News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Chess youth excelled at tournament

On Wednesday mornings at Sisters Middle School (SMS) you can find a classroom full of attentive K-12 kids transfixed by a vinyl chessboard. These students are improving their thinking and problem-solving skills while having fun playing the board game of strategy. There you can find Jennifer King, the Outlaw Chess Club’s facilitator.

King told The Nugget, “I got into leading the chess club because it’s my son Ashton’s passion. And I’ve only been playing chess as an adult for five years. It’s challenging and I’m always learning something new about it.

“We have a core group, but a maximum of 30 kids that are registered in the Outlaws Chess Club. Learning the game teaches them strategy, how to plan ahead and critical thinking.”

Recently 13 of these youth chess players from the Outlaws Chess Club competed at the 2020 “Chess for Success” regional chess tournament, held at Ridgeview High School in Redmond.

The Chess for Success program is for all students — from public schools, private schools, and for home-schooled children.

Chess for Success organizes the annual regional and state championship tournaments for elementary, middle and high school students.

The nonprofit organization was started in 1992 in Portland by three fathers who noticed that their kids who learned how to play chess well also performed better in school.

King noted, “Those kids who place first move on to the state tournament in Portland. We had five middle school students, six elementary and two high school students compete in the regional competition. The kids played a total of five games. They got paired up with other kids depending on their wins and losses.”

King’s son Ashton, a 10th-grader, placed second at the regionals, but since he was only half a point behind, he was invited to the state chess competition in Portland.

Ashton has been a member of the Outlaws Chess Club since fifth grade and has been teaching the younger members how to play the game since eighth grade.

He said, “I’ve been playing chess since I was five. My dad taught me, and now I can beat him. I like the strategy and the actual thought that you put into the game. It’s not just a simple process based on a book. Just in the first four moves there’s over 2,000 combinations that you can play. The game helps you in different skills like math and planning.”

Ashton has been invited to the state competitions four times in the past.

Benjamin Franklin was one of America’s first and most famous chess players, and he was inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame in 1999.

Franklin was once quoted saying: “Chess teaches foresight, by having to plan ahead; vigilance, by having to keep watch over the whole chess board; caution, by having to restrain ourselves from making hasty moves; and finally, we learn from chess the greatest maxim in life — that even when everything seems to be going badly for us we should not lose heart, but always hoping for a change for the better, steadfastly continue searching for the solutions to our problems.”

Outlaws Chess Club member Lex Jeffrey started playing the game when he was 5.

“Chess really gets your brain moving. It teaches you focus, and it’s fun,” Jeffrey said.

Mackenzie Frutos, a fourth-grader in the club, likes chess for the competition.

She said, “It’s a competition between two people, no physical contact, only the battle of minds. My dad and brother play chess, and I wanted to see how it worked for me. And I really like the game.”


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