Whangaparaoa Primary students focus on chess

Whangaparaoa Primary students focus on chess

Check mates: 10-year-olds Kende Nagy, left, and Ike Stratton are going to compete in a national chess competition later this year.
Chess is taking off in a big way at Whangaparaoa School – a recent open day there attracted more than 50 students keen to learn from scratch, or improve their game.

At a recent chess tournament held in Silverdale, Whangaparaoa School players came first and third in the teams division, while 10-year-olds Ike Stratton and Kende Nagy took first and second places as individuals.

The top teams will take part in the North Auckland regionals in Term 3 and Ike and Kende head to Wellington in October to take part in a national championship, which could see them test their skills against teenage chess players.

Teacher Debbie Thompson started a chess club at the school in 2012 with just six boards. She has since accumulated 17 boards from local second hand stores and says these are often all in use on club days, with children waiting for a turn.

Some also practice by playing at home.

Debbie says the students’ skills are improving all the time and occasionally they beat her. “I usually have a game or two with students each week, either teaching, or challenging those who already play. Sometimes I have to really concentrate, and occasionally children beat me – they are so pleased when that happens,” she says.

The skills learned from chess include problem solving, strategising, perseverance and sportsmanship. The game also helps develop memory and concentration.

The recent open day and competition were organised by chess champion Paul Macdonald, owner of Chess Power.
He has made it his mission to bring the game to schools, and says students start playing as young as five years old.

“We are a physical country, focused on rugby and other sports and chess takes a back seat – it’s not in the curriculum for NZ schools. This year Chess Power has visited every primary school in Auckland and is getting a great response,” Paul says.

He says children like chess first and foremost because it’s fun. He says it’s a great leveller, with boys and girls on an equal footing and different age groups able to compete against each other.

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