The Wahkiakum County Eagle - Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

Middle school chess: The rest of the story

Public invited to play games on Saturday


August 24, 2017

Diana Zimmerman

Middle school students in Cathlamet have taken a liking to chess. The public is invited to play some games this Saturday.

(Editor: Because of an editing error, a large portion of a story about middle school chess activities was left out of last week's edition. Here's the finish.)

Middle school chess players in Cathlamet are inviting players of all ages to take them on this Saturday.

And they're looking for chess players who may want to mentor the the young players.

Science teacher and club advisor Joel McEntire wants to start this school year off with a bang, so he is inviting community members to join him and the Chess Club at the J.A. Wendt Multipurpose Room this Saturday at 6 p.m. for refreshments and games.

"I hope people from the community will come," he said, "people that know the game, to come and sit down and play with middle schoolers and teach them a trick. We're looking for wisdom, help, financial backing, moral support. Anything the community can give our club. Not everyone is cut out for sports. This is another avenue to be part of a team, and be able to show improvement and take pride in your victories. It's a hard thing to defeat another human across the table that wants to defeat you. Its as tough as any other sport, but you get a lot less bruises, and a lot less injuries."

And as he likes to point out, you can always get better at chess, regardless of your age.

The club members taught their younger schoolmates the game too. According to McEntire, they took the boards and pieces down to the kindergarten class and taught them the names of the pieces and their moves last year.

"They used the pieces to tell a story about trapping the king," McEntire said.

They plan to visit other classrooms this year and he hopes that eventually students in every grade will be playing the game.

McEntire learned the game when he was young. He played a little, but it wasn't until a few years ago that he began to wonder who was the best player in the world. Could he beat him? he wondered. How do you know if someone is a good chess player?

He found a site online and started playing. He got a rating.

In his mind, the rating was the equivalent of a pee wee level football player. He's been playing since then, and he imagines he has improved to a second string player on a high school football team.

"It's a really tough game," McEntire said. "The toughness intrigued me. You can play your whole life and never play the same game twice."

His rating may now be the equivalent of second string high school football, but some of the middle school students are beating him just a few months after taking up the game.

"I think there is a resurgence of chess, and I'm glad we're a part of it," McEntire said. "The thing that is great about chess, is that the game is not preferential to kids who get straight A's. There were kids who don't turn in their homework or struggle with math or language arts, but boy they could really dominate on the board. You think, if it's an intellectual game, and kids are struggling academically, how is it that they are able to reconcile that? I don't know, but it was a joy to see kids that struggle in school be really great on the board, or troublemakers that were gentlemen on the board. Historically we haven't had girls in chess clubs, but they came in and kicked butt. It's equal opportunity. It's not anything but how you play the game."

Again, community members are welcome to join the Chess Club at the Multipurpose Room in J.A. Wendt Elementary School on August 26 at 6 p.m. for games and refreshments.


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