program got even more ambitious. Or they have possibly lost their minds. Previously, chess was open to 5th graders only. In August of 2007, they have introduced Chess Academy. Now chess is open to 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders. Provided they meet the requirements, they will all be eligible to play in the in state tournaments. The first night of chess academy was chaos in the cafeteria. 9 large plastic chess pieces were lost on a linoleum floor. But I looked across the sea of chess boards and saw my 3rd grade son shaking hands with his opponent before commencing his game. He’s not a good student. He has the intelligence to be, but not the drive. But he will be a good chess player, and we are hoping that will inspire him to work at is schoolwork.
Yes, they will need money. Yes, donations are tax deductible. Yes, everyone involved needs their head examined. I’m not requesting money, but I can provide information on where to send your donations if you are interested.