Pasadena: Bipartisanship is a no-brainer when it comes to chess
Posted: Friday, December 20, 2013 2:00 am
By KELLEY LEMONS Correspondent

State Sen. Bryan Simonaire is crossing the aisle in the name of the king and the queen. And the rook, knight, bishop and pawns.

“Parents are constantly looking for additional ways to simulate their children’s educational interest. They are finding that the complexity and intrigue of chess is creating a love for learning in ways that sometimes classrooms cannot produce,” Simonaire said.

The District 31 Republican organized a chess match of legislators against high school students that was held Dec. 4 at Northeast High School.

Simonaire started a chess challenge at Sunset Elementary School six years ago where he plays up to 12 students simultaneously. Last year, he expanded to George Fox Middle School in Pasadena where he played 23 students simultaneously. He remains undefeated, but with his expansion into high schools, that status may be in jeopardy.

The senator does play his own peers — he helped organize an annual chess challenge between the Maryland Senate and House of Delegates. The Senate has won every year of its four-year history.

Through the legislative challenge, Simonaire approached Democrats Sen. Jamie Raskin of Montgomery County and Ulysses Currie of Prince George’s County and asked them to join him in promoting the educational benefits of chess throughout the state. The two share Simonaire’s passion for the game — Currie has submitted legislation to allow chess to be taught in the school system as an elective course, and Raskin testified with Simonaire in favor, co-sponsoring the legislation.

“Chess is exercise for your mind, and kids need it just as much as soccer or gym class. I’m excited to join my friend Sen. Simonaire, on promoting chess through the curriculum of our schools,” Raskin said in a prepared statement.

The first year of the high school challenges will see matches in each of the senators’ districts for a total of three matches against three students. The Northeast challenge was first, pitting seniors Bryce Anderson and Nicole Hedgecoth and sophomore Daniel Harvey against the senators. While Raskin and Simonaire defeated Anderson and Hedgecoth, Harvey defeated Currie.

“The research is in — learning to play chess at an early age has a positive impact on the students reading and math scores. Students learn patience, planning and higher level thinking skills, which translate in better academic achievement and behavior,” Currie said in a prepared statement.

“Countries around the world are incorporating chess in the classroom with great results. I hope that these tournaments will highlight the benefits and joy that can come from learning and playing this age-old game.”

“A big thank you goes out to Northeast High School and Principal (Jason T.) Williams for their help in this event,” Simonaire said.

The next match will be in Prince George’s County on Jan. 16, with the final match in Montgomery County at a date to be determined.

The students all received a senate citation from their local senator and an invitation for them and their families to have a special behind-the-scenes tour during the upcoming General Assembly session and to be publicly recognized from the Senate floor.


Chess Daily News from Susan Polgar
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