LACEY – Third-grader Jasper McAvity, 8, had to earn his way to the tournament level of Lacey Elementary Chess Club.
“Well, I used to lose. And then I started to play a lot and win. I just kept playing and playing,” he said.
The Lacey Elementary Chess Club, which started as a lunchtime activity several years ago, has grown to about 75 members and enough people for three separate divisions — beginner, intermediate and tournament level students.
This week, the club is preparing to host the regional tournament at Chinook Middle School on Saturday. The players in the kindergarten through 12th grade tournament play five rounds each, and players who earn 3 or more out of 5 points automatically qualify for the Washington State Elementary Chess Championships in Spokane, which will be held in April.
Another North Thurston school, Olympic View Elementary, also has a chess club. Last year, Lacey had 18 chess players who qualified for the state championship, and Olympic View had 12.
Lacey’s club is coached by fourth-grade teacher Neal Wildrick and behavioral specialist Michi Imamura, who is called “Mr. Michi” by the students at the school.
Imamura said he and Wildrick determine the students’ chess level.
“It’s a judgment call,” he said. “Sometimes if a student is starting to win all the time, and is not getting challenged, that’s when we move them to tournament level.”
Lacey Elementary parents will volunteer for the regional tournament, which is a fundraiser for the PTA and for the Chess Club.
The Chess Club uses the money to pay for chess sets, and pay scholarships for tournament fees for students whose families can’t afford it, Imamura said.
During the after-school activity, students either play games against each other or master moves, strategies and tactics with an online chess tutorial. Imamura sometimes will go over certain topics as a class.
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