Check this out, mate.
Rowland Hall-St. Mark's Winged Lions made their mark on national chess competitions in Tempe, Ariz., recently.The private school's varsity team placed eighth in the nation; its junior varsity 11th and its primary division, 17th.
Some of the players were hardly taller than the table tops, said their coach, Bert Hopper, but they were in there thrashing it out to the last move. They jotted down their moves, tapped their time clocks and coolly tried to maneuver their rivals' pieces into oblivion. Often, it worked.
The RH-SM children had previously competed in Utah. Chess tournaments are held in the state from November through April. Parents at the school are firmly behind the program because they see chess as more than a game. It helps children concentrate, reason and to win gracefully or lose nobly, Hopper said.
Besides that, Hopper said, "It requires no costly equipment or special play area. The chances of `chess injury' are next to nil.' " (There is a hazard, however, for parents. Some fathers have been known to engage in fisticuffs when competition becomes heated, he said.)
Members of the RH-SM varsity team are Abe Burgess Olson, Craig Ten Broeck, Nick Dyer, Luke Flockerzi, Aaron Fox, Adam Goldstein, Richard Huntsman, Tim Milliron, Jason Reich and Shanti Sheppard. On the junior varsity team are: Neeta Bidwai, Scott Ewan, Brian Harrow, Mark Langheinrich, Russ Mallinckrodt, Doug Reid, Shane Staten and T.J. Swaner. Those in the division for kindergarten through third graders: Vivek Bidwai, Cameron Dolcourt, Asa Downs, Prescott Johnson, Nick Mason and Brian Reagan.
Good sportsmanship is part of the game. Hopper recounts that during the last minutes of the national tournament, second grader Prescott Johnson (who won a third place trophy in his age group), rolled his eyes and smiled slyly as he systematically swept his opponent's pieces from the board.
But when victory was assured, Prescott shot his arms into the air, stifled a cry and rejoiced in a whisper. Around him, 465 other games continued. The right temperament is as important as talent and hard work when it comes to chess.
Hopper is a lawyer-turned teacher ("I cannot remember even once during the seven years I practiced law that I was in a room full of people who loved me") and a chess coach by choice. "I do it because I have the ability to teach, I love the game and the kids make me happy."
Joe Downs, whose son is the first grade champion for Utah, said the competition has taught his son responsibility. "No one is going to tell a player that he has had his opponent in check for the past three moves. They also have to remember to punch their own clocks instead of allowing them to run down."