Students learning rules, strategy of playing chess

By Charlie Smith
Staff Writer
Monday, February 9, 2009 11:36 AM CST

Words like “diagonal,” “rook” and “trade-off” are entering the vocabularies of second- and third-graders at Claudine Brown Elementary as they learn the rules and strategy of chess.

“Chess is a gentleman’s game, so we don’t say ‘kill.’ We say ‘capture,’” Principal Ezzard Beane told 18 students at practice Thursday.

Beane’s father taught him the game when he was young, and he played in tournaments in middle school.

It’s his first time teaching the game, though. He likes academic competitions such as math and science teams and wanted something that third-graders — which is as high as Claudine Brown goes — could do.

They started in December with the basics of setting up the board, how the pieces move and evaluating whether it’s worth the trade when taking pieces.

“We spoke about (how) you don’t belittle your opponent. You show them courtesy,” Beane said.

Students use a computer program that shows all the possible moves for a piece when players click on it. They also play each other at weekly practices.

Teacher Anthony Gary helps coach the team, and Beane encourages anyone who knows how to play and would like to work with the kids to contact the school.

The program is part of a general goal to expose students to new things. In the same vein, Claudine Brown will start golf lessons in the spring as part of the First Tee program.

Beane said the game helps with concentration and strategic thinking.

Chess can also help students perform where it matters most, at least for their schools: on standardized tests. A 1997 Texas study showed that regular, non-honors elementary students who played in the school chess club showed twice the improvement on state achievement tests in reading and math as non-players.

Here is the full article.

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