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Chess players compete in nationals

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By Special to the Monitor

During the 2010 National Elementary Chess Championship, which was held May 6-9 in Atlanta, Aspen Elementary School competed against more than 2,000 elementary students.

The competition was fierce but the Los Alamos students proved to be some of the top competitors in the state.

Aspen Elementary School competed in four of the six National Championship sections that were held at the tournament.

The kindergarten through first-grade team, which was made of kindergartner Phillip Ionkov, first-grader William McTeigue, kindergartener Andy Corliss, first-grader Zach Koehn and first-grader Max Corliss came in seventh place out of 50 teams competing for the National Championship.  

The kindergarten through fifth-grade team, which was made of fourth-grader Donald Poston, second-grader Henry Poston, fourth-grader Alex Ionkov and second-grader Dimitri Lopez finished in 25th place out of 48 teams.  

The Aspen team also did well in the Blitz (speed chess) Championships. The students took second in the kindergarten through third-grade Blitz National Championship and 12th in the kindergarten through sixth-grade Blitz National Championship.

It wasn’t all work for the local competitors.

Dave Poston, chess coach and father to some of the chess players, said, “Since the kids missed three days of school, we wanted to provide other enriching and fun activities for them. We had time between rounds to visit the Atlanta Aquarium and the Coca-Cola Museum, and our travel plans also allowed us to go fishing and to visit the NASA Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville Alabama.

“Regardless, I really want to thank the kids’ teachers and Aspen Principal Kathryn Vandenkieboom for being so supportive and accommodating for this trip and for chess club in general.”

Lucho Ionkov, a father to one of the chess players commented that keeping things fun is key.

“It’s remarkable that a chess club run by non-chess-playing parents at a public school can compete with the elite private schools from New York and elsewhere,” he said.

“Most of the elite chess schools teach chess to all enrolled students as part of the standard curriculum and have professional chess coaches for the chess club.

“I think the success of our chess club, which grew to more than 50 kids this year, can be attributed to keeping chess club fun.  Every week it seemed that somebody invited a new friend, which created a snowball of enthusiasm.”

The success at chess has not been limited to the national tournament.

The Aspen Chess Club excelled at the state level over the past year, winning individual New Mexico State Championships in kindergarten, first grade, second grade, fourth grade, kindergarten through third grade and kindergarten through sixth grade classifications and the state kindergarten through third grade team championship for the second year in a row.

The Aspen club also boasts the highest rated chess players in New Mexico for all age groups from kindergarten to fourth grade, including some players ranked in the top 100 nationally by the United States Chess Federation.

For more information,  contact Dave Poston at 505-662-9529.