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Chess clubs expand, hold inter-school meets

Madison youth aren’t bored in reviving the venerable board game of chess, challenging players’ strategies for centuries.

Michael and Mitch consider their next move at a chess match. (Photo contributed by Ranae Bartlett)

Rainbow Chess Club has invited the club at Horizon Elementary School to play a match on Nov. 20 after school.

A few years ago, Ranae Bartlett, school volunteer and member of Madison Board of Education, read a newspaper article about matches between the Huntsville Chess Club and Horizon’s club. “That was the first time I even knew elementary schools had chess clubs,” Bartlett said.

At that time, Rainbow had a chess club but students only met every other week at 7 a.m. “The club was primarily for recreation. We didn’t compete as a team,” Bartlett said. She then started volunteering to help the chess sponsor.

“We slowly began having some chess matches between schools,” Bartlett said. Last year, Rainbow hosted Horizon and visited West Madison and Horizon elementary schools to play matches. Rainbow now has separate groups: competition team that meets weekly, recreation group that plays for fun every other week and a beginner group for children interested in learning.

To develop a good club, many parent volunteers and adequate time — a few years — are crucial.

In 2012, numerous youth from all Madison City Schools campuses attended summer chess camps and participated in the Queen’s Quest tournament last spring.

Encouraged by parents, Bartlett has invited all chess clubs to Rainbow for after-school matches. Thus far, Horizon has accepted for Nov. 20 and West Madison on Dec. 17.

Inter-school matches are important for players to broadly develop their strategies against numerous, new challengers — not always the same individuals. “Also, it’s tremendous fun for our Madison kids to visit each other’s schools and play different people,” Bartlett said.

While competitive, atmosphere is friendly at chess meets. Unlike tournaments, these matches are not recorded for rankings.

Plans are underway for state and local tournaments in early 2013. For more information, send email to rbartlett@madisoncity.k12.al.us.

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