IRMO – Chess is played every day around the world and brings people of different cultures and backgrounds together. Inside a classroom at Lake Murray Elementary School, a group of students from first to fourth grade gather each week to play the game.
“The best lesson that chess can teach especially in an academic setting is you can get better in a measurable way by hard work,” said instructor Brandon Jordan. “Chess is one of those games where it has the mystique of a smart person is good and chess and somebody who doesn’t have it together upstairs is not good at chess and that is not true at all. You can take anybody and show them how to play the game and get better.”
Jordan is a volunteer at Stategery, a company that celebrates and teaches chess and other strategic games in the Midlands. The group offers after school programs at many private and public schools in the Midlands including School District Five. Those schools are Ballentine Elementary School, Chapin Intermediate School, and Lake Murray Elementary School. Each week’s class includes a short instruction and game time along with personal tutoring and interaction. The curriculum trains beginning students to the level of a tournament player. Strategery provides all of the materials necessary including boards, pieces, game clocks, and demo boards.
Lake Murray Elementary, represented by the team of Miguel Shim, Robert Shim, Brendan Song, Flynn Young, Gareth Young, and Ryan Pierson, took first place in the Midlands Scholastic Chess Olympiad held on December 8, 2018. A record 82 South Carolina chess players competed in the largest team chess tournament ever held in the midlands. Miguel Shim also won third place for his performance on board one, and to Gareth Young finished the tournament undefeated and won first place for his performance on board three. The victory is the second in a row for the Lake Murray Elementary School Chess Club, who also took first place in the Midlands Scholastic Chess League tournament on November 10, 2018.
“My favorite part about chess is checkmate,” said Miguel Shim. “It felt super good to win at the tournament. I play with my dad and brother to help me become a better chess player. At first I lost to my dad, but a month later I beat my dad.”
“Chess is different for everybody,” Jordan said. “Some kids enjoy the game for the academic outlet while others enjoy the social aspect of the game and enjoy having fun and playing a game with their friends.”
Chess exercises both sides of the brain and students who play say the tools they learn playing the game help them in the classroom as well. “I think it helps in math class because it helps me think harder,” said Annie Xu, Lake Murray Elementary fourth grader. “Chess puzzles also help me because the puzzles have stuff you have to figure out like tactics and once you figure it out it helps you get better at playing chess.”
“We strive to provide experiences that extend beyond the classroom and encourage students to think critically and collaborate with one another,” said Lake Murray Elementary School principal Kelly Reese. “While academics is a priority, developing students’ social and problem solving skills is also of great importance.”
Other schools in School District Five that offer chess clubs include Chapin Middle, CrossRoads Intermediate, Irmo Middle, and Spring Hill High School.