2,100 chess players get a move on in tournament
By Daveen Rae Kurutz
Saturday, May 10, 2008

After four years of being a “chess mom,” Siao Mei Shick is accustomed to the concentration involved when her son Tyler plays.

A student at Providence Heights Alpha School in Ross, the fifth-grader has competed in local and state competitions with his classmates.

But Shick of McCandless never realized the intensity of a national competition, where moving a pawn, rook or bishop to the wrong square could upset the fragile balance of a match.

“You see cheering and you see crying,” Shick said. “You’ve got both the happiness of victory and the agony of defeat — some of these kids really take it to heart.”

With bragging rights on the line, more than 2,100 young chess players filled the David L. Lawrence Convention Center for the 2008 Burt Lerner National Elementary Championship. The three-day tournament began Friday and drew students in kindergarten through sixth grade from 43 states, including Hawaii, to vie for top honors in nine divisions.

Students play seven games in each division against players of similar skill levels, said Jerry Nash, scholastic director of the United States Chess Federation, which holds the annual competition. This year’s tournament drew a larger crowd than in 2007, which was held in Nashville.

“Chess is huge for students of all ages, especially the younger ones,” Nash said. “It helps improve and teach math skills, critical thinking skills and life skills.”

Nash said the elementary tournament draws the most of the federation’s three spring tournaments, which are divided by age.

“Part of the fascination of the game is that in the world of the 64 squares, they are in control,” Nash said of the youngsters. “There aren’t many other places in their lives that can be said. If I’m a first-grader, I can conceivably — and often do — beat a fifth-grader. Age, gender, size, those really are irrelevant when it comes down to playing a game like that.”

Source: http://www.pittsburghlive.com/

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