Afternoons in the cafeteria at Wilson Elementary School are usually quiet. That is, unless it’s a Thursday.
Every Thursday afternoon, 50 to 65 students from kindergarten through fifth grade come bustling into the cafeteria for a meeting of the school’s chess club. Once they settle into a seat and get a snack, they waste no time getting down to business.
“It’s a friendly kind of competitive,” chess club coach Daniel Wade said. “Everyone knows who the top two or three players are and so there’s a level of respect there, but everyone wants to play them.”
The chess club, sponsored by Wilson’s Parent Teacher Association, started five years ago when Wade’s nephew approached the school’s principal with the idea of starting a club. Wade became involved when an adult sponsor was needed. Thirty students joined that year and the club’s size has since doubled. The club is offered during the fall and winter and students have opportunities to play in tournaments and matches throughout the state.
Learning the gameWade said many of the children join the club without any experience. They learn mostly through watching and playing the more experienced students. As the club’s coach, Wade also is on hand to provide instruction to new students.
Some of the more experienced children, however, come from chess-playing families. Second-grader Kaitlin Barron, 8, said chess is one of her favorite hobbies at home.
“My sister, dad and grandpa play,” she said.
Others make it a point to get chess experience wherever they can. Fifth-grader Marque Luster has been playing for three years and goes to a local bookstore twice a week to play adults. His favorite part about the game: “Taking their king. Getting a checkmate.” And he does that well — Wade said Marque is one of the club’s best players.
Wade said about three to four parents also come to the club, mostly to “keep the peace.” He said they are thrilled about the school offering a chess club.
“(The parents) are amazed at what the kids learn,” Wade said. “You can underestimate what a child can learn.”
Damaris Brisco, mother of two students who started in the club in this year, agrees.
“It’s a good chance to socialize,” Brisco said. “It’s easier than sports, not as much emotion.
They’re learning life skills like math, competing, winning and losing. And it’s low pressure. They love it.”
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