There's magic happening at Bull Run Elementary.
The school's chess team won first place in the Virginia Scholastic Chess Championship in both the K-3 and K-5 divisions, March 12-13, in Yorktown, Va. This is the second consecutive year that the K-5 team won states, in which 470 students competed.
"WE'RE SO proud of them," said Principal Thom Clement. "This is a good example of having fun and building logical thinking skills. It's amazing what they can do at such a young age."
Bull Run's Quentin Moore was the top finisher in the K-5 division against 166 players and 27 teams. In the K-3 division, his brother Gavin Moore placed sixth, and David Senft placed fifth against 100 players and 16 teams. Andrew Freix also placed second in the K-5 division.
"The top players in the club are really at an adult expert level," said Bill Moore of Virginia Run, their coach of five years. "There's a hidden lesson in each game and I challenge them to find it," said the software test manager for CSC.
Known in the industry as "The Duke of Scholastic Chess," Bull Run Elementary has 122 club members who practice 1 1/2 hours a week in three levels: top, emerging and beginners. The games can last as long as three hours.
"The kids love the lessons," said Moore. "They know the vocabulary of chess very well. It enhances their analytical skills, their problem-solving skills and their attention span. Sometimes it humbles them. Other times it builds their self-esteem."
The recipient of the Coach of the Year award from the state of Virginia, Moore added: "There's a lot that can be learned playing chess — a whole lot of lessons that can be extended out to life."
THE TEAM plays in the Elementary Team League (ETL) against two dozen schools in Maryland, D.C. and Virginia. Moore said the top chess clubs locally are Louis Archer Elementary (second in the state) and Haycock Elementary.
Bull Run fourth-grader Andrew Freix, 10, said the state competition was tough "because the kids were older — some were in fifth grade and I'm only in fourth grade." Discussing his strategy, Andrew — the son of Laura and Michael Freix of Sully Station — explained, "I kind of try to do sacrifices [of some lesser chess pieces] to help me win."
His coach calls him "an outstanding powerhouse tournament player," noting that he shared individual co-championships in 2002, 2003 and again this year. Regarding other interests, Andrew enjoys math, science, reading and soccer.
"I'M DEFINITELY aggressive," said fifth-grader Quentin Moore, 11, who's ranked 12th in the nation for 11-year-olds by the U.S. Chess Federation and No. 1 in Virginia. He says he studies games that chess masters have played and also plays 30 minutes a day, either online or at tournaments.
"Chess is kind of like a big math problem in that you need to think ahead," said the son of coach Bill and Lois Moore. Quentin is interested in math and logic problems and also enjoys playing football.
Third-grader David Senft, 9, said he was "really happy" with his performance in his first state tournament — "especially in the last round. I usually try to trade pieces a lot of times." The son of Lori and David Senft of Virginia Run, he's been playing for two years and practices a great deal with his dad.
Second-grader Gavin Moore, 8, who also calls himself "aggressive," said, "It was the best I had done in the state tournament, so I felt really good." He's been playing chess for six years, either with his brother who "teaches me lessons," or on the Internet. However, added Gavin, "I don't really have a style."