FAIRFIELD – When 5-year-old Granya Schalnat sits in front of a chess board at the Fairfield Kindergarten Center, she has one objective: capture her opponent’s queen or king.
“I like it when I capture the queen because it gives me nine points,” Granya said. “If I capture the king it gives me 50 hundred points and I win.”
Granya and nine of her classmates gather every Thursday after school to play chess in the school’s 3-month-old chess club. The children learned what moves each piece could make through a series of games.
“We introduced the game one piece at a time,” said Ria Schalnat, Granya’s mother and the group’s instructor, with her husband, Guy.
“We started with the king and the pawns on the board. The goal was to very easily get them to understand how specific pieces move.”
After a brief review of the pieces, the 5- and 6-year- olds play one another during the 30-minute club.
“The rook is the best piece to capture the king,” said Cole Schaefer. “He has the most moves.”
Principal Kim Wotring is pleased the Schalnats stepped forward to begin the club. The children are learning about strategy, practice critical thinking skills and learn math by adding up the points when they capture their opponent’s pieces.
“I’ve learned to play just by watching them,” said Principal Kim Wotring, who has been beat more than once by one of her young pupils.
The club is believed to be the only one for kindergartners in the region, said Doug Dysart, who teaches chess and runs the Cincinnati Scholastic Chess Series.
“It’s pretty rare to have players in second grade and younger,” Dysart said. “The most popular age is fourth through sixth grade. It tapers off when they get older and get into sports.”
Ria Schalnat said she and her husband taught Granya how to play two years ago and thought their might be other children who were already playing or who might want to learn.
“Kids are absolute sponges. They will learn anything you put before them,” Ria Schalnat said. “They’re more than capable to learn. You take it a step at a time. You can always grow with this game.”
Parent Jeff Hickman said his son, Nate, begins asking on Monday when he can go to chess club.
“This is his first real experience with chess,” said Hickman, who plays. “He’s had an interest. Now he loves it and looks forward to it.”
After Cole learned the game, “he very proudly wooped his daddy,” said Holly Schaefer, Cole’s mom.
“It’s perfect for him. He’s very logical, very mathematical. He loves taking things apart.”