Minnesotans are among the best K-12 chess players

Youngsters from Minnesota  are among the best U.S. chess K-12 players in various divisions, based on results at the U.S. Chess Federation national chess tournament held recently in Minneapolis. More than 1,300 students competed, including more than 300 Minnesotans from 100 schools.

Andrew Hanson, an 11th grader at Rosemount High School was first in the “unrated K-12” division, out of more than 100 competitors.

Hanson, 16, explained that he started playing chess when he was six. He began playing in tournaments about a year ago. His favorite thing about chess is, “There is no luck about it, the best player always wins….it is a real competition.” He had not expected to do well, as this was only his second “rated” tournament.

Hanson’s mother Michelle explained, “I don’t think most people realize how much work goes into becoming a good chess player. He has read numerous books, played countless games, and then reviewed each and every move in all of his games to find out what he could have done better.”

Hanson also thanked faculty and students at his school. Many have complimented him and his success made Rosemount High School’s daily newscast.

Eleven-year-old David Ma, a sixth grader at Edina’s Valley View Middle School, finished second in the “Unrated K-12” division. He’s been playing for one and one-half years. Ma was surprised by his high finish. He likes chess because it “exercises your mind.” He’s also learned to “keep calm if you start losing,” and that “hard work makes you a better player.” Ma’s father Andy, told me that he’s “very happy with our son’s progress.”

Shoshana Altman, 11, from Plymouth and a sixth grader at the Minneapolis Jewish Day School, took second among more than 200 in the “under 800” section, one step up from the “unrated” section.

She started playing chess when she was four. Many of her family members play. She told me that her grandfather started a chess organization and “someday I hope to run it.” For her, the best part of chess is “learning new strategies.” She also advises people “not to judge people you play by how old they are,” noting that one competitor looked at her as a game was beginning and told her opponent, “you’re playing the least intimidating person in the tournament.”

Brock Morris, a freshman at Sibley High School, was first in the “under 800” section. He also started playing chess at age four.  He really likes the way chess “compares to so many other things in life, like planning a strategy and needing to make adjustments.” He recalls losing to Altman in another tournament.

USCF Scholastic Tournaments are organized in sections where students of relatively similar rankings play against each other so there are opportunities for students at every level of ability

According to Robert McLellan of the U.S. Chess Federation, it is “the official, not-for-profit U.S. membership organization for chess players and chess supporters of all ages and strengths.”

Extensive research shows chess helps develop both academic and life skills http://main.uschess.org/content/view/7866/131/. Wise schools have a chess club, like many mentioned above.

Joe Nathan directs the Center for School Change at Macalester College.  He is not a great chess player.  Reactions to his columns are welcome and may be e-mailed to: jnathan@macalester.edu.

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