Four-county chess tournament sees some growth in its third year

By JOSHUA THOMAS

For The Recorder

CANAJOHARIE -- The third annual Mohawk Valley Regional Schools chess tournament took place at the Arkell Museum Saturday.

Last year's attendance was easily doubled, as the competition was open to fourth- through 12th-grade students from Hamilton, Fulton, Montgomery and Herkimer counties.

The first two years, participants had to be members of a club or group, said Amsterdam Chess Group adviser Christine Eggleston, who stated of herself and Canajoharie/Fort Plain Chess Group adviser Libby Arndt and volunteer and former Canajoharie/Fort Plain adviser Ted Arndt, "we realized a lot of schools don't have clubs and groups, and we were excluding home schoolers and kids who don't have that advantage."

The Canajoharie/Fort Plain group prepared for the tournament each Thursday during the winter and fall, while the Amsterdam group has been playing every other Thursday since October "just to prepare for this tournament," Eggleston said.

Ted Arndt, who was previously adviser to the Fort Plain-Canajoharie group, which contains 30 to 35 students, spoke about some of the most important things kids learn leading up to the competition.

"One of the drills I show everyone is the Knight's Tour," he said, which is "a way to get very familiar with how to manage a knight." Kids also learn about the four squares at the center of the board -- the crossroads, of which Arndt stated, "if you're dominant in the crossroads, you're dominant in the game."

Arndt said other important lessons include the fact that the bishop can be equated with an archer, and is essentially a long distance tool. And the "finishers," said Arndt, are usually the rooks and queen.

Chess, explained Arndt, is not just a self-contained game of skill, but one that has the power to influence various facets of life and behavior. "It's about patience" he said, adding, "It's very empowering. People equate chess with brain power, and so when kids learn the game of chess, I think it gives them more confidence."

He also pointed out that there's a correlation between chess and math, and between chess and art.

After several rounds, Christopher Burgess, a fifth-grader from Fort Plain, won the competition. Placing second was Declan Burtt, seventh grade, of Amsterdam. In third place was David Mead, 10th grade, of Amsterdam. In fourth place was Matthew Travis of Fort Plain.