POINT PLEASANT — They have only been in existence for two years and now they are the state champions.
“They” are members of the Point Pleasant Intermediate School Checkmate Scholastic Chess Club. Under the leadership of Brian Adams, the team won the 2017 West Virginia State Scholastic Chess Championships earlier this month in the K-5 division. The tourney was held at the West Virginia State University in Institute.
Members of the winning team included Nathan Deem, Heath Plants, Ben Deem, Alex Shrader, and Emily Bale. Ben Deem, a fourth grader, also made the All-State team while at the tournament. And while not a member of the winning team, Alexandria Adams fared well at the tourney as an individual competitor in the middle school K-8 division.
Brian Adams said the team began last year when his daughter, Alexandria, wanted him to start a children’s chess club. She had started playing about three years ago and knew her father, an avid player, had begun the Mid-Ohio Valley Chess Club in Parkersburg for adults.
Adams said he approached the then-principal of Point Pleasant Intermediate, who suggested he start the club through the PATCH after-school program. Now once a week, anywhere from five to 30 students can be found after school in the cafeteria playing, and learning new chess moves.
From the PATCH program, the team was formed that goes to both league and state tournaments. Last year, the inaugural tournament team placed as the first runner-up in the state competition.
Adams said chess develops both critical thinking and problem solving. The West Virginia Scholastic Chess Association says the game is used as an educational tool to motivate children to learn, to teach them to think, and to show them they can succeed in intellectual pursuits. In learning chess, children develop self-confidence, a willingness to work hard, and the higher-order thinking skills that lead to academic achievement, according to the association.
But team member Emily Bale describes playing chess as “calming.”
“It really works out your brain,” she said. “It isn’t like softball or anything, but it’s still a workout.”
Adams said he is proud of the team’s accomplishments in such a short time. Adding the team is made up of a “great group of kids,” Adams said he is looking ahead to the future.
“I think we will have a big, strong program when we get to the high school level,” Adams concluded. “I’m looking forward to a bright future.”
Mindy Kearns is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.