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Top three duke it out on the chess board

May 1, 2019
J.T. Whitehouse , The Town Crier

Boardman Glenwood Junior High School recently completed its annual seventh grade chess tournament.

The event involved roughly 250 seventh graders who took part in a single elimination competition that showcased gaming in an ancient form. The tournament was run by seventh grade teachers Ian Head, Tom Basista and Carlo Cordon.

"When we begin our unit on the Middle Ages, we take some time and show all of our students the basic skills of the game of chess," said Cordon. "Many students have never played chess before and are intimidated by the complexity of it. However, as they become more experienced, they really start to enjoy the game."

Article Photos

Glenwood seventh grade chess champions hold their trophies following the finals of competition last month. Pictured are runner up Donovan Angelo, school champ Sava Crnjak, and finishing in third place Brennan Gorby.

While it takes gaming back in time, before the age of the video screen, Cordon said technology has helped some get more involved in the game.

"With anything, the more they practice, the more comfortable they get with the moves of all the pieces," he said. "There are some interactive computer chess sites that allow the students to see what 'legal' moves they may try. This helps them learn the game quicker. There is also an App for their phones called 'Chesstime' where they can play each other after school or on the weekends."

Chess is introduced during a specific part of the curriculum at Glenwood. The three seventh grade teachers employ the game by connecting it to the enduring impacts that trade had on Eastern and Western civilizations.

Cordon said the game is believed to have been created in India, and via trade with the Middle East and Europe, it quickly spread there.

At Glenwood, it takes a lot to put on a tournament involving 250 students. Combined, Cordon, Head and Basista have managed to purchase 70 chess sets.

"Once in a while, we will get a donation of a set that may be missing pieces, but we are obviously always replacing missing parts," he said. "This past year, our Social Studies Department purchased our Chess Club 20 vinyl tournament boards. We used these with our Chess Club and our Tournament rounds."

As the Glenwood tournament begins in each classrooms, there can be up to 10 games going at once. Teachers act as the facilitator and to confirm moves or checkmate if any questions arise. The field is narrowed down to the top three competitors, who then battle it out in a dual-elimination tournament.

This year's top three were Donovan Angelo, Sava Crnjak, who won the title for 2019, and Brennan Gorby.

"Donovan was a very well rounded player. He used his pieces very well. Brennan's strategy was to lure other players into making mistakes. Sava was very aggressive right off the start and that helped him win," stated Head.

Although the tournament is over and the winner has been crowned, the passion for the game of chess is far from ended.

"We have found that even though the tournament is over, all the kids want to continue playing," Basista said. "Last year we created a Chess Club that meets before school twice a month. This has grown in popularity. Kids really enjoy coming in at 8 a.m. to find a partner and begin playing."

Presently the chess club at Glenwood has close to 40 kids that meet twice a month before school. It is an even mix of seventh and eighth graders, boys and girls.

As for the recent tournament, the whole school got a glimpse of the championship round.

"We videotaped the final championship game between Sava and Donovan and showed a clip of the game to the entire student body during morning announcements," Cordon said. "We envision someday having a live championship game in front of the student body, possibly with a chess table set up in the middle on the gym."



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