Strategy and tactical play helped the E.L. Crossley chess team to again dominant its chess tournament last week.
The school has designated a room to the chess club with outstanding results.
Teacher and coach Rob Hughes says the school currently holds the highest number of ranked girls in Canada since a new division was added to the tournament.
In the chess room, players compete and practice moves before and after school.
“We’ll watch them play and have great tips for them to use but it’s always hard finding time when so many other things are going on at the school,” Hughes says. It’s difficult for students and teachers to assist those while competing “so it’s perfect for them to have their own room to practice.”
Grade 10 student Meaghan Good has benefited from the emphasis on improving players. She is ranked fifth in her age group across Canada.
“My sister started playing in Grade 6 after my dad taught her. I started playing so she would have an opponent and it slowly grew from there.”
Good says rankings don’t matter to her, she just loves to play.
“The addition of the chess room we’re learning new tactics that are used in tournaments like these.”
Hughes says such a high number of ranked players is astounding because chess has become a serious activity in Ontario.
In Toronto, players hire private chess coaches and train for hours each day. It is getting harder to compete against players outside Niagara, Hughes says.
South Lincoln chess coach Chris Hruska says the students enjoy getting the day off school but emerge from the tournament asking when the next competition will be.
They face conflicting schedules and lack of coaches which makes it harder to prepare for ranked tournaments.
Hruska says many of the coaches around Niagara are fill-ins to keep the club going. They are fans of the strategic game who teach the basics, but are
overwhelmed when competing against those who dedicate their lives to the board game.
Despite the challenges, Hruska sees a growing interest in chess.
While it’s not as glamorous as some sports at school, it’s one of the few students can continue to improve in after graduation.
“It’s one of the few club activities that you can continue to play the rest of your life and I think that’s why it brings out new students every year,” Hruska said.
“With that, you get such a mix of kids. You have some who are serious and you have others are here just because they enjoy the competition which makes for a great day.”
Chess may not be growing in popularity, but has continued to be passed on through families, much like in the Good household, he said.
“It really helps the kids with their problem solving as it allows them to recognize patterns. They were grateful of the support from the school to allow that to grow – creating better chess players and better students along the way.”