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Montessori home to skilled chess players

Three students place at Chess for Success tourney
by: John Klicker, Sean Richardson, left, and Tucker Price, both students at Franciscan Montessori Earth School in Portland, show off their chess skills a few days after competing in the Chess for Success tournament March 21-22 at the Oregon Convention Center.

Tucker Price, 12, a sixth-grader at Franciscan Montessori Earth School in southeast Portland, and Sean Richardson, 9, a fourth-grader, spend a lot of time staring at tables.

Their concentration paid off last weekend at the Chess for Success State Championship Tournament at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland, March 21-22.

Tucker - the 2005 state champion in the elementary division - tied for fourth place in the sixth grade division, and Sean tied for sixth in the elementary, or kindergarten-through-fourth division. Meanwhile, Nathan Smith, a third-grader at Franciscan, tied for fourth place in the elementary division.

Prior to the tournament, Montessori's two chess teams placed second in the K-5 and 6-8 divisions respectively in prior regional Chess for Success tournaments.

At the regionals, Tucker and Sean both took first place in their respective classes, and Alex Petersen, a seventh grader at Montessori, took first place in the seventh grade division. Alex was unable to make the Chess for Success tournament because he was out of the country, but he should be joining several other Montesorri team members at the Oregon Scholastic Chess Federation's state tournament in Seaside April 12.

In addition to Tucker, Sean, Nathan and Alex, the Franciscan teams consist of the following members:

• K-5 Division: Elliot Roberts, first grade; Gautam Singh and John Mayberry, second; Nicholas Brandlund, Ben Ratcliff, Daniel Laird and William Ollenbrook, third; and Dmitri Murphy, fifth.

• 6th-8th Division: Kyle Kahler, sixth; Casey Ford, seventh; and eighth-graders Ned Hazlewood and Anthony Micallef.

Tucker said he got interested in chess six years ago when he learned about the chess club at his school. His father, David, said he had to dust off his own chess skills to help Tucker learn.

'It's not as hard to learn as it is to lose against first-, second- and third-graders when they get better than you,' David says with a chuckle.

Tucker says he plays 15 to 30 minutes a day and adds that he was attracted to the challenges chess presented.

'You can't just think about it, and you can't plan every single little move. You have to compensate for it, and you have to change.'

David said the game has benefited his son in many ways.

'If you can focus on a chess game for an hour you can really focus on anything else, whether it be class work or reading or study skills.'

Sean also plays chess with his dad as well as his brother, Nicholas, a second-grader at Montessori.

'It's not like checkers,' Sean says of his beloved game. 'All the pieces move differently so you actually have to know how they move and everything.'

Tucker adds that there's no end to a player's improvement.

'No matter how good you get, there's almost always someone who's going to be better.'

He adds, however, that he's not in it just to win.

'It doesn't really matter if you win because you have lots of fun in the end.'

Gladys Munoz, who coaches the team along with Alex's father, Dennis Petersen, says Petersen concentrates on teaching the players' chess theory, and she focuses on building up the players' self-esteem. The teams meet three times a week, she says, and both coaches love to share their affection for the game with the students.

'It's not only the skills being developed, it's learning how to be a good sport and how to be a good player, a team player,' she says. 'We love for them to win, but it's more than just winning. It's the whole child's development.'

Chess for Success

The Chess for Success State Championship Tournament was at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland March 21-22.

The tournament is operated by Chess for Success, an educational program that uses chess to teach children important skills necessary for success in school and life.

'We provide children with a fun, competitive and appealing after-school activity that promotes their healthy development, enriches their lives, and entices them to attend school so they can participate in chess club,' the organization states at www.chessforsuccess.org.

For more information, contact Chess for Success, 2701 N.W. Vaughn St., Suite 101, Portland, 97210; 503-295-1230 voice; 503-295-4098 fax; 800-285-7660 toll-free; or info@chessforsuccess

.org.