Point of view: Community met chess challenge

Homer students took part in a tournament last week

On behalf of the volunteers, I would like to acknowledge and thank everyone who participated in the local chess tournament last week, Wednesday, March 8.

The tournament was open to students from third through eighth grade. In total, there were 55 kids playing in four age groups: grades three through four; fifth; sixth; and seventh through eighth.

Students played peers at their near-grade level with official chess tournament rules that everyone followed. During each game, there were 10 minutes for each side that were measured with a chess clock. A student could not win if he ran out of time. Just try playing a timed chess and your brain will hurt.

Champions won medals for first, second and third place. Additionally we took advantage of international women’s day and awarded the best girl in each age group. Top winners for their categories are Mason Pennington, Evie Field, Grayson Oster, Josey Palm, Micah Bunker, Aviana Flyum and Vincent Black.

We are grateful to Principal Eric Waltenbaugh, and to teachers Marjorie Dunn, Brandon Young and Parley Estes, who took time from their busy schedule to make it happen — by teaching in school and by supervising last week.

All of our teachers and school staff are underpaid, overstressed and overworked. Yet they run chess programs at no cost to the borough that teach valuable skills. Research repeatedly concludes that students involved in chess had higher math and reading test scores and an increased interest in STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) for boys and girls.

For instance, a five-year study of seventh and eighth graders showed test scores improved 17% for students regularly engaged in chess classes, compared with only 4.5% for children participating in other forms of enrichment activities.

These teachers and all Homer principals have made chess a part of their school program with supplies donated from the Friends of the Library. We are grateful to the Friends of the Homer Public Library, who provided all of the materials necessary for the tournament.

We would certainly like to thank the parents who have been flooded with requests to play chess at home, and find that they are beaten by a 7-year old! I hear you parents tell me this with pride and with the satisfaction that the whole family will have to up their game.

Finally and most importantly, thank you to all of the students who accepted the challenge of a chess tournament. It was a big test, and you were awesome! A tournament has both tough rules and a punishing time system that demands full attention and a good endgame. Yet, 55 kids accepted the challenge with everyone playing with kindness, maturity and intelligence. It was just a lot of fun for everyone.

Andy Haas with Friends of the Homer Library