Archive for Thursday, February 16, 2006

Keeping in check

Every Tuesday and Thursday morning the Eudora Middle School Chess Club meets for a game — or 20.

February 16, 2006

Drew Noble hunkered down in front of the chessboard. He had played the game all his life, but this time ---- at the Topeka Collegiate Chess tournament ---- it was different.

The Eudora Middle School eighth-grader had an opponent in front of him and a clock ticking second after second at his side.

John Hadl plucks a piece to play in his game against Hawley

John Hadl plucks a piece to play in his game against Hawley Montgomery.

"My first match my heart was pounding," Drew said. "I wasn't sure how I was going to attack or defend."

He pressed on and began a successful run in his first-ever tourney.

"It was a whole new world of feelings," Drew said.

It's a world of feelings students have been nurturing in Eudora for more than a decade.

Drew and about 20 other Eudora Middle School students form the latest edition of the Eudora Chess Club.

As part of the club, students sit hunched over thin chessboards twice a week in sponsor Dan Kuhlman's science classroom.

They also attend, and sometimes place in, tournaments.

"Chess is the great equalizer," Kuhlman said. "It's not how big or small you are, it's how much you're working at your game."

Kuhlman has sponsored the club since its inception.

"It's a very growing activity in schools now," Kuhlman said.

In his time, Kuhlman has seen students enter with varying degree experience.

For the most part students are new to the game, Kuhlman said.

"Most of them learned here," Kuhlman said.

Newness to the game aside, chess benefits the students in two main ways Kuhlman said.

First, the game gives students a chance to compete in an activity other than sports, Kuhlman said.

"The thing that excites me the most is the opportunity to get the kids involved and competing in something," Kuhlman said.

In addition to providing kids a competitive outlet, chess teaches kids vital problem solving skills, Kuhlman said.

For instance, students could learn to avoid the potentially embarrassing three move checkmate ---- a standard tactic of club member Jeremy Stoway.

The maneuver involves a pawn, a bishop and the untimely demise of the opponent's queen, Jeremy, a sixth-grader at Eudora Middle School said.

"Most of the time people see what I'm trying to do and block it," 'Jeremy said.

Other players enjoy different benefits by taking part in the club.

"I like talking to people and making friends and stuff," eighth-grader John Hadl said.

Seventh--grader Hawley Montgomery said although he hates losing pieces, the club does teach him.

"You've got to overcome obstacles," Hawley said.

Sometimes it even teaches kids about themselves.

"I played the top-ranked kid in the tournament and I almost held him to a stalemate," Drew said.

By the end of the Topeka Collegiate tournament, Drew took seventh place. Hawley was sixth and John finished in 11th.

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