By Talajah Williams, student reporter
Special to West Seattle Blog
For the first time since introducing chess in 2012, West Seattle Elementary had five students who earned the right to compete at the state level.
Only two students qualified in past years.
This year, those five third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students played in the 2017 Washington State Elementary and Middle School Chess Championships on April 29th in Tacoma. Although they did not bring home top trophies, they did their school proud.
All played five matches; one won three out of five and two won two out of five.
Competition was stiff. A hundred schools from throughout the state were represented by more than 1,000 students. Other West Seattle schools at the tourney were Fairmount Park Elementary, Lafayette Elementary, Pathfinder K-8, and Madison Middle School.
“We strive to provide different avenues of success for our students, especially those whose rudimentary grasp of English makes success on state tests a steep challenge,” said Ritchie Garcia, who’s in his first year running the program for second through fifth grades. He also coaches the 45-member after-school chess club.
“With chess, no language barrier inhibits bright minds from excelling.” he added. “Even those lacking English proficiency can have the immediate reward of being able to demonstrate their intelligence and critical-thinking skills.”
The five students qualified for state by winning at least three local competitions. Every win is announced on Husky News, the school’s TV show, and during an assembly. Trophies are beginning to fill cases outside the school office.
Just this school year, fourth grader Sabrina Ali decided to give chess a try after seeing the enthusiasm of other students and Garcia’s skill as the coach. She found she liked it – and proved she was good enough to go to state. She overcame a case of nerves to face five opponents on the floor of Tacoma’s convention center.
“Even if students don’t win, chess prepares them for life,” said Garcia, “because it helps them think critically about the decisions they make.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Thanks to Judy Pickens for the first tip about this achievement and coordinating making the student-written report and coach photos available. And congratulations to all!