Kid chess players show off their moves
Monday, May 12, 2008
By Anya Sostek, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Ben Hinthorne rode the escalator at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center all by himself this weekend, grinning when he spotted his mother on an upper floor.

“Winner,” blurted out the Seattle 9-year-old, smiling from under his baseball cap. “Winner winner, chicken dinner.”

Ben had just won his third chess game during the six-round National Bert Lerner Elementary Championship, an annual event crowning the best young chess players in the country.

The competition this past weekend brought 2,200 chess players — some as young as 4 — to Pittsburgh from nearly every corner of the United States.

The competition was open to any child willing to come to Pittsburgh and pay a registration fee (between $40 and $80, depending on the time of registration).

And come they did. The convention center and surrounding streets teemed with children over the weekend, many wearing their team T-shirts and carrying special bags to hold chess pieces.

Chess popularity has been on the upswing recently, said chief tournament director Bill Snead, fueled by research showing chess can improve academic performance, cognitive reasoning, spatial thinking and a host of other indicators that are appealing to parents and schools.

“Does it make them better thinkers?” asked Mr. Snead. “The answer is yes.”

…”Like piano, it helps discipline the mind,” said Mr. Peterson. “I use d to beat him all the time. Now I only win a third of the time.”

Ryan Polk, of Indianapolis, said chess has helped build confidence in his sons, 8-year-old Mitchell and 9-year-old Patrick.

“We just started playing as another game, like Monopoly, just playing for fun,” he said. “We entered a tournament for fun, my older son liked it, and we kept going.”

His sons practice four or five hours a week, he said, which is “four or five hours that they’re not watching television or playing video games.”

Patrick, a third-grader, only has to think for a second when asked whether he prefers chess or his other competitive activity, football.

“Chess,” he said. “I like how you can learn the strategies. Your brain can have more thinking opportunities.”

Here is the full article.

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