Regional kids’ chess tournament hosted in Parkrose

See how learning to play this game helps students succeed, organizers say …

Luke Hutchinson goes over chess moves in the hallway of Parkrose Middle School, before heading into a “Chess for Success” sponsored tournament.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
With more kids “zoning out” playing video games nowadays, a Portland-based organization, Chess for Success, continues to develop kids’ interest in the age-old board game.

It’s been a while since we reported on one of their tournaments (CLICK HERE to see our 2008 article) – so we stopped in to watch the action at Parkrose Middle School on February 4.

“This tournament that we’re sponsoring is a precursor to going to the State Tournament, which is at the Portland Convention Center on March 2 and 3,” explained Steve Rosenfeld of Chess for Success.

“We’ll have regional tournaments all over the city for the next couple of weeks,” Rosenfeld continued. “These tournaments are held at schools, convenient for the kids, all over Portland during the winter. Although Chess for Success sponsors the tournaments, it’s intended for all student chess clubs, not just those connected with our organization.”

Coach and tournament official, Steve Rosenfeld of Chess for Success watches a game unfold.

The 58 young chess masters playing in Parkrose completed their game, took a break, and then were called back to play a second round. “It’s a bit more formal than our regular classes, in which kids just play and play, and then report their scores.”

Never has the Parkrose Middle School gym been so quiet that the loudest sound in the room was the buzz of the lighting system ballast, as the students, from grades six through eight, studied their next move on the chess boards.

It’s more than just learning how to play a board game, Rosenfeld said. “After teaching chess to kids for 17 years, I find a number of real positives. From a teacher’s point of view, the number one thing is that we’re teaching kids to train their brain to focus. Once they learn to focus on the game, it seems easier for them to then focus on academics – and then everything in school comes more easily.”

Middle-school chess players from all over outer East Portland gather for tournament play.

“In short,” he added, “when a person feels successful at chess, this success carries over, and helps them successfully learn other skills and class subjects.”

Additionally, gaining any mastery of chess, Rosenfeld said, helps children also to learn “analytical thinking”.

“It’s learning cause-and-effect relationships: ‘If I do this – that will happen’. And there are certain rules like that with every sport – and an etiquette, too. We teach good sportsmanship, and the etiquette of chess – and students are expected to follow those rules.”

More than merely learning how to play a game, organizers say learning chess helps students become more successful academically.

When the timing clock sounded – the serious-minded chess players again became kids, having noisy fun.

To learn more about Chess for Success, see their website: CLICK HERE.

© 2012 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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