Local residents gather for chess tournament

Photo by Heather Middleton

Photo by Heather Middleton

By Curt Yeomans


Queens, Kings, knights and pawns saw plenty of action at Jonesboro High School on Friday night as the school hosted the Clayton County Chess Tournament.

Twenty-four local residents participated in the tournament, which was open to people of all ages, ranging from elementary school-aged children, to adults. Jonesboro High School Royal Knights Chess Team faculty advisor, Mark McPherson, said the school hosted the tournament to raise awareness of the game.

"I'm trying to put chess in Clayton County schools, by convincing the schools to start chess teams," McPherson said. "The research I've run across validates that chess training actually improves achieving, significantly, in the areas of reading comprehension and math reasoning ... The same brain pathways identified for learning chess, are the same ones used for reading comprehension and math reasoning."

Jonesboro residents, Anthony Beavers, Joe Strickland and Tracey Messick, finished first, second and third, respectively, in the tournament's "Adults" category. Jonesboro High School Royal Knights Chess Team members, Tuan Nguyen, Tony Lee and Ayana Colbert, finished first, second and third, respectively, in the "Teen" category. In the "Elementary" category, Morrow youth, Charlie Gutierrez, won first place, followed by Jonesboro's Bailey Stevens in second, and Gutierrez's younger brother, Bryan, in third.

Chess teams at two schools, Jonesboro and Mt. Zion high schools, were represented by multiple members at the tournament. McPherson said the team from Lovejoy High School had considered participating, but could not because of scheduling conflicts.

Open Campus High School senior, Tynisha Simmons, 18, was the only member of the chess team at the Eula Wilborn Ponds Perry Center for Learning (also known as the Perry Learning Center) to participate in the tournament. She said other members of the Perry Learning Center's team wanted to participate, but could not make it because of scheduling conflicts with work.

In the case of Mt. Zion High School, the tournament was the school's first time competing against other schools, since forming a competition team in October, said Mt. Zion Chess Team faculty advisor, Sridhar More.

Like McPherson, More said the analytical approach a chess player has to take in determining where to move one piece on a chess board, while keeping in mind the positions of his or her opponent's 16 game pieces, helps students develop skills in reading and math.

"You can see a chess player is a logical person," More said. "They think logically and make perfect decisions ... This will also motivate them to concentrate more in class, because you have to use a lot of concentration when you're figuring out where to move your chess pieces."

Mt. Zion Chess Team member, Jared Saunders, 16, said in the month since he picked up chess, he's seen math become easier for him to understand. "It [chess] hits some spots in your brain that you didn't even know were there, so when you're in class, you start thinking the same way you do when you play chess," he said.

Teen category champion, Nguyen, 17, who has played chess for the last five years, said he has developed critical-thinking skills by playing the game. "It's taught me I should look at every possibility in whatever I do," he said.