With one long, deep stare after another, students at the Nativity Catholic School in Burke learned strategies from several seasoned pros.
The chess team at Alexandria's Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology traveled to the Burke school on Thursday, Jan. 25. to share their chess knowledge with about 150 elementary students there. The high school mentors brought more than 50 chess boards and used an overhead projector to demonstrate the different game pieces and each of their capabilities to the fourth- through eighth-grade students.
"I like to teach chess," said Atul Kannan, a senior and the captain of the chess team. "It's a good hobby and it's a sport with a lot of integrity, mental focus and concentration."
WHILE THE YOUNG students might have lacked the levels of concentration required for such a game, they showed a keen interest in learning winning techniques. They looked on as Kannan demonstrated on the overhead projector. He showed the younger children the strategy involved in playing the game, by guiding them through a tutorial on each of the six different game pieces.
"My personal favorite is the queen, because it's the heavy weapon," Kannan told the children. "It can really crush your opponent."
The high school chess-players came to the school to help raise money for upcoming tournaments and competitions. The students missed a big competition because of a lack of funding last year, said Rick Loffredo, the chess club's sponsor and a Burke Nativity School parent. Some students came up with the fund-raising idea to teach children how to play, and they're hoping it will take off.
"We're hoping to go to other schools, because the kids love it so much," said Linda Loffredo, who helped facilitate the chess seminar.
The Thomas Jefferson students have won several major tournaments in recent years. Kannan said they consistently place or win in regional, state and national tournaments. The game offered Kannan more than trophies or titles, however — he found it to be a nice release from his academic stresses.
"It's really improved my concentration," he said to the Burke students. "But it's also a really good way to relax. In high school, you have a lot of work."
Linda Loffredo said the team hopes to start its own invitational tournament at the school, which would serve as another fund raiser. As for the team members, they just love to play.
"I'm really competitive," said Emma Pierson, a sophomore. "I love to beat people who think they're better than me."
"I like chess because it's exciting," said Esther Li, a senior.
The Burke Nativity students currently lack an organized chess club or team, but Bobby Etzel, the school librarian, said she hopes to get students more involved in the game because of its academic nature.
"I would like to allow the eighth-graders to play during their library period," said Etzel. "It would be great for their critical thinking."