SHIPROCK — Watching a game of chess between elementary students is not quite like watching a game between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky. But it is fun.

"Check," said Dylan Harry, a 9-year-old third-grader from Eva B. Stokely Elementary School in Shiprock.

"Check. Checkmate. No, never mind," said Mariana Lee, a 10-year-old fifth-grader from Grace B. Wilson Elementary School in Kirtland.

"I won!" Harry said, standing up.

"No, it's a tie," Lee said.

"No, I won," Harry said.

About 125 students completed their fourth round of chess at the Phil L. Thomas Performing Arts Center in Shiprock on Thursday. It was the first day of the Central Consolidated School District chess tournament.
Shinaya Bilgody, left, and Cameron Charleston, 5-graders from Mesa Elementary School compete during Thursday’s CCSD Chess Tournament at the Phil L.
Shinaya Bilgody, left, and Cameron Charleston, 5-graders from Mesa Elementary School compete during Thursday's CCSD Chess Tournament at the Phil L. Thomas Performing Arts Center in Shiprock. (Jon Austria/The Daily Times)


Some of the students, such as Harry and Lee, could not decide who won, but, thankfully, they were not Fischer and Spassky.

"They are all learning," said Normand Larivee, a math teacher at Career Prep High School in Shiprock.

Larivee and several of his students officiated the tournament, which consisted of six rounds. Because the students were in kindergarten through sixth-grade, they had a variety of questions.

"When you got two kindergartners, I will say, "Do you know what you're doing?' They say, "Yeah!'" Larivee said, doing his best kindergartner impression.

The tournament is in its second year, though this is the first year that it has included middle and high school games. The middle and high school games will be played today, also at the Phil L. Thomas Performing Arts Center.

Oh Thursday, students were matched based on their skill level, sometimes with students in different grades playing each other. The games were timed and supervised.

"It's not hard to learn. It's just challenging when you get a good player," said Cadyn Hartfield, 12, a sixth-grader from Grace B. Wilson Elementary School.

Most of the students practice at their schools' chess clubs, some of which meet after school for months before the annual tournament.

Many of them start with little to no knowledge of the strategic board game. In learning chess, however, they learn about the rules of the game and pick up life lessons along the way.

"I tell my students, if you play chess, you're going to lose," said Melvin Sharp, a teacher at Mesa Elementary in Shiprock.

Sharp teaches students at his school and also helped to organize the tournament. He said many of the students walk away from the game with a better understanding of humility and patience.

"You shake your opponent's hand at the beginning, and you shake your opponent's hand at the end. That's hard for some of the students, especially when they lose," Sharp said.

Jenny Kane can be reached at 505-564-4636; jkane@daily-times.com. Follow her on Twitter @Jenny_Kane.