Checkmate: Chess Gaining Popularity in District 51 Schools
The pieces are falling into place for chess to make a big move here in School District 51
Posted: 4:46 PM Feb 7, 2011
Reporter: Tim Ciesco

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) – The pieces are falling into place for chess to make a big move here in School District 51.

Beyond the moves, the takes, and the thrill of a win —

“Some of the students when they get a checkmate, they’ll get up and dance and even chess trash talk,” said Kerry Lee, a teacher and chess club organizer at Bookcliff Middle School. “It’s pretty funny.”

— teachers like Lee and Damian Nash say chess is one of the best educational tools they’ve ever found.

“The chess board is a very easy way to teach higher learning skills,” said Nash, a teacher and chess club organizer at Gateway School.

“It teaches kids a lot of different things about thinking ahead, planning ahead, consequences for your actions,” said Lee. “There are a lot of life lessons in chess.”

For years, each has been sharing their of the game with students. But it wasn’t until recently, they say, that their clubs really started taking off.

“It’s very exciting to see it grow and it’s very exciting to be a part of it,’ said Nash.

Just this year, they began playing online chess matches with other schools in the district, state, and country.

“It’s really fun to play a good game and turn out winning,” said Ezra Mathieu, a student at Bookcliff Middle School and reigning District 51 chess champion.

Just this year, Nash entered into and won the Utah Closed State Championship.

“It feels great,” said Nash. “I got to bring home the big blue trophy and show it to all my kids.”

And just this year, multiple district schools are planning on sending students to the state chess tournament in Denver.

“It makes you feel really good about how good you are and how smart you can be,” said Mathieu.

Both teachers say say their kids are sharp.

“There are about six kids at the school who have wailed on me,” said Lee. “And they wail on me about half the time.”

And with a little more practice and a few more wins, they hope they can keep the chess train chugging along full speed ahead.

“It’s nice to see so much enthusiasm,” said Nash.

Nash says he’s working with the district to launch chess camps for Spring Break and during the summer.


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