Chess tournament moves forward today

Almost 500 Ector County Independent School District students in the Scholars in Progress program will compete in the annual Chess for Champions tournament set for 9 a.m. to noon today at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin gym.

Students in first through fifth grade will participate. With so many students, both levels of the gym will be used, Omega Loera, ECISD Director of Advanced Academic Services, said.

Haydee Davila, a first- and second-grade Scholars in Progress teacher at Blackshear Elementary Magnet, presided over practice Thursday for a small class of first and second grade students from Travis Magnet Elementary School.

Davila has been preparing her students for the tournament since the beginning of the school year.

“At an early age, it really helps them start focusing. I teach them to focus on their game and they learn to problem solve,” Davila said.

That and sharpening math skills are two of the benefits of chess, she added. But the game also teaches them sportsmanship.

“If you win, let’s not be boastful, and if you lose, let’s not cry,” Davila said. “Learn from our mistakes. That’s one of the best things, and of course, it exercises their brains and they love it.”

To teach the class, Davila said she had to learn chess. Her daughter was in the program and her daughter taught Davila. Then her husband, who she said is a “really great” chess player, started helping her.

“Teaching the kids, I learned,” she said. Davila starts with introducing the chess board and every two weeks, she introduces a piece.

Diego Sandoval and Amiyah Brito, both 7-year-old second-graders from Travis, will take part in Saturday’s tournament.

Sandoval said the game is “pretty fun.” He said it helps him make choices.

Brito said it helps her think clearly.  

“It helps your intellect,” Brito said. “… It helps you remember things.”

Mary Daniell and Mia Dominguez, both 8-year-old second-graders from Travis, said they like that chess exercises their intellect and is healthy for their brains.

Eliseo Gomez, a first through fifth grade Scholar in Progress teacher at Reagan Magnet Elementary, said his students play chess daily in the classroom as part of the gifted and talented curriculum and to prepare for the tournament.

His students also have participated in a chess puzzle where they played chess on paper and there also is a program the district purchased called for elementary to high school students.

“There are chess lessons on there. … They have to complete each lesson to move on. It’s a resource for kids who want to learn and parents who want to learn more,” Gomez said.  

He noted that chess also helps raise IQs; it uses both sides of the brain; sparks creativity; problem solving, planning and concentration.