La Reyna: Student qualifies for national chess tournament

SAN BENITO — She’s the queen of chess.

Eighth grader, Reyna Bautista placed first at the All Girls State Championship Tournament over the weekend.

The Miller Jordan Middle School student’s win qualified her to compete at Nationals in Chicago next year.

This will be the second consecutive year Bautista has qualified to compete at Nationals.

Bautista is currently the only girl competing on the team.

According to Janie Rios, the coordinator of the Afterschool Centers on Education, the chess team is comprised of 25 students, only 12 of whom compete.

Bautista, being the only girl, was the only one sent to the tournament on Saturday.

“We like to recruit the students that started as elementary students,” Rios said.

The 13 year-old has been playing chess for the past six years and practices at least two hours a day.

Bautista said she started after her sister joined the team.

Both her sisters and her father all play chess.

“Usually, my big sister beats me,” Bautista said.

About 30 girls competed in the tournament that was comprised of five 25-minute rounds.

Bautista won five rounds and tied her last one.

Bautista said playing chess has really helped her in math and has helped her develop her critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

“You have to learn a bunch of positions and a bunch of tactics but it gets easier and easier,” Bautista said.

So far the middle school student has been to Dallas, Tennessee, Indianapolis and Chicago to compete in chess competitions.

“You get to meet new people, new coaches and visit new places,” Bautista said.

In April, she will travel back to Chicago to once again compete in the finals.

“I’m feeling really excited,” Bautista said.

Last year at Nationals, Bautista won five out of the seven rounds and said she’s positive she’ll do just as good next year.

Benefits of chess

• Improves concentration and memory

• Enhances reading and math skills

• Fosters logic, critical thinking and creativity

• Encourages and rewards hard work