217 Panthers Compete in Summer Chess Tourneys

217 Panthers Compete in Summer Chess Tourneys

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from the desk of your Parents’ Association co-prez, Maria Newsom…

“My brain is sweating mom.”

That’s what my son said, at the end of his first day at Mr. West’s July chess camp. Ian West is the resident chess instructor at PS 139, who—lucky for us—also now teaches beginners’ chess in 217’s Magnet After-School Arts Program.

Advanced Chess Club, entering its fourth year this fall, continues to be led by the engaging “Mr. Fred,” who has adopted the innovative flipped classroom teaching model: flippedchess.com.

Fred kept the pawns moving over the summer with weekly chess team practices leading up to our Chess Panthers competing in two free tournaments at MS 126K in Williamsburg. Sponsored by Chess-In-The-Schools, a non-profit committed to enhancing academic performance and bolstering self-esteem among inner-city youth through chess, these “tourneys” gave our kids the valuable experience of facing off against their peers from all over the city.

For both tourneys, two family cars departed from my home, a traveling caravan along the BQE, past the lady in the harbor and the Brooklyn Bridge, the kids putting up with mommy’s ‘80s music the whole way.  A third vehicle dispatched from a second point in Midwood, carrying the Panther divas: smart, determined, rising 5th-grade girls.

The Panthers’ lair between rounds was a hot classroom on the second floor. There was an air conditioner, but its plug refused to fit any outlets. (I tried.)  When not reviewing their matches with Mr. Fred, our kids hovered by the windows all day. I wondered why and finally got up to look for myself…

Across the street, a crystal-clear, shimmering mirage: McCarren Park Pool. Discipline is tearing yourself away from Olympic-sized, chlorinated refreshment and addressing the job at hand: playing your best game.

Our kids demonstrated that discipline that day. The Panthers did us proud those two Fridays. And, after the awards ceremony following the second tourney, we celebrated with a plunge in that pool!

In Mr. Fred’s own words, taken from his monthly chess newsletter for families: “For me, our greatest achievement was how nearly every student improved in how they managed the stress and challenging emotions that arise around competitive play. These are the skills that are indispensable for everything in life, both on and off the chessboard.”

Here is his assessment of the first tourney on July 18th:

Every single team member showed progress in their playing ability:

  • All but one of our rated players was playing in the hardest section they’d ever entered  (U1000), yet each of them matched or exceeded their previous performances.
  • Every rated team member was rated higher after the tournament. Overall the team gained 383 rating points, 222 of those coming from Mariya M!
  • Theo F. scored 3.5 out of 4 points for a four-way tie for 3rd place, earning 6th out of 65 entrants after mathematical tiebreaks.
  • In the non-rated beginner section, Sharian A. earned a perfect score for a four-way tie for 1st place, earning 4th out of 71 entrants after mathematical tiebreaks.

No trophies for the second tourney on August 1st, but still encouraging signs of progress:

  • Overall, the team gained 271 rating points.
  • Two players advanced to a higher rating class, and no one fell to a lower one.
  • Sharian A. moved up to rated play!

We’re looking forward to carrying summer chess momentum into the autumn; to watching orange Panthers’ t-shirts swirling with falling orange leaves in the schoolyard…

Go 217 Panthers!

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