May 9, 2009 — Chess is a game that's often compared to war, but for the students taking part Saturday in the second annual Ricardo Richards Elementary School Spring Chess Tournament, "war" wasn't the primary goal.
After one of her games ended in a stalemate, Savannah Gadd was listening to an adult explain how she might have won if she'd been more aggressive. She gave the adult a puzzled look.
"But we were having fun," she said.
For most of the youngsters that was plenty.
The tournament brought together 30 students, from age 5 to 12, from six different schools. The students played, for the most part, by international tournament rules. Not just "touch-move," by which the first piece you touch is the piece you have to move, but with time clocks (which must be turned off with the same hand you used to move your piece) and more.
"When they get to the big tournaments they're going to have to know those rules, so they might as well start now," said Margaret Murphy, president of the U.S.V.I. Chess Federation, who helped run the tournament Saturday.
The Richards school has had a successful chess program since the mid-1980s. Over the years chess has taken students from the school to Greece, Trinidad and Puerto Rico, among other places.
Renee Blakey, the speech therapist at Richards, has been in charge of the chess program since 1994. According to Blakey, some countries make chess a regular part of the school curriculum. In the Virgin Islands, it takes extra effort to keep a program going, but it's worth the effort. Chess is proven to help students with math, problem-solving, spatial analysis, critical thinking and more, she said.
Chess is an easy game to learn, but a hard game to play well, and that's what makes it so fun, according to the students at Saturday's tournament.
"I like that you have to think before you move," said Regine Acosta, a Ricardo Richards 12-year-old who has been playing for two years. "You have to work."
Tafari Maynard, a 12-year-old from Manor School, said he enjoys the satisfaction of mastering something hard.
"I like the satisfaction of knowing you have the skill," he said.
Schools competing this year were: Richards, Claude O. Markoe Elementary, Rataan Montessori, Manor School, Country Day School and St. Croix Montessori.
The winners in each age group and their schools were:
— 11-12 year olds, 1st place, Tafari Maynard, Manor School; 2nd, Jean Devera, Country Day; 3rd, Regine Acosta, Ricardo Richards.
— 9-10 year olds: 1st, Hazel Acosta, Ricardo Richards; 2nd, Rakishman Guzman, Ricardo Richards; 3rd, Max Baur, Manor.
— 7-8 year olds: 1st, Kareem Sealey, Ricardo Richards; 2nd, Devonte Christopher, Ricardo Richards.
— 5-6 year olds: 1st, Taj Bates, Ricardo Richards; 2nd, Darian Christopher, Ricardo Richards.
Murphy said in the past the chess federation has held a summer program for students, but hasn't got the funding this year. She is looking for a corporation or community organization to sponsor the program this summer for about $3,000. Potential sponsors can contact Murphy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Murphy is organizing a chess tournament for students from 9 years old through high school Saturday, May 16, at Manor School as part of the school's Harlem Renaissance Festival. For more information, e-mail Murphy at the above address.
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