Dothan elementary school teams match wits in chess tournament

By Elaine Brackin
Published: June 2, 2008

Kings. Queens. Knights. Castles (Rooks). Pawns. Students. Academics. Sports. The pieces may not seem to fit, but they do. Students in Dothan’s elementary schools are proving they fit as they work to master the game of chess.

Three of the city’s elementary school teams came together at Selma Street Elementary School recently to match wits in a team competition. The top eight players from Selma Street Elementary, Heard Elementary and Cloverdale Elementary were pitted against each other in a test of strategy, skill and determination. It was also the culmination of five months of study and practice. The program, with the aid of the Dothan Chess Club, was launched in January. It has proven beneficial for the students in the classroom.

“Research shows it helps in problem-solving,” said Kim Woodham, LinC instructor at Selma Street. “It has also helped them on standardized tests and in deductive reasoning.”

The students at Selma Street have been tutored in the game by Joe Emery, who also directed the city tournament. He believes the participants will continue to grow in the game that he has loved since his childhood.

“These kids (at the tournament) live to play chess,” said Emery, who serves as the Community Resource volunteer for Selma Street. “I come on Fridays to work with them. These kids are excited (about the game). They play at home on their computers. “When I started with them in January, few of them barely knew the rules. I played all of the kids when I started. We worked on how the pieces moved. Then we worked on strategy. Now, they are actually playing fairly good games. “They have advanced tremendously. They are learning the finer points of the game.”

Emery, a 28-year veteran of the U.S. Army, hopes his young charges develop his passion for the game of chess.

“I’ve loved chess for years,” Emery said. “I really enjoy the game. I love competing. Letting these kids experience that is really fulfilling. It’s something they can enjoy for a lifetime. “It’s a beautiful game, especially when you have all 16 pieces working together.”

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