By Jack Barnwell
Jan. 8, 2013 2:30 p.m.
Ridgecrest Daily Independent - Ridgecrest, CA
In a game of chess, there is no clear loser when it comes to learning the game.
That was the message retired biology teacher and Sierra Sands counselor Dwight Morgan spoke highlighted when he spoke about the Chess for Kids program at an Ridgecrest Exchange Club Meeting on Thursday.
Morgan received a $100 donation from the Exchange Club for the funding of future chess tournaments.
Morgan, a life long chess enthusiast said that chess has helped children better in academics as well as in other aspects.
Those aspects include problem solving skills, creativity, math, science, reading scores, overall academic achievement and verbal learning.
"Most people are surprised about the verbal learning," Morgan said. "That's because chess is treated as a foreign language."
Chess was something he utilized as a counseling method, and which he based his thesis on for his master's degree in School Counseling.
Morgan has been involved with the Chess for Kids Program tournaments that are prevalent in Ridgecrest and Inyokern areas since 1985. He said he had presided over 150 tournaments in that span, with the exception of two years in the 90s' when he was earning his Master's degree.
He even taught two semesters of chess while he was a biology instructor at Burroughs High School during the 1996-1997 academic year.
"It was a terminally successful program," he said.
According to Morgan, some of the U.S. chess champions have roots in Ridgecrest.
Those include Asuka and Hikaru Nakamura, who hold numerous titles throughout their careers, and Gia Peterson, who now resides in Palmdale.
"Gia won the World Chess Open in Chicago and she has won a four-year scholarship. Peterson was 8 years old when she won the Oct. 2011 tournament.
Morgan recalled one visit that Asuka Nakamura paid to one of his chess club meetings.
"Asuka Nakamura came to my lunch time chess club when he was in second grade in 1993 and played blitz chess," Morgan said in an e-mail Friday.
Morgan said that blitz chess required players to make all their moves in five minutes.
"Asuka would come into my class room and would just demolish these high school students," Morgan said. "He never lost a game to the high school students. He is now a National Master, a 13-time national chess champion and eight-time member of the All-America Chess Team."
He said the good thing about the tournaments hosted in Ridgecrest was the support it received from the community.
"I cannot speak strongly enough about how the great the community has been," he said.
The tournaments are free for all children to compete in, and typically hold nine tournaments a year.
"Every kid can play and every kid gets a prize," he said.
The greatest challenge the Chess For Kids group faces is largely a financial one. He said most of the chess tournaments are funded largely on donations, while Sierra Sands Unified School District provides locations for the chess tournaments at Gateway Elementary School. He said awards for the students average out at $5 per award.
Overall, however, he said that community support and interest in the program has continued to help it succeed.
"Chess does not discriminate because it is an even playing field," Morgan said. "That is what makes it so interesting."