Like a lot of fourth-grade boys, Karson Martin of Fremont enjoys playing baseball and football.
Karson, though, also enjoys competing in a different type of contest.
And he’s not alone.
Karson was one of nearly 90 youngsters who gathered at Midland University’s Event Center on Saturday for the second-annual Fremont ChessFest.
“I just like competing and having fun,” said Karson, a member of the chess club at Howard Elementary. “It still gives you the competition, but with your mind.”
Will Mitchell, one of the event’s organizers, said 89 children competed on Saturday, up from 55 at last year’s ChessFest.
“My instincts would tell me that they are getting the word out to their friends that this is a tournament to participate in,” Mitchell said. “It’s something that feels like it’s a special event and it’s their special day.”
Along with the chess, participants and their families had the chance to play on a giant chess board in the Event Center lobby. There also was face painting and concessions.
Another unique aspect of ChessFest was the fact that parents were able to watch their children compete through the lobby window or walkways surrounding the gym floor.
Fremonter Mindy Coover used that opportunity to watch her 8-year-old daughter, Moriah, compete.
“She’s a very smart girl, and if she keeps at it the tenacity of it is going to take her far in school,” Coover said. “It teaches them the critical thinking part because there’s so many different moves for each chess piece.”
Lisa Mendlik served as a judge Saturday for seventh- and eighth-graders and was impressed by the large turnout and the skill level of the players.
Mendlik, who leads a chess club at Archbishop Bergan Catholic Elementary, also liked the fact that the tournament gave the players a chance to see new faces.
“That’s the fun part is that they get to meet kids from other schools in town plus out-of-town kids,” Mendlik said. “That’s the neat thing is they get to play other people. Chess club gets them started and then this branches out from that.”
Mitchell is hopeful that events like ChessFest will prompt more schools to offer chess clubs. Other chess events have been held throughout the school year and Mitchell said there will be summer chess opportunities on Sundays starting May 20 at Keene Memorial Library.
“The problem isn’t finding enthusiasm among kids; the struggle is always to find adults who are able to sponsor a group,” Mitchell said. “If you have one adult in a school who will have a chess club, you’ll have easily 20 kids immediately.”
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