Education

NC lawmakers humbled and inspired by young chess players

NC lawmakers get into a chess match - literally - with top student players

Video: Lawmakers at the NC General Assembly play chess with some of the top student players in the state at the legislature in Raleigh on Wednesday. It was part of a event to promote chess playing in schools.
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Video: Lawmakers at the NC General Assembly play chess with some of the top student players in the state at the legislature in Raleigh on Wednesday. It was part of a event to promote chess playing in schools.

State legislators got schooled Wednesday in the art of chess by a group of elementary and middle school students.

More than 20 young chess players took over part of the Legislative Building in Raleigh to bring public awareness of the educational benefits of youth chess programs. Along the way, every lawmaker was invited to participate in chess matches against the students that taught the adults some lessons about humility.

“It’s important for us legislators to come and have our rear ends handed to us by 8-year-olds with incredible minds,” said Rep. Grier Martin, a Raleigh Democrat. “It brings home the potential that is there, and it reminds us that it’s our obligation to ensure that potential is not wasted.”

Martin won his chess match against Jed David, 8, a third-grade student at Hunter Elementary School in Raleigh. But Martin readily admits that only happened because he was coached by Ava Pellas, 7, a first-grade student and chess player from Hunter.

Sen. Paul Lowe, a Winston-Salem Democrat, didn’t get the benefit of coaching advice. He lost all three of his matches Wednesday.

“This is a humbling experience,” he said.

Wednesday’s event wasn’t primarily geared toward deflating the egos of legislators. Instead, the N.C. Chess Association was trying to let people know about how chess can help students do better in school and propel them to careers in science, technology, engineering and math, popularly called STEM.

Some Raleigh schools such as Ligon Middle and Hunter and Washington Elementary schools have active chess clubs. Many of the students who participated Wednesday will compete in the N.C. Scholastic Chess Championship in March sponsored by SAS.

“I know there aren’t a lot of female chess players, and I want to encourage chess clubs around North Carolina because chess really helps with your problem-solving,” said Tessa Philips, 12, a seventh-grade student at Ligon. “It can help you with real life.”

Philips didn’t win her match against Sen. Jay Chaudhuri. But the Raleigh Democrat had the help of other Ligon chess players who kept him in the match before he had to leave.

Chaudhuri walked away impressed by the ability of the young chess players to think several steps ahead.

“It’s truly inspirational,” he said. “If anybody wants to be inspired about the future, especially in the sciences, you just have to watch these kids.”

T. Keung Hui: 919-829-4534, @nckhui

Learn more about chess

Go to the N.C. Chess Association website at ncchess.org to learn more about participating in chess.

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