War on a board

Published 4:08 pm Monday, December 7, 2009

The game of chess is a lot of things. It’s regal, it’s challenging, it’s historic.

Its strategy, whatever path that takes a player, requires a forethought that will take you past just one move, or even two and three moves.

It’s war on a board.

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For Austin Catholic Area Elementary students, it’s an hour after school on Wednesdays as part of the chess club.

Players meet, they play each other and they plan for their next game, which reveals an interesting aspect of this club. It’s not just a game, but almost a class designed to teach these kids what could be a very complicated game.

“It makes you think,” fifth-grader Joseph Kroymann said. “The best feeling of the game is saying checkmate.”

Volunteer Dick Titus supervises the class. He takes several ideas into the club to help them learn quicker, including a variation of the game called, “No Stress Chess.”

The game uses cards the players draw to help them better familiarize themselves with the game. Whatever piece is on the card is the piece the player has to move. If the piece is trapped, then the player loses a turn.

He also has the kids document what they do. Again, so they can see how better to play the game, and perhaps see what can be done different.

“I force them to write their moves down, keep their own tally,” Titus said. “They take tabs and then play the games over.”

How some of the kids got into the club, which is for fourth and fifth-graders, lends itself more to the curiosity of the game, or from siblings who played in years past. Sometimes the reason is simple.

“My sister said it was a lot of fun,” said fifth-grader Nate Erickson, who is in his first year of the club. “I wanted to learn so I could beat her.”

“I’ve seen the game before,” Tyler Tupy said. “I wanted to see what it was like. Now I know how to play, and I’ve gotten really good.”

Even with the techniques Titus uses to teach the kids, the game proves itself as a challenge, namely in the mastering the pieces and their individual moves.

“It’s difficult,” Erickson said. “Before I didn’t know the pieces and how they could move.”

Tupy added that if you make the wrong move, “you could loose the game.”

The club carries over to some of the homes as well. Kroymann tries to play his dad at least once a week. For him it’s a testament as to how well he’s doing.

“He usually beats me, but when I beat him, I know I’m playing well.”