Pine Students Choose Chess Over Recess

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The pawns are in position to defend their queens during Monday and Thursday lunch hours at the Pine Strawberry School.

Student voices overlap as seven, then 10, then 13 students converge upon the long wooden table in the library.

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Tom Kiekintveld (standing,) Summer Aguon, Brian Wintrich, Michael Aguon, Lars Tanner, Meredith Kiekintveld, Dalton Albers, Alex DeHart, Quaid Tanner, Ian Duarte and Madison McRae were among the 13 students who showed up for Chess Club in Pine on Monday.

"I'm with you."

"Let's play right here."

"I call white."

"You always call white."

"Do you know how to set up the board?"

"I can teach you how."

Special education director Becky Karras restarted the Chess Club about a month ago, after a year's hiatus while she taught a full-time class.

Children have freedom to choose the playground or chess.

"Sometimes 10 show up, sometimes three," Karras said.

She begins by teaching the students how to set up the board and introduces the pieces and how they move a step at a time.

The game of strategy takes a lifetime to learn, intrigues youngsters and helps them in class, Karras said.

They must learn to concentrate.

They have to plan their moves and remember them as they go along.

They have to remember their strategy and change their strategy as the game progresses through its beginning, middle and end stages.

"I was absent on Thursday and two children showed up and insisted on playing. My secretary let them play in the office," Karras said.

Tom Kiekintveld won the school tournament when he was in third grade. He is in fifth grade now and sometimes comes in to help new players plan their moves.

"Sometimes they move a piece in ways they aren't supposed to," Kiekintveld said.

What makes chess fun?

"Taking other players' pieces," he said.

His younger sister, Meredith, eagerly set up the chess board at school Monday, but she doesn't play with Tom at home.

"The problem with Tom is probably not having Chess Club often enough," Karras said.

Tom plays at home with his dad.

Do you win?

"Yes," he said.

Pawns are little but powerful

Students learn the first move a pawn makes can be one or two squares forward. After that, it can only move one space.

Unlike checkers, which most of the students have played, chess pieces cannot jump.

"The knights move in an L shape. One forward, two over and you can capture a knight," Ian Duarte tells his first-time opponent, Quaid Tanner.

Duarte and Tanner are first grade students, but Duarte has played chess at home.

Third-grade chums Anna Bartusch and Summer Aguon both said they enjoy learning more about the moves, so they can capture their opponents' pieces and move on the board.

"Chess gives you something to do when you are bored. I've only played about a week and I know all the moves," Alex DeHart said.

Karras smiled.

"They have no idea how involved chess is," she said.

After students have mastered the moves in the 35 minutes of free time after lunch, Karras will teach them more etiquette.

Now they are responsible for setting up the game and using good manners.

"Chess is a first class game," Karras said.

When the students see a raised index finger, either Karras' or one of their fellow players will remind them to be first-class players.

"Chess teaches them good sportsmanship and respect," Karras said.

The students will learn to play in silent concentration.

They will learn chess notation, which means they will be able to plot a game and keep track of their moves.

When her students really learn the game, Karras plans to open up the club after school so they can begin to experience the use of timers.

In tournament play, each chess opponent has two hours on a timer.

Karras hopes to hold a chess tournament in spring 2008.

In the meantime, the Chess Club could use some adult volunteers who know the game. Contact Becky Karras for more information at (928) 476-3283.

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