Kids’ chess tournament enlivens outer East Portland

Discover why teachers say that teaching kids how to play chess pays big dividends in the classroom …

Parkrose Middle School students Daniel Lillard and Cameron Davison play a practice game of chess during the “Chess for Success” tournament held at their school.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Unlike in sports, where size and strength count most, winning at the game of chess doesn’t require any special physical or mental skill – it takes concentration, plus the will to succeed.

That’s why an organization called “Chess for Success” supports kids’ chess clubs in more than 70 Title I schools in the area.

Kids compete for state-level contest play
On February 7, kids from all over outer East Portland made their way to Parkrose Middle School to participate in the Chess for Success regional tournament.

At the start of the tourney, as many as 150 students sat nearly motionless, as they focused on their game.

The event’s host, Parkrose Middle School math teacher and chess club sponsor Greg Nakashima, said “The tournament has five games, and winners play winners. Players who win every game qualify to move up to the state tournament.”

Parkrose Middle School math teacher – and chess club sponsor – Greg Nakashima welcomes youngsters from 25 schools to the Chess for Success tournament.

Chess teaches kids critical thinking
Some 25 kids regularly attend his Chess for Success club, said Nakashima. “It’s worthwhile, because it teaches young people critical thinking, and to think ahead. As they mature, they’ll be better equipped to think about the consequences of their decisions.”

During his club sessions, Nakashima told us the students usually start by learning and practicing a series of moves. “When we start playing games, there is no talking unless it relates specifically to that game. In addition to learning chess moves, they have also learned to sit still, concentrate, and focus.”

In the  schools they support, Chess for Success is open to any kids who want to join, we learned from the organization’s executive directory Julie Young.

To learn more, CLICK HERE to visit their website.

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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