Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Chess boom in NW Indiana
21 NWI schools checkmate their way to state chess tourney
HAMMOND | Northwest Indiana schools will be sending more than 35 teams of young chess players to next month's state tournament.
Among those are Renaissance Academy of LaPorte, which will field seven teams in all age groups.
"We start off the year teaching everyone to play chess," said Victoria McHugh, assistant director of Renaissance.
"We get kids closest in age to teach each other. It's a Montessori school, so they all have individual work plans, and when they have finished those, they have free time and chess is pretty popular around here," McHugh said.
Renaissance finished first, St. Paul's Catholic School of Valparaiso was second and Eads Elementary School of Munster was third for the most team victories in the Third Grade and Under Division.
Elliott Elementary School of Munster, Gavit Middle School in Hammond and Eads Elementary of Munster were first, second and third in the Sixth Grade and Under Division.
Wilbur Wright Middle School of Munster and Scott and Gavit middle schools of Hammond were the top three finishers in the Eighth Grade and Under Division.
Munster school officials said Sheri Engstrom coached both the Elliott and Wilbur Wright teams.
"Our students meet at least once a week to practice with their peers," Engstrom said. "We have a parent who is a chess master who helps our kids, because once they reach a certain potential, it's hard to find good competition for them.
"They do a lot of online play with people their own level on their own on chess.com and other sites. My expert players will teach my novice and intermediate players. When you think of chess, you think of Munster and they want to continue Munster's success," Engstrom said.
Some 21 schools in Lake, Porter and LaPorte County won enough games in last weekend's regional competition at Morton High School in Hammond to advance to Indiana's 45th annual Scholastic Team Chess Tournament state finals March 22 in Terre Haute, said Cindy Murphy, sponsor of the city's chess program.
They include Discovery Charter School of Chesterton; St. Mary Catholic Community School of Crown Point; Edison, Eggers, Harding, Hess, Jefferson, Lafayette, Morton, O'Bannon, St. Casimir Catholic elementary schools and Gavit, St. John Bosco and Scott middle schools of Hammond; Renaissance Academy of LaPorte; Eads and Elliott elementary schools and St. Thomas More and Wilbur Wright middle schools of Munster; and St. Paul's Catholic School of Valparaiso.
Under tournament rules, four students from one school simultaneously play games with four from a competing school in the course of an hour. A total of 500 students took part in last weekend's competition at the Hammond Regional, the largest of five across Indiana.