Checkmate! Students to play chess

-A A +A
By Kirsten Laskey

At 5:30 p.m. Friday at Piñon Elementary School, students will be putting their skills in strategy and planning to the test. The competition is not in the form of an athletic game or speech debate, but takes place on a checkered board with knights, queens and pawns.

The Los Alamos area elementary chess tournament has been held three times throughout the year, and the final rounds for this year will be held Friday.

Trophies will be distributed to the top teams. Jeff Goettee, a parent volunteer coach at Piñon Elementary School, said they try to hand out as many trophies as possible.

This is not an individual competition, but a team activity. There are two sets of teams: a primary team, which includes kindergarten through third grade, and an elementary team, which is for students in kindergarten through sixth-grade.

The teams are limited to five students. Goettee said, typically, eight primary teams and six-eight elementary teams show up at the tournaments.

The teams come from all five Los Alamos elementary schools and Canyoncito Montessori School.

Teams are used rather than individuals to play chess, because “it is a great format for the kids in clubs to play on a team … it gives you a team environment to play,” Goettee said. “We build individual confidence in a team environment.”

While many participants go on to compete in the Northern Schools Chess League in middle school and high school, the main purpose of the chess tournament, Goettee said, is to have fun.

It is a great activity to expose students, too. “First, the students love to play chess and the educational, mental and social benefits are all documented, there are certainly education, psychological and social benefits to playing chess … they also benefit from it in their lives,’ Goettee said.