They pour into the art room after school each Tuesday and Thursday to play the game of kings and queens, knights, pawns and bishops. One after another, kids of all ages line up at the rows of desks to lay out their black and white pieces on checkered boards, readying themselves for battle. Their coach, a gregarious fellow named Roy Washington, 62, weaves his way through them, stopping here and there to examine their moves and give general and often one-on-one advice.
“Don’t forget, once you touch your piece you have to move it,” he announces to the Tuesday afternoon advanced club after showing them a new strategy: a two-move checkmate.
“That was a gift,” he advises Chandler Tucker, 8, while watching a match that had Chandler’s opponent, Evan St. Romain, 7, moving his white queen into a precarious position.
Chess is said to be the oldest game of skill, and judging by the number of kids who have signed up for the after-school club at Sanders Memorial Elementary, it still holds up quite well.
Now in its fourth year, the club boasts 134 active members and has a waiting list of 45.
Not bad. Especially when you consider the doubters who predicted that a chess club would never fly when Washington first offered to start one.
Even Washington, who works as an instructional assistant with exceptional students at Sanders, never expected it to be this popular.
“I thought I might get maybe a dozen kids or so,” he said. “The first year I had maybe 30 to 40. The second year 60. The third 90. And this year we had so many we had to make a waiting list.”
So what’s the allure?
“I like the moving — the strategy,” said Drew Hodorski, 7, as he faced off in a game against Kayla Orteo, 8.
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