Kids gain confidence, discipline with chess

HARLINGEN — Queen’s Gambit. The Scottish, London Opening and the Fried Liver. Who would know there are so many ways to open a chess game? The kids participating in a chess camp at Lamar Elementary do, and a whole lot more.

“I am enjoying it a lot,” said America Garcia, 9.

She and several other kids were studying chess moves this week in a session with Alfonso Gonzalez, one of four chess coaches. Chess pieces were stationed across several chess boards while Gonzalez taught them new moves.

“It’s going really well,” Gonzalez said. “The kids are learning a lot about beginning tactics including knight forks and bishop pins. They are responding well.”

The chess camp is one of many summer enrichment camps being offered as part of the Harlingen school district’s “Beyond the Bell.” Other camps being offered at Lamar include folklorico dance, music, art, and “save the ocean.” About 100 kids have been taking the chess camp, which began June 11 and concluded Friday.

“We have pre-K going into kinder all the way to fourth grade going into fifth,” said Jeanne Jimenez, assistant coordinator for chess.

“They are learning tactics and strategies,” she said. “We have kids at different levels, so we have some who are learning to set up a table and some that are learning more advanced strategies. They are learning teamwork. They are really enjoying themselves. They are moving from room to room.”

The kids appreciated what they were learning.

“We’re learning right now to pin the knight,” said Leeandra Gomez, 10. “If we make a mistake we’re learning how to fix it.”

She’s been playing chess for four years.

“I like how it makes me use my brain,” she said. “It helps me understand how to use my brain better.”

America echoed that sentiment.

“You have to work very hard to get a chess move,” she said. “It’s very challenging and I love challenges.”

Gonzalez said the study of chess can impact other areas of a person’s life.

“It really helps with logic and reasoning,” he said.

More summer enrichment camps are planned throughout the summer.

Chess can have the following effects on children

• gain confidence

• learn to solve problems

• build discipline

• increase concentration

• learn to strategize

• develop critical thinking skills

• learn to recognize patterns and develop tactics

• improve communication

• build memory skills

• learn sportsmanship

• analyze and evaluate

• cognitive abilities

• rational thinking

• reasoning skills