The Elizabeth Leary Public School hosted its first in-school chess tournament on May 31, and teachers say the kids from grades second through seventh displayed a focus and dignity uncharacteristic of their age.
“They were very quiet and well disciplined,” said North West Director of Success Through Chess Alan Svehaug, who officiated at Friday’s tournament. “There were 75 kids in the room and you could hear a pin drop. Teachers were commenting on how quiet and focused they were.”
The tournament, which teachers hope to make an annual affair, is the result of the school’s partnership with Success Through Chess, a program that hopes to improve cognitive skills and test scores through the game of kings.
“Chess helps develop critical thinking skills, creative thinking skills, and it increases memory, powers of concentration and problem solving abilities,” said Svehaug. “It helps them to think better and in an efficient way, even with some adrenaline in their system.”
Through the Success program, PS 207 teacher Alice Corbett worked with Svehaug and his son, Andrew, a former US Scholastic Champion, to learn the art of teaching chess, the rules of tournament chess, and how to the play the game under the pressure of time.
Then, under Corbett’s tutelage, the students practiced their chess and no less than 167 students qualified for the tournament by completing 100 tournament games before a May deadline.
“They’re held according to strict tournament rules,” Svehaug explained. “They’ve been learning and practicing tournament rules, and they did very well in regards to following them.”
By May 31, the final day of the tournament, the 75 students who made it to the championship rounds were so comfortable with the tournament rules that not a single contestant was disqualified.
“They were really good — there were no disqualifications,” said Svehaug. “I was there, I’ve judged state tournaments in Washington and Oregon, and these kids did a very good job.”
Reach reporter Colin Mixson at email@example.com or by calling (718) 260-4514.