Tension was high as players walked in one by one and stood in front of the 12 chessboards set out for tournament play. The 24 second-graders at First Baptist Christian School in Marble Falls pulled out their chairs and sat as they waited for the official timekeeper, a third-grader, to begin the clock in the student’s first-ever chess tournament March 8.
“We also had a gallery in the audience, and it was completely silent,” said Tammy Berkman, the school’s publicity director. “Proctors supervised the tables. When the timer went off, the proctor would flip a coin to determine who would make the first move.”
Each player was guaranteed four, 10-minute games.
After 10 minutes, the proctor examined the pieces of each player’s opponent. Each of those pieces was assigned a number. That number was written down and tallied.
Trophies were given to players who had the most points at the end of the tournament.
But students got much more than trophies, Berkman said.
“They had the ability to focus, they learned self-discipline, they learned all the rules, they learned sportsmanship, and how to cheer for each other,” she said. “They learned how to critically think things through.”
The idea for a chess tournament came from Dr. Cindy Sadler, who is completing her first year as headmaster.
“She has 35 years’ experience in public schools,” Berkman said. “In Harlingen, she had chess teams all the time. She brought that here.”