The Salt Lake Tribune – Click here to read the article
West Valley City • Jaxson Bailey knows exactly what he loves about chess.
“You get to kill your friends without actually killing them in real life,” said the West Lake Junior High eighth-grader, moments after collecting the first-place trophy at the initial Community Education Partnership of West Valley City (CEP) Chess Tournament.
Krista LeFevre enjoys the game for different reasons.
“I like being able to think hard and work really hard at winning,” said the Farnsworth Elementary sixth-grader as she clutched her second-place trophy.
Whatever their reason for loving the game with 64 black and white squares, 122 students from across West Valley City met last week at West Lake Junior High to showcase their chess skills and inaugurate a tradition.
They played quick 15-minute-per-side games during the two-hour tournament, and the top two students from each grade level won trophies. Every kid also received a participation certificate and a wristband that reads: “College bound: the best move.”
“It’s heartwarming,” said West Valley City Mayor Mike Winder as he scanned the room and saw dozens of kids hunched over chess boards with furrowed brows. “These young people are our future. It’s great to see kids doing things that help to stretch their minds and learn and grow.”
CEP, a nonprofit dedicated to providing West Valley City children with educational opportunities, runs after-school programs in 15 schools and serves about 3,000 students. Participants take part in a number of academic and fun activities, including chess.
Margaret Peterson, CEP executive director, had the idea to start an annual chess tournament for after-school patrons.
“One thing we’ve found with our elementary kids is if they have behavior problems in school or they’re having problems at home, their interest is down and they don’t want to come to school,” Peterson said. “We’ve found that playing chess gets their self-esteem up, and they’re interested in coming to school and their behavior improves.”
CEP got help from the Salt Lake Community College Chess Club, which ran the tournament and provided trophies, prizes, chess sets and chess clocks.
SLCC Chess Club adviser Grant Hodson said he loves promoting the game to youngsters.
“It’s something you can play forever,” said Hodson, referring to himself as “an old geezer.” “You can’t play football until you’re 80, but you can play chess until then.”
He said another bonus is that chess teaches “sequential learning.”
“You have to look ahead, and say, ‘If I do this, this is the result,’ ” Hodson said. “That’s why you don’t find very many chess players who use drugs, for instance, because they know if they do, there’s a consequence.”
Several students said they plan to improve their skills by next year, in hope of bringing home some hardware of their own.