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Published: Thursday, 2/6/2014 - Updated: 8 months ago

Chess students sharpen skills

Enthusiasm high at Sylvania club

BY NATALIETRUSSO CAFARELLO
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Evan Metz, 8, reaches across his board to make a move during the Central Trail Elementary chess club practice in the school library. The teams’ first match is March 7 against Ottawa Hills Elementary. School. Evan Metz, 8, reaches across his board to make a move during the Central Trail Elementary chess club practice in the school library. The teams’ first match is March 7 against Ottawa Hills Elementary. School.
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Age, class, color, or gender do not hold sway in the game of chess.

Central Trail Elementary School students learned that focus is the key trait to master the strategy board game.

Sitting two-by-two, with a checkered cloth in front of them, the students in grades 1 to 5 listened to their coach, Jim Van Vorhis, as he taught them winning moves at the first Central Trail Chess Club after school this week.

“How do you tell a really great chess player by looking at him? Can you?” Mr. Van Vorhis posed the questions to the more than 25 students from the Sylvania elementary school.

PHOTO GALLERY: Click here to view photos of the chess club.

The students learned that appearances would never reveal a master chess player, as one advanced player sat among them and no one could guess who he was.

But after a couple of moves in the game, the true chess player revealed himself.

Second grader Kevin Chou, 7, admitted that he had been playing with his father before signing up for the chess club.

“I like board games,” he said. And like everyone who starts a new activity, he said he wasn’t good at first.

Coach Jim Van Vorhis teaches Zoe Kyle, 9, some of the finer points of the game of chess. Coach Jim Van Vorhis teaches Zoe Kyle, 9, some of the finer points of the game of chess.
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His opponent, second-grader Evan Yang, 7, was frustrated.

“I don’t know how to beat him,” he exclaimed.

Players of various levels are studying under Mr. Van Vorhis. As the founder of Great Lakes Chess, he is teaching 300 children in 23 schools in the Toledo area the art of the game. At the Central Trail chess club, the students are learning moves to outsmart their opponents.

The four-move checkmate was one of the first moves learned. “The fun move,” he said.

It is going to help the team win at its first match scheduled against Ottawa Hills Elementary School at 4:30 p.m. March 7. Central Trail is on Mitchaw Road in Sylvania Township.

Central Trail Principal Angela Schaal was impressed with the turnout for the club.

“The students enjoyed it and spread the word to friends. So we opened another section on Wednesday nights,” she said. “It’s exciting that our kids want to do something like this.

“It’s a critical thinking game, and it’s great that our kids want to be critical thinkers,” Ms. Schaal said.

Besides focus, Mr. Van Vorhis said, the game teaches students to “think before you act,” and it teaches respect because players are not allowed to distract opponents. He also told students, you have to make mistakes before learning how to win.

A newcomer to the game, Sammy Golding, 9, said his curiosity about the game led him to join. And during the second class Monday he was having fun.

Contact Natalie Trusso Cafarello at: 419-206-0356, or ntrusso@theblade.com, or on Twitter @natalietrusso.



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