Dallas ISD chess tournaments hit record-breaking numbers of participants

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Two tournaments, two Saturdays, and one school filled with excitement and suspense as almost 2,000 Dallas ISD elementary and secondary students competed against each other in the fall chess tournaments hosted by the Student Activities department at Obama Male Leadership Academy.

The secondary chess tournament on Oct. 29 kicked off the first of two Saturday tournaments with 665 students from 72 middle and high school campuses ready to play the strategy game of chess.

Students were able to play multiple rounds of chess, paired with different opponents, based on their wins and losses after each game. Different strategies were used throughout the tournament, some executed well to win a gold, silver or bronze medal.

Even though the King’s Pawn is the most popular opening move in chess, Christian de Santiago from H. Grady Spruce High School said he prefers the second most popular opening move.

“I like to use the Queen’s Pawn Opening to get most of my pieces free,” the bronze medal winner said about his strategy. “This lets me get a lot of my pieces out in play on the board and control the game.”

On the other hand, Diego Galavan from Trinity Heights TAG said playing fast is his strategy. “I like to play a fast-paced game, predicting future moves and not giving my opponent time to think too much before his next move,” gold medal winner said.

Students came ready to use what they have learned from previous years as they played each game, said Tyne Thompson, South Oak Cliff High coach.

“My students are eager to compete and learn from their opponents, while also sharing their knowledge and love for the game,” Thompson said.

At the end of the secondary tournament, 30 gold medals, 10 silver medals and 87 bronze medals were awarded to 6th through 12th graders who competed that day.

Following the secondary tournament, students in kindergarten through fifth grade got the chance to demonstrate their strategic chess moves at the elementary chess tournament held in early November. This was the first year that kindergarten through second grade students were invited to compete in the districtwide chess program. Shattering attendance records, 1,265 students from 103 schools attended the elementary chess tournament at Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy.

For many, it was their first time participating in an in-person competition. Lucie Tims, a 5th grader from Alex Sanger Preparatory School said “it was cool to see all the chess boards set up to play in one room.” More than 600 chess boards had been set up the previous night, spread across two gyms and the cafeteria, to be able to accommodate all the students who competed in the tournament.

At the end of the elementary tournament, 103 gold medals, 80 silver medals and 300 bronze medals were awarded to the kindergarten through fifth graders.

Each school participating in the districtwide chess program receives chess boards and pieces as well as Chesskid.com gold memberships, allowing students to play with peers at their campuses.

The spring chess tournaments for secondary and elementary are scheduled for next year on April 15 and May 6.

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