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Seeds Planted for Chess Culture in Baton Rouge Schools

Clairborne Elementary gifted resource teacher Chris Wilson (front right) plays special education resource teacher Annie Fox in the chess tournament as Audubon Elementary computer lab teacher Contessa Hunt (back left) and Melsrose Elementary fourth grade t
Amy Jeffries

About 200 teachers from 42 schools in the East Baton Rouge Parish district have signed up for workshops this summer to learn how to start chess clubs and use the game in their classrooms. The first batch of teachers capped off their training with a mini tournament Thursday.

"Black starts white's clock. You are now in tournament mode," said Jerry Nash, with the U.S. Chess Federation, kicking off the competition.

It was library quiet, save for the beeping chess clocks and teachers whispering to each other about their moves. Each player had five minutes for the entire game. If a player ran out of time before checkmate, they lost. 

"Checkmates -- the first round I didn't see many," said Nash, who came from Tennessee to run the workshop and direct the tournament. "I've already seen three or four in this round, most of them ran out of time. So they're getting past the time pressure and they're making the moves."

Chris Wilson, the gifted resource teacher at Claiborne Elementary, says he and his colleagues have realized just how many skills can be taught through chess.

"You know, the board itself is a grid and it's wonderful for teaching coordinate points in math. And, really, it connects to just the holistic approach of teaching the child because every move on the board, and every move in life has consequences," Wilson said.