Big chess for little ones at Wooldridge Square Park

More than 75 kids entered sixth annual tournament.

By Patrick George
Monday, November 03, 2008

Four boys grab waist-high plastic chess pieces with both hands and move them across the board in rapid-fire succession. They’re playing beneath the gazebo in Wooldridge Square Park, arguing over moves and trash-talking.

“We’re gonna take that move,” says Willy Chin, 11, strategizing with his teammate, William Liu, 9. “This bishop is better than that knight.”

“No, we aren’t,” Liu says.

They continue the game against Advaidh Nair, 11, and his partner, Jacob Graves, 7, eventually taking one of their opponents’ knights.

“Ownage,” Liu shouts.

Scores of children took advantage of Sunday’s breezy, warm weather to sharpen their skills at the sixth annual Giant Chess Tournament. The big set is out every Saturday at the park, but this week, 75 kids entered a tournament of the more serious tabletop chess.

“The kids are having a great time,” said Chris Riley, a volunteer with the Austin Parks Foundation . “You can just see the intensity in their faces.”

The tournament was divided by age. Each child played five games that lasted about 40 minutes apiece. While many chess tournaments take place in indoor settings like high school gymnasiums, Wooldridge Square Park provided a great backdrop to learn the finer points of the game.

“As long as you know how to play chess, you can come here” and play in the tournament, said Gary Gaiffe , the tournament director. Throughout the day, Gaiffe strolled from table to table, answering questions about which moves are legal and which aren’t. Gaiffe, who teaches chess and organizes tournaments, said the benefits of the game can be felt in the classroom.

“If we had chess in schools as a teaching tool and behavior modification tool, it would improve education tremendously,” Gaiffe said.

But for 11-year-old Zack Genin , just getting the chance to play is fun. He had won one game and lost another by Sunday afternoon, but was hoping to win the tournament.

“I enjoy learning new moves and strategies,” Genin said.


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