By Elle Moxley
Posted Feb 12, 2011 @ 12:00 AM
Last update Feb 12, 2011 @ 12:02 AM
Independence, MO — What’s it like to teach a kindergartener to play chess?
“It’s very slow,” said Robbie Martini, who works with kids at Fairmount Elementary before and after school. “They pretend the pieces are not what they are and, you know, hit them together and stuff.”
But every week, Martini puts rooks, bishops and chess boards in the hands of elementary school students as part of LINC’s “Chess for Life” program. Martini is one of four LINC chess coaches who make their rounds to 15 area schools to teach kids the game. Two Independence schools – Fairmount and Blue Hills Elementary in the Fort Osage School District – are part of the program.
How much the kids are able to learn is amazing, said coordinator Dale Lombard, who learned to play chess as a kid from his uncle.
“But the method that we use now is the way I wish I had been taught to play. It’s a very structured method, one step at a time, and we test kids with each step,” Lombard said.
A big part of learning to play chess is understanding how the different pieces move. Kids in the program earn stickers for each piece they learn to play, as well as for wins against other players and computer challengers.
“It’s fascinating. People don’t think kids so young can compete, but with practice, a lot of them are able to,” Martini said.
Besides teaching chess in schools, LINC organizes seven chess tournaments a year, five for kids and two for adults. Last year was the first for the Independence tournament.
“I thought we were going to have a nice little neighborhood tournament, but then 71 kids showed up,” Lombard said. “We had to find a bigger location.”
That’s why the tournament moved this year from the Trails West branch of the Kansas City Public Library to the Fairmount Community Center, 217 S. Cedar Ave. Registration begins at 10 a.m. Saturday.
More than 90 kids have already registered, Lombard said, but there will be some space for walk-ins. All players must arrive by 11 a.m. Everyone will play in every round, and the top five participants will receive trophies.
Full article here.