Game On!

| 2 | Chess Players

Game on!

Web Posted: 07/03/2008 12:02 AM CDT
By Sara Inés Calderón

FLORESVILLE — Nine-year-old Donna Fleming said she likes chess more, or less, depending on the circumstances.


“Sometimes when I win, yes, I like it; when I lose, no,” she said after her most recent game, an unfortunate loss. “Mostly I do not win.”

Yet Donna, along with her 10-year-old brother, Charles, make it to Floresville United Methodist Church each Thursday along with as many as 25 other children, and promptly at 5:30 p.m. plunge into lessons and matches, striving to become better chess players.

Floresville's chess club began 11 years ago when attorney Howard Berger began teaching students at the town's elementary school. In time it became an after-school activity for students ranging from third-graders to high school seniors. And Berger said that for the home-schooled children that make up about half of the club, it's an excellent way to socialize.

Chess is an excellent means to teach mental discipline and help children build self-esteem, Berger said, noting that he's observed a correlation between chess, music and math skills. It also teaches what Berger termed the “glories of delayed gratification,” and the importance of thinking through decisions that might have bad repercussions.

For some club participants, the joy of chess is that it never gets repetitious or boring. Even as some children admit to indulging in video games instead of chess when they go home, Titus Shanks, 14, points out that, unlike video games, you never reach the last level in chess.

“You have different pieces that you can use differently; it's strategy,” said Shanks, who grew up playing chess with his three older brothers. “It's one of those games that will never grow old.”

Eric Nolin, 12, has a hard time explaining what, exactly, it is about chess that moves him so much. He squints and scratches his head and finally explains that the game is about life and death: You try not to get “killed” in three moves.

Judy Fleming, mother of Donna and Charles, said playing chess has done wonders for them.

“I know one thing chess has done for my kid is settle him down and get him to focus,” she said of Charles. An additional benefit for children who are home-schooled is the ability to socialize with others in their age group, Fleming said.

Members of the chess club compete almost monthly in tournaments and have won several first- and second-place individual and group trophies that grace the top of a bookshelf in the church hall.

Donna Fleming, the only girl at a recent club meeting, said she doesn't feel so bad about her recent losing streak.

“I know I don't win a lot because this is my first year,” she said. “I'd like to keep playing so I could win a chess tournament.”

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