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Chess teaches students patience, strategy

Hillsboro teams compete in home tournament

Staff writer

Rob and Sharon Denholm, of Hillsboro, think playing chess has helped their son Matthew improve his focus on schoolwork.

It has taught him patience and given him confidence, they said during a tournament Saturday in Hillsboro. Matthew is in sixth grade at Hillsboro Middle School. He and younger brother Jacob, a second-grader, play as part of Hillsboro Chess Guild.

However, the boys don’t play chess for the academic benefits; they play because they enjoy the game and the competition. Matthew is in his second year playing in the guild; Jacob is a rookie.

“They love it,” Sharon Denholm said.

“It’s become quite the home thing,” Rob Denholm added.

Jacob hasn’t yet been able to defeat his older brother, but the Denholms expect he will be excited when he does.

“There is some definite sibling rivalry,” Sharon Deholm said.

Sixth-grader Jordan Fryhover began playing chess three or four years ago, when his father, Danny Fryhover, taught him how to play.

“I like that it involves a lot of strategy,” Jordan said.

He said he continues to improve the more he plays.

“It’s taught me patience and strategy,” Jordan said.

Patience, concentration, strategy, creativity, ability to think ahead, and competitiveness are attributes that good chess players share, sponsor Janet Whisenhunt said. Additionally, players learn etiquette and sportsmanship. Players shake hands before and after every match.

Hillsboro Chess Guild is nearing the end of its third full year, and more than 30 students in all grades participate, Whisenhunt said. The chess season lasts from September to March. The team tries to compete at two tournaments each month.

Saturday’s tournament used what Whisenhunt called a Swiss format. Each competitor played six rounds. Every round, students played against someone with the same record they have. By the final round, players should be matched against someone of a similar skill level.

Teams traveled from as far as Garden City to the tournament, with 129 players in all. Chess is not a Kansas State High School Activities Association governed activity, although competitions follow KSHSAA guidelines. Kansas Scholastic Chess Association sponsors the state competition. Students can play in a higher age division, so if a middle school student doesn’t feel challenged, they can play in the high school division.

Younger students demonstrated a lot of excitement during the competition Saturday. After one round, an elementary school student recounted to Whisenhunt how he won his match that round.

The Hillsboro Elementary School team — composed of Benjamin Koop, Jacob Denholm, Brodie Rathbone, and Dakota Klein — placed fourth out of 12 teams in the kindergarten through fifth-grade division. Benjamin earned the third-place individual trophy among 58 competitors.

The Hillsboro Middle School team — composed of Jordan Fryhover, Matthew Denholm, Reece Berens, and Leighton Wagner — earned second place among 10 teams in the kindergarten through eighth-grade division. Jordan placed third individually, Matthew placed ninth, and Reece placed 11th out of 36 players.

In the kindergarten through 12th-grade division, senior Michael Christian placed 14th out of 35 to earn a medal.

Last modified Dec. 17, 2009

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