Check Mate! Elementary School Students Beg To Play Chess

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Friday, October 28, 2011 - 8:13am

HARLINGEN - Elementary kids love to play, so some might guess that their favorite time of the day would be recess. But one Winter Texan has changed the mindset at one valley elementary school so that their new favorite time of the day is lunch.

As Erin Murray explains, they aren't happy to go to lunch because of the food, it's for something more unique.

"Hey boys and girls, if you want to play chess you need to behave, you have to stay quite," says a lunchtime supervisor at Sam Houston Elementary School in Harlingen.

Kids in all grades rush to finish their lunch to make sure they get one of the 18 seats available to play lunch-time chess.

"Check mate," said Jacob Fox, as he defeats his opponent.  

It's a game normally thought to be played by older generations, but these seven and eight year old already how much a game like chess can improve their strategic thinking.

"It helps you get knowledge and then, and then it will help you be even smarter, and it's fun to play," said Alex Meija, Chess Club Student.

"It's better to play people that are better, because you learn more," said Ashley Young, Chess Club Student.

With only about ten minutes to play during lunch, only small lessons can be taught. It's run by Chess Coach and Coordinator George Rohrer, who started the program at the end of last school year.

"Nobody really knew how to play chess, uh they are doing pretty good about learning considering it's only about five to ten minutes at a time," said George Rohrer, Chess Coach.

It became so popular that Rohrer started an after school club too, attracting 23 students. But because he is the only volunteer, it became to hard to manage so many students. So the program is now cut back to just six students, but Rohrer said if parents or community members volunteer to help, the program could go back to the larger numbers.

Now it's hard to believe that these students have only been playing chess for three to four weeks. Their coach said within three to four weeks, these kids will be twice as good as they are now.

And they already aren't bad. This past weekend they took fifth place in their first ever chess tournament.

Rohrer said this whole program wouldn't be possible without a forward thinking school principal. And that is true, but without Rohrer's man hours, the lunch-time chess and chess club wouldn't exist at all.

"Our coach told us that some other people charge but he does free," said Young.

That's right, Rohrer is purely a volunteer. Putting in all these man hours and lessons for free comes from the kindness in his heart.

If you are interested in volunteering to help with the chess program, please call Sam Houston Elementary in Harlingen at 956-427-3112.  

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Mr. Rohrer is a great chess coach and person. He gives his own time to teach the game. He really cares about the kids. i have never met anyone so dedicated as he is.

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