Teen chess whiz makes all the right moves

Wednesday, May 3, 2006
By KIM JARVIS, Columbian staff writer

VANCOUVER HEIGHTS Melisa Cedeño has been playing chess since she was 4 years old. She’s also been a Girl Scout for the past 12 years and needed a project to earn her Gold Award.

So it only made sense to combine those two interests and plan the Queen’s Quest Girls’ Chess Tournament to promote chess playing among girls.

The tournament, which took place at the Jim Parsley Center on April 22, was open to girls in kindergarten through 12th grade. It attracted 31 participants from 13 elementary and middle schools and several who are homeschooled.

“My dad taught me when I was 4 years old, and I’ve been playing for my school team since first grade,” Cedeño said.

She is now a senior at River HomeLink in Camas and is planning to attend Gonzaga University in Spokane.

“As she got older, there were fewer and fewer girls at chess,” said Cedeño’s mom, Ann Cedeño. “It’s kind of regarded as a guy thing.”

To prepare for the tournament, Melisa Cedeño held a chess workshop in February to teach girls the basics, such as how to set up a board and the names of the pieces.

She organized a fundraiser in March at the Camas Burgerville, where she offered mini-lessons and raised money to help buy trophies for the tournament. More than 20 local businesses and individuals contributed.

In addition to the five rounds of chess at the tournament, Cedeño also planned to implement the Girl Scout tradition of “Swaps,” which according to the Girl Scout Web site means “Special Whatchamacallits Affectionately Pinned Somewhere.”

In this case, Cedeño set up a table that allowed the girls to create crafts that they could exchange and use as a keepsake of the tournament.

At the end of the day, each participant was given a gift bag, a medallion and a trophy.

Cedeño’s commitment to chess goes beyond local and regional tournaments. She also competed in female chess champion Susan Polgar’s first National Chess Championship for Girls in Corpus Christi, Texas, in January.

She came home with three trophies for third place in the Blitz competition (seven rounds of speed chess), fourth place in timed Puzzle Solving and ninth place in the main event for the ninth grade through age 21 category.

Cedeño also would like to attend the World Open Chess Championship for Girls in Las Vegas in June, which is sponsored by the Susan Polgar Foundation and the Las Vegas International Chess Festival.

Cedeño is looking for sponsors for the Nevada trip.

The rest of the story can be read here. Posted by Picasa

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