A centuries-old game has a modern audience

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By Kirsten Laskey

Chess is more than just game pieces on a checkered board. Playing the game involves mathematical and even psychological aspects. In the Middle Ages chess was considered a part of the nobility’s culture but today everyone, even elementary school students, are getting in the game.

Kindergarteners through sixth-graders will put their minds to the chess challenge during the finals of the Los Alamos Elementary NSCL. The game begins at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Aspen Elementary School. Fourteen total teams from Aspen, Barranca, Canyoncito, Chamisa and Mountain elementary schools will compete. The finals have six total rounds and the remaining  two rounds will be played Thursday. Prizes will be awarded to the top teams.  

The games continue during the New Mexico K-12 Scholastic Chess Championship, which will be held at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Marriott in Albuquerque. Los Alamos students will compete against 114 students from around the state. A regional competition will also be held.

Additionally, 15 young people will continue on to the National K-12 Scholastic Chess Championship Dec. 11-13 in Dallas.   

Chess’ history reaches far back into time but it still resonates with today’s young people. In fact, at  Aspen  Elementary School, there are more than 50 kids involved in the club. Aspen principal Kathryn Vandenkieboom is credited for her support of the club.

“I think kids love to play games that are naturally competitive. But as kids get older, they enjoy the artistic nature of chess,” Aspen coach Dave Poston said.

Plus, the game offers many benefits to children. Poston said there have been countless studies that show chess helps students academically.

The game supports brain development and builds problem-solving skills, Poston said.

He added the game strengthens sportsmanship skills. Even after a game when one player blew their opponent out of the water, Poston said, “it’s really cool how often chess players will go off and play as friends.”

As  Los Alamos attends the upcoming games, Poston believes the students will do well. He explained, “Chess is a sport that has ratings. There is a numerical measure of kids’ abilities and our kids have very good ratings.”

Additionally, last year the local team won the state championship as well as some of the individual rounds.