Hoose chess club 3rd in national tournament
By Michele Steinbacher

NORMAL — In many ways, Colene Hoose Elementary School first-graders are just starting out in life, but some them already have managed to make some impressive moves.

The Hoose kindergarten-and-first-grade chess team took third place last week in the 2008 National Burt Lerner Elementary K-6 Championship in Pittsburgh, Pa.

They returned home with an impressively tall gold-and-blue trophy.

“Some of the players on our team are shorter than that,” said team member Thomas Moh, 6, of Bloomington.

The third-place national title is Hoose Chess Club’s best finish in its 11-year history.And club organizers think it could be the best finish of any area team at the national level. In Pittsburgh, the Hoose first-graders beat about 50 other K-1 division teams, said Paul Parent of Normal, father of Cassie Parent, 7. The tournament usually is dominated by teams from New York and Texas, he said.

“We caught a lot of people off guard,” he said of the third-place showing.

The three-day event brought more than 2,000 grade-schoolers from 48 states. They competed in nine divisions, said Parent. Each player played seven opponents over the three-day period.

Seven-year-old Ethan Varner, who is on the K-1 team, said the national event was no ordinary tournament.

“It was in a big city, for one thing,” he said. And, it had a lot of long matches, he added.

Thomas recalled one match in which he played nearly two hours.

“When I was finished, I thought it was like 20 minutes, until they told me,” said Thomas.

Ethan, of Bloomington, said he’s been playing chess about two years. That seems the case for most of the first-graders on the team.

Cassie Parent said she learned the pieces when she was just 3.

“But I didn’t really get serious about the game until I was 6,” she added.

Julia Herrman, 6, of Bloomington, says one of her favorite parts of national event was meeting a woman who had reached the rank of chess grandmaster. In a field dominated by boys and men, Julia thought it was neat to find a woman so successful.

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