Smarter than a 3rd grader?

John S Keppy
Date: Dec 19 2008 2:44 PM

DOTHAN: “It’s all about and for the kids,” said Selma Street Elementary School Principle Charles Corbitt. What the “about” was, was Corbitt played a game of chess against the 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade chess champions. At stake was a pizza party and some bragging rights.

Corbitt admits that he is not at his best when playing chess, but for the sake of the kids, he was up to it. Besides, they are only elementary school students, right? Corbitt had to play against all three students at the same time but after all, he is the principal. So what could go wrong? A lot!

Within 5 moves, 9 year old third grade champ Peter Huynh looked the principal in the eyes, smiled, and said “Checkmate!” Corbitt congratulated and shook hands with Peter,. The games then continued, pitting Corbitt against 9 year old 4th grade champion Jared Stinson and 10 year old 5th grade champion Cheyenne Sapp.

A few moves later, Corbitt was once again shaking hands with another student and congratulating Jared Stinson for winning his game. This game was particularly brutal in that Jared had toppled almost all of Corbitt’s pieces while Corbitt only captured one pawn from Jared.

The carnage finally ended with a clean sweep by the students when Cheyenne Sapp won her game. Her game style was a little different from the other students. She savored her victory as she prolonged her game against the principal.

All of the Dothan Elementary Schools have a chess program. Joe Emery, retired from the Army, volunteers to coach chess on Fridays to the students. He organized a tournament that culminated when he played simultaneously against the top thirty players. It was from this tournament that the champs were selected to play against Corbitt.

One can clearly sense the devotion Principal Charles Corbitt has for all of his students. He has no regrets that he was beaten at chess today because it meant that his students had accomplished something exceptional. He spoke with pride about them and all of the really smart students he has that are not in the school’s chess program. Dothan is blessed to have an educator such as Charles Corbitt in the school system. The city is also blessed to have a dedicated volunteer such as Joseph Emery to mentor such an outstanding program.

And for the champs today? A pizza party is not a bad thing, but can you imagine the feelings and sense of pride they must have when the go home today and tell their parents “I beat the principal at chess today!”

Joe is asking that if there are any people that would like to volunteer some time as chess couches in some of the other schools to please contact him at

Special thanks to Joe for sending me this wonderful story.

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