El Paso’s Henderson Middle chess team crowned kings of Texas
By Aaron Bracamontes
El Paso Times
Posted: 03/26/2013 12:00:00 AM MDT
Six students from Henderson Middle School showed flashes of brilliance this past weekend, capturing the 2013 Texas Scholastic Chess Tournament championship in McAllen, Texas.
The Henderson team, made up of seventh- and eighth-graders, placed every one of its players within the top 12 individually.
After three days of playing, Carlos Rios placed third, the highest on the team. Humberto Hernandez was fourth, Juan Ruiz was sixth, Miguel Gonzalez was seventh, Kevin Madriles was eighth and Jazzlyn De La Rosa was 12th.
Not only was it the team’s first state championship; it was their first state tournament.
Saul Ramirez, the students’ teacher and coach, started the chess club at Henderson only two years ago.
“I played chess myself growing up in South El Paso,” said Ramirez, who graduated from Bowie High School. “Throughout years of experience I figured out that chess helps a student to reach their dreams and with their education.”
Ramirez said at first his students were intimidated to go against about 15 of the best teams in the state and more than 80 of the best players.
But by the end of the tournament his players were at the advanced tables.
“It is very intimidating to walk into that room and see all those kids,” Ramirez said. “But I have confidence in our students. I knew we were going to place, but I never thought we were going to win.”
De La Rosa said she was excited to meet players from around the state, but admitted she was intimidated because she didn’t know how good they were.
“I was really nervous going into the first round because I wasn’t sure what we were going to face,” De La Rosa said.
Ruiz it was difficult to stay relaxed.
“The toughest thing about this competition was trying not to get nervous,” Ruiz said. “My secret was to try not to think about it too much. That way you don’t feel like you have the weight of the world.”
In the final round, four of the students had to face each other because they were all near the top of the leader board.
“I was kind of worried and nervous because I was going against my teammate,” said Rios, who played Hernandez. “And I know how good he is.”
Hernandez has played chess since he was in elementary school.
“When I was a kid, my mom taught me how to play and I just kept up with it,” Hernandez said. “She was very happy that we won, because I was worried I wouldn’t win.”
While Hernandez has played for years, other members of the team barely began to take gambits two years ago when the Henderson chess club was born.
“They catch on very quickly,” Ramirez said. Winning the tournament “was an amazing feeling. It brought back so many memories from when I used to play.”
All six students earned a trophy individually, along with the team championship trophy.
“The best part was probably when everyone started getting their trophies,” Gonzalez said. “We already knew we had gotten a lot of them, but it was great to see them.”
Ruiz, Rios and Hernandez will move on to high school next year, while Gonzalez, De La Rosa and Madriles already want to start planning for next year’s state competition.
“I was a bit nervous but excited at the same time because I got to see some of the best players outside of El Paso,” Madriles said. “I like chess because you get to think a lot. Of course I want to keep playing and come back.”
Ramirez added that the championship is not an endgame. It might just be the beginning.
“Now we have to start fundraising for next year,” he said.