Story and photos by Judy Pickens
Special to West Seattle Blog
Since the first West Seattle tournament for elementary students, in 2013, chess has been proving its benefit in area schools. Now West Seattle Elementary has hosted its first state-qualifying tournament.
The all-day scholastic event today drew 104 participants from schools across the city, including multi-grade teams from Fairmount Park, Lafayette, Alki, Holy Rosary, Genesee Hill, Roxhill, Arbor Heights, and West Seattle elementaries. At the end of the day, Chess Ratings Northwest updated each student’s rating based on performance after five rounds of play. Those who earn high-enough ratings in multiple meets will qualify for the state elementary tournament in April in Pasco, the largest state meet in the country.
West Seattle Elementary introduced chess in 2012. According to teacher Ritchie Garcia, the game of strategy is proving especially helpful for the school’s many English-language learners.
“Chess provides a different way for students who are not yet proficient in English to demonstrate their abilities, especially critical thinking,” he said. “They have the immediate reward of making a smart move and even winning.”
Chess is on the schedule every week in every classroom at the school, plus students can join the after-school chess club.
Given that many West Seattle Elementary families are recent immigrants, only about a dozen students usually have funding to attend a tournament, Garcia explained. “By hosting, our club members were able to compete for free in a rigorous event and we could offer other students a discount on registration.”