Chess clubs from seven schools across Tillamook County are sending 18 students and four teams to the state chess tournament after a successful regional tournament on March 4.
More than 50 students competed in the tournament, while more than 200 participate in chess clubs at schools across the county, thanks to the support of Chess for Success.
“We had a great turnout compared to what we’ve had in the past,” said James Cox, the director of Chess for Success in Tillamook.
Chess for Success started in Portland in 1991 to help promote chess at local public schools by subsidizing the game for interested students who could not otherwise afford to play.
Cox, who was working as a contractor at the time, had already identified chess as a game that could teach valuable lessons to his three sons. He had started a club at Garibaldi Grade School and when he learned about Chess for Success, he eagerly embraced their help expanding chess in Tillamook.
“I always felt it was a great influence in those lives,” Cox said of chess, “it did teach them manners and stuff.”
Over the past 30-plus years, the program has grown to support clubs at seven schools across the Tillamook and Neah-Kah-Nie school districts.
Chess for Success pays community members $25 an hour to coach students for an hour or two weekly after school during the season, as well as covering tournament entry costs and buying materials for the clubs.
Anybody with a knowledge of chess can volunteer and Cox is always looking to expand his roster of coaches, who he says are crucial to the program’s continued growth.
“It’s really based on having a person in the building to coach and encourage and recruit,” Cox said.
Six schools sent teams to the tournament on March 4, and those from Nehalem and East Elementaries and Tillamook Junior High and Neah-Kah-Nie Middle Schools qualified for the state tournament.
In addition to helping fund the clubs and run the tournaments, Chess for Success has recently started a program to help teach manners and sportsmanship. Cox said that the program dovetails well with lessons students learn while playing chess.
“It’s a tenacious game, chess is, but you can play it nicely,” Cox said.
He said that the chess has enjoyed particular popularity at the grade school level, with East Elementary boasting more than 100 chess club members in each of the last two years.
“The neat thing about chess is…their chess skills can soar way beyond their years and their age and their grade,” Cox said, specifically mentioning a kindergartener who recently competed in the state tournament.
Chess for Success has grown into a statewide program and supports chess in Northern California and Vancouver, Washington. The annual state tournament accepts around 500 competitors, roughly the top 10% of participants.
Cox said that he thinks chess’s popularity will continue to grow in Tillamook and that he hopes to get chess clubs meeting at four new schools next year.
“This has been our most successful year and I think a lot of that has been through the support of the Chess for Success program,” Cox said.
Students qualifying to participate in the state tournament:
Nehalem Elementary School: Julien Anctil, Aaron Anctil, Emery Dietrich, Jerzy Golden, Teddy Shepard.
Neah-Kah-Nie Middle School: Evan Craft, Karsten Johansen, Karson Mcnutt, Keegan Roddy.
East Elementary School: Oliver Allen, Mikayla James.
Tillamook Junior High School: Kellan Balmer, Cayden Cham, Gabe Flemming, Ace White.
Neah-Kah-Nie High School: Dillon Gardner, Jacob McIlvenna, Joseph Naylor.
This is wonderful!
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