Students compete at regional chess tournament sponsored by Chess for Succsss

A third-grader from Wilsonville came out on top when 63 primary school students from 11 area schools gathered at Boones Ferry Primary School Feb. 1 for a regional chess tournament sponsored by Chess for Success.

Anish Goswami, a student at Boeckman Creek, received the highest individual score and will advance to the state championship. Students from Sunnyside Elementary in Clackamas and Oregon City’s Gaffney Lane Elementary also advanced to the next level of competition. Fifth-graders competed in a different division, and winners from Happy Valley, Carus and Sunnyside will represent their elementary schools at the Chess for Success state tournament March 14 and 15 at the Oregon Convention Center.

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: KATE HOOTS - Emmons Ratliff, a fifth-grader at Boones Ferry Primary School, contemplates his next move.During the Boones Ferry event, Sophia Steinkamp, a second-grader at Lowrie Primary School, was taking a break from the action. With two of the tournament’s five games under her belt, she was enjoying an appropriate snack — chess cookies — while recharging her energy before her next game.

She was attending the tournament with her mother, Heidi Steinkamp, and her uncle, Rick Wallace, from whom she had learned the game. As she nibbled her cookies, Sophia had a chess board set out in front of her.

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: KATE HOOTS - Sophia Steinkamp, 7, takes a break between games at the Chess for Success regional tournament held Feb. 1 at Boones Ferry Primary School.“She’s naturally calm, but she’s not threatened by (the competition),” Wallace said. “That’s what I like about chess. It doesn’t stress kids out like homework does. It’s peaceful.”

Emmons Ratliff, a Boones Ferry fifth-grader and a veteran chess player, was engaged in a lengthy battle. The chess board that separated Emmons and his competitor contained only a handful of pieces, including both the black and the white king and one rook of each color. When Emmons and his competitor traded rooks in back-to-back moves, the advantage went to his competitor, who had a pawn remaining on the board. When that pawn made it all the way across the board, to the other side, according to chess rules it was “promoted” to queen and was able to move across the board with ease. The game didn’t last long after that.

Although Emmons did not emerge the victor, he earned a compliment when his king finally succumbed.

“Hey, that was a good game,” he was told. “You’re really good.”

“It was a long game,” Emmons said afterward. “When we sat down, I knew at the beginning it would be a long game. We lost our queens and had to spread out.”

Although Emmons played the game with enthusiasm and great sportsmanship, he said it had become obvious to him by the end that he could not win.

“I knew he was going to get me,” he said. Still, he played on, for the love of the game.

“We had a full game,” he said, adding, “I had a good, fun time.”

Emmons was quick to recommend chess to everyone, regardless of age or experience.

“I think everyone can play,” he said. “If you practice a lot, you can get better.”

With three tournament games under his belt that day — one win, two losses — Emmons wasn’t ready to quit.

“I would like to keep playing on and on through my life,” he said. “It’s a fun game. And it gets me thinking.”

Getting students thinking is a primary goal of the Chess for Success program, which offers free chess lessons to students in all three of Wilsonville’s primary schools. The nonprofit’s mission is to help children develop skills that promote success in school and in life, by teaching them not just chess but also high-level thinking and social skills.

“To properly play chess children must sit still, with their feet on the floor, and focus their attention on the board,” CFS literature states. “They have to make decisions about the moves they choose slowly and patiently and then re-evaluate their decisions. Without realizing it, they are developing the same skills needed to read a book with comprehension, solve math problems and take exams.”

Wilsonville’s chess program is sponsored and run by the Rotary Club. Learn more at

By Kate Hoots
Education reporter
503-636-1281, ext. 112
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