Everyone is a champion at Chute Chess Tournament. Submitted photo

Getting your Evanston news from Facebook? Try the Evanston RoundTable’s free daily and weekend email newsletters – sign up now!

On March 28, nearly 240 Evanston students competed in the final tournament of the Evanston Scholastic Chess season.  The event, hosted by Chute Middle School coordinators Allen Alexander and Camisha Riley, brought together teams of K-8th graders from Evanston public and private schools.   While many students walked away with medals and trophies, all left with rewards gained from the process of the competition itself.

State Representative Robyn Gabel (18th District) and State Senator Donne Trotter (17th District) were on hand to present awards and encourage the young competitors. 

“Our children learn a myriad of life skills when they learn to play chess – how to concentrate, sportsmanship and problem-solving techniques,” said Rep. Gabel.  “I am proud of our children and our schools and was happy to honor and support them at the tournament.”

 “It’s always important to cheer our children on for their achievement,” said Senator Trotter.  “In chess, you learn strategies on how to achieve your goal with the resources that you have.  It’s a thinking person’s game – an opportunity to think about how to win, how to focus. That’s how you’re successful in life.”

 Evanston Scholastic Chess is a group of parents and volunteers who lead and organize school chess clubs in Evanston for students in grades K-8.  Unlike most USCF-rated scholastic tournaments, the sections are both age-based and ability-based. “The goal is to create an environment where children have the opportunity to grow their ability at chess, and grow it at their own pace,” states the organization’s website.

Local chess master Chris Christmas who works with several Evanston school teams, has dedicated his life to teaching chess to kids, enabling them to “achieve goals, make life friends, learn competitiveness, sportsmanship and problem-solving at a young age. The first thing I tell kids is the hardest thing to do in chess is not to win, lose or draw but to focus – to control their focus. If they can do that, they can do that in their life choices.”

Evanston Scholastic Chess “is something unique we have in Evanston,” said Maret Thorpe, tournament director.  “Thanks to lots of parents helping out and facilities support from School District 65, we’re able to give our students an incredible, low-cost City-wide opportunity to compete at chess. High School [ETHS] Chess Coach Ken Lewandowski tells us he is the envy of other towns in having this kind of farm program for the Evanston High School chess team.”

“One thing I love about chess is that it teaches kids to win and lose gracefully,” said Sandy Sullivan, Nichols team coordinator.  “Chess is a game of learning from mistakes and bringing what you learn to the next game.  It is really impressive to see kids as young as kindergartners learning this. What a great life lesson.”