Who said chess wasn’t popular? Banks Elementary’s new after-school club has a waiting list

By Kelsey O’Halloran
on December 17, 2014 at 8:15 AM, updated December 17, 2014 at 1:26 PM

As Jacob munches on Goldfish crackers, his brown eyes trace the checkerboard battlefield.

The Banks Elementary School third-grader had never played chess before October, when first-grade teacher Bobby Tabb launched an after-school chess club that drew more than 40 kids to its first meeting.

The club’s attendance has held steady since then, and many kids’ interest in the complex board game has only grown.

“The big thing here is being able to teach them a game they can play for the rest of their lives,” Tabb said. “Having to think ahead about more than just one move… is such a good life skill.”

Fourth-grader Haley Calmettes said she tries to guess what’s going to happen first when playing chess by analyzing the different strategies her opponents use.

“It’s really just fun interacting with different people — seeing their strategy and using it,” Haley said.

Tabb started playing chess against his two brothers in middle school and went on to be first board — essentially the captain and best player — on his high school chess team at Jefferson High School in West Virginia. The team won two state championships during his high school career.

Tabb said his high school chess coach was “a big influence in my life, and we’re still close today.”

Tabb has long wanted to start a chess club of his own — he taught his son, Chase, to play when he was three years old. When Chase transferred to Banks Elementary from Fern Hill for first grade this year, Tabb decided that they could spend time together after school at chess club.

He sent sign-up information home to parents, expecting to have, maybe, 20 students interested in the game.

Instead, 42 students brought back signed forms, and 16 were placed on a waiting list after turning in forms late. Out of the school’s roughly 550 students, more than 10 percent had shown an interest in playing chess.

While three students have dropped out since the first meeting in October, Tabb said he’s been surprised by the “sheer number” of kids who arrive every Thursday, and pleased by their positive behavior and lack of disciplinary issues.

“I think all the kids wanted to be here,” he said. The club provides an after-school activity for students who may not play sports.

The task of teaching a crowd of kids how to play chess has been fairly easy, Tabb said. He started them out playing with only pawns and slowly added in pieces, teaching them each one as they went.

Full article here.

Chess Daily News from Susan Polgar
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