Students Dedicated to Chess

Students Dedicated to Chess

| 0 | Scholastics

To some, chess is a hobby. It's a leisurely game to be played between friends having a conversation. At Pierrepont School, it's a passion.

Students play it for fun after school and during lunch. On weekends, they compete against others at tournaments, both near and far.

The private school on Sylvan Road teaches children from elementary to high school age. In addition to the chess team activities, there is also a course that teaches how to play the tactical game and once a week, during lunch, there is a class of the history of chess.

Last month, the Pierrepont chess team traveled three-and-a-half hours for the 5th annual New England Scholastic Championship in Mt. Snow, Vt.

Many kids were driven by their parents, while others carpooled with their teammates' parents.

Caleb Heffernan, of Weston, first learned chess from his dad, but he didn't become devoted to it until he attended Pierrepont.

"I went to Pierrepont and I learned a lot and it was intriguing and fun," the 11-year-old said.

His mother, Barbara Heffernan, went to the tournament with her son. She's been to tournaments all over, including a national tournament in Pittsburgh, Pa. She admits that the travel to some of the distant tournaments can be time-consuming and expensive, but believes it is definitely worthwhile.

For the students who went, the tournament was rewarding. They won big, both as individuals and as a team.

The chess team was divided by age at this tournament. The primary school team placed first, as did the elementary school team. The middle school team also performed strong with a second place finish. Last year, the team finished first in the Connecticut State Elementary School Championships and 18th in the National K-6 Championships.

Students living in Westport and Weston also chalked up individual honors at the Scholastic Championship. In the primary school section, Julian Wang and Alex Huggins, both of Westport, finished first and third, respectively. Alexander Paolozzi, of Weston, placed second in the elementary school section. In the middle school section, Noah Arthurs of Westport placed third.

Liam O'Rourke teaches 6- to 9-year-olds about the game and started going to tournaments this year. Recently, he's been teaching the students about openings and chess notation, which is how all the moves in a game are recorded.

"They were all incredibly supportive and would go over each other's games," said O'Rourke. "Some had to play against each other in the later rounds and they dealt with that very well."

What impresses Barbara Heffernan most is the level of concentration that each child has when it comes to chess.

"They play three to four games per day," Heffernan said. "They each get 45 minutes, so a game takes an hour and a half. On the national level, it takes four hours."

However, Caleb can handle the lengthy games. "If you get bored you get up and get a drink of water," he said.

After each match, the competitors get a break and discuss strategy with their coach. Then they go and play chess for fun with their teammates. Barbara is impressed by the devotion of her son and the rest of the chess team, but she knows that kids will be kids when they're given free time in between the matches.

"They also play their video games," she said.


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