Lessons of chess

HANALEI — After a “nerve-wracking” day of chess, winners emerged from the Hanalei School third annual Chess Tournament, though chess instructor Terry Moeller felt that all the students came out winners.

“My brain is fried,” said Maddy Rausch, the first-place winner for the Upper Elementary, Girls Division. “It was nerve-wracking, playing from 8 this morning until 1:30 this afternoon.”

Following Rausch, Savannah Elcock quietly accepted the second place honor for the Upper Elementary, Girls Division.

“Undefeated,” was the only word Christian Potter, winner of the Upper Elementary, Boys Division, could utter after defeating second place finisher Craig Matthews.

“This is the third year I’ve competed, and this is the third year I won,” Potter said, quietly stifling his excitement. “I didn’t know how to play chess until I met Mr. Moeller. He taught me everything I know.”

For Braden Andrews, the champion from the Lower Elementary, Boys Division, he was confident in his moves, and despite having a day of competition, was ready for another round, his hands deftly setting up the board and moving pieces around in the brisk wind that wafted through the outdoor lanai near school library. Isaiah Gomez and Lawson Nerenthberg shared second place honors for the Lower Elementary, Boys.

“He didn’t know chess until this year,” said Danette Andrews, Braden’s mom, when she discovered he had taken the first-place honor. “Chess has been good for him … and Mr. Moeller has been a terrific teacher. He’s really good at inspiring little guys.”

Moeller said the annual tournament started three years ago when he started working with the Hanalei School students.

For the day-long tournament, Moeller said the field amounted to 40 students who qualified for the tournament through a series of class competitions that started in September 2006.

“To make it more exciting, the students played Blitz games,” Moeller said. “They had 10 minutes each side to complete the game.”

The addition of the chess clock created excitement to a game that could otherwise linger too long.

“You want to have a good time, but you also don’t want to make a false move,” Potter said. “It was exciting. But the best part is after the game is done, it doesn’t matter if you win or lose, you feel good.”

The three-year veteran player said chess helps with schoolwork.

“Especially in math,” he said. “It teaches you math skills, and you have to learn to think ahead of your opponent for at least three or four moves.”

Matthews said he uses his computer to get smarter in chess. Using skills he learned through computer class, Matthews said he’s played with players from countries like Sweden, France and Germany. These experiences have given him the insight that different countries have different styles and these observations have helped him develop his own style of play.

Potter agreed, noting that using the computer to play chess only helps one’s game because the computer stores all the moves and you can study the moves after losing.

Rausch said, “Chess helps with homework. It gets your brain warmed up, and it also helps with eye-and-hand coordination.”

She added that the addition of the chess clock was scary because the clock “messes with your mind.”

Moeller said, “Chess makes kids smart. On every move in a game of chess, they use basic skills involving adding, subtracting, algebra and geometry. This helps them in certain classroom situations like reading maps, graphs, charts, or any x-y axis.”

The credit for the chess tournament goes to the Hanalei School PTSA for supporting chess, Moeller said.

“Besides having some of the best teachers in the state, chess in the classroom may have played a small role in Hanalei Elementary School getting to the top of the charts in overall math scores,” he said.

• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or dfujimoto@kauaipubco.com.


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