Click photo to enlargeShall we play a game?

Children’s chess tournament showcases civility, thinking skills

Few things could keep 44 children sitting next to each other silent, and chess is apparently one of them.

“It’s amazing how quiet they are,” said Charlene Light, who organized the Winter Children’s Chess Tournament held Saturday at the Ukiah Boys and Girls Club.

Light said the competitors, ranging in age from 6 to 16, were broken into groups of four according to their ages. She counted on having 40 kids, but a few more showed up. Luckily, the final number — 44 — was still easily divided by four.

“I always bring enough trophies for 44,” she said with a smile, pointing to the 11 first-place trophies, 11 second-place trophies and 22 ribbons for the third- and fourth-place finishers.

Light teaches at the City of 10,000 Buddhas and leads a girls chess club at the school that boasts 27 members.

“It’s the biggest club at the school,” she said, explaining that the size was likely due to the fact that all ages can join her club, which she hopes encourages as many girls as possible to play the game.

“I was a kid chess player, and I never met another girl to play with until I was 27,” she recalled, adding that she stopped competing in chess because “it was too intimidating. I’d walk in and people would be like, What are you doing here?'”

Out of 1,328 chess grand masters, only 22 are women, Light said, adding that she wasn’t sure why so few women take up the game.

“They

lose interest when they get older,” she said, pointing out that nearly all the younger players at the tournament were girls, while nearly all the older ones were boys.

“It’s really not any fun to be the only woman,” Light said. Ultimately, she chose to compete at Bridge, but organizes chess clubs wherever she teaches school.

“The goal of our club is to foster the development of traits that

studies have shown chess promotes: concentration, critical and logical thinking skills, as well as self-confidence, patience and sportsmanship,” Light explained.

Rangi Mayshark, 11, a student at the City of 10,000 Buddhas’ Instilling Goodness Elementary School, said she enjoyed the game because it “makes you think a lot and it’s good competition.”

Mayshark said her dad taught her to play when she was in kindergarten, and though she won her first game Saturday, she wasn’t sure she’s beat her dad yet.

“He told me I did, but I don’t remember,” she said.

Kristina Ortega, 8, a student at Tree of Life Montessori School, said she liked playing chess “a lot,” because it was “really fun” and “you get to think.”

Ortega and Mayshark, along with most of the girls competing, were wearing pink baseball caps proclaiming “Miss Light’s Chess Queens,” a name Light says the girls’ parents suggested.

Eli Edelman, 9, a third-grader at Grace Hudson Elementary School described chess as “fun” and “exciting,” but said it was only “one of my favorites games” along with Checkers, Monopoly├é┬« and others.

Asked how skilled he was at the game, Eli said he was “kind of in the middle,” and mom Deborah Edelman said he was “a good beginner.”

Light said she usually hosts the tournaments in June, but decided to hold one in January this year to give the boys a chance to play, because “they don’t have another tournament in May,” while the girls attended one in Berkeley this month, and have another in Santa Rosa next month.

Light said the club holds bake sales to help pay for shirts, hats and trophies, and will hold its next in the spring.

Justine Frederiksen can be reached at udjjf@pacific.net, or 468-3521.