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FAIRVIEW — Some students at Kiptopeke Elementary School are joining a group that has included Ben Franklin, Edgar Allan Poe, Queens Elizabeth I and II, Christopher Columbus, John Lennon, and Al Gore — they are becoming chess players.
Stefanie Hadden of Cape Charles is the volunteer coordinator for the newly formed Kiptopeke Chess Club that meets each Tuesday in the school library from 3:45-4:45 p.m.
Hadden had read about the numerous benefits of chess in schools for children including improving decision-making, problem solving, logical thinking and concentration.
“Chess is a great academic exercise,” said Hadden. “It helps with impulse control because they have to stop and think before they make their move.”
Hadden said there is no fee to participate, and the club provides the chess sets for the meeting.
Ken Miller, a math teacher at Northampton High School, donates his time to instruct the children in the rules of chess.
Miller has been a longtime chess player, and he helped start a well-received chess club at Yorktown Middle School. He said that 10 percent of the student population played chess.
“It was successful there, so I wanted to repeat it here,” said Miller.
He said that the benefits of chess include helping teach children to think and improvement in their grades.
The club now has 12 members ranging from the first through sixth grades, but mostly fourth and fifth graders.
Hadden said that most members are beginners at playing chess. The current members are Andrew Lassiter, Cameron Glennon, Alex Marshall, Hayley Marshall, Roy Hadden, Avery Hadden, Quran Jackson, Quincy Washington, Tyler Rasmussen, Hailey Behrman, Maya Johnson, and Freddie Elmandorf.
Hadden provides a new Kiptopeke Chess Club newsletter for each session to further interest and enjoyment with fun and interesting chess facts for the students. Each edition features a picture of a different student each week playing chess.
She said that students want to compete in a tournament, and next year she wants to enter the club in a Hampton Roads-area tournament.
“It makes your mind start working and gets you thinking,” said Hayley Marshall, a fifth grader and chess club member with her sister, Alex.
“It is fun and interesting and fills time when you have nothing to do,” said fourth grader Roy Hadden.
Victor Abrahamian of Cape Charles is a neighbor of Hadden who helps the club by coming to club meetings to play chess with the children.
He was playing a match with Washington, a second grader, at Tuesday’s club meeting.
“Before you move, it is like crossing the street — ask yourself, ‘It is safe?'” said Abrahamian in instructing the young chess student on moving his chess pieces.
He said the students have to learn to play two or three steps ahead.
“They have to think where am I going and what are my opponent’s intentions,” said Abrahamian. “It is all about planning.”