Middletown students know how to be movers in chess

By Chris Otts
The Courier-Journal
Louisville, Kentucky

Wes Leonard, a third-grader at Middletown Elementary, has SpongeBob SquarePants and Star Wars games for his PlayStation 2 at home. But lately, his favorite PlayStation game is an unlikely choice — chess.

Wes, a member of his school’s chess team since kindergarten, says he can’t get enough of playing the game, whether it’s against his brother or the computer, to see all the different scenarios that are possible based on moves he makes.

Wes, of Plainview, is one of the best players on the Middletown team, which has come a long way since starting seven years ago, said Chip Eskridge of Owl Creek, the main coach.

Last weekend the team joined other eastern Jefferson County schools, including Hite and Dunn elementaries and Kentucky Country Day, in competing at the state championship at Crosby Middle School. Middletown won the under-third grade class and placed second in the under-fifth grade group.

Middletown’s team rivals Dunn as the most consistently strong elementary group in Jefferson County, said Rick Kincaid, a chess enthusiast and an organizer of the nonprofit Louisville Chess Center.

“They have a good program,” Kincaid said. “They have a lot of strong parental leadership.”

Carl Owen, Wes’ dad, attributes the growth of the program mostly to Eskridge, who continues to lead the team through two to three weekly practices during the September to February season, even though his daughter, Alex, is now an eighth-grader at Crosby.

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