Whiz kids win state chess title

THE MOUNT LAWLEY primary school chess team has taken out the state title.

The whiz kids beat Deanmore Primary School and Anzac Terrace PS at the Chess Association of WA school championships, and will travel to Sydney in December to compete for the national title.

MLPS pupils Zachary Pendragon, David Richards, Minh Nguyen and Ethan Richards each played six games, winning 21 of their 24 matches.

Year four student Ethan played the toughest players in the competition on “board 1” and year five student Minh faced the second best on “board 2”.

• David Richards ponders his next move. Photo supplied

They both won all of their games in the heats and finals, even though Ethan was up against year six players from other schools.

Ethan’s dad Jim Richards, who coordinates the MLPS chess club, says his son, “has got an amazing talent, to play at that level at that age”.

“He was the youngest kid playing in the school team and he was beating kids from year six, so it’s quite an achievement”.

Many primary schools still don’t have chess teams, but at MLPS their program’s been driven by coach Jay Lakner and coordinator Michael Richards (no relation to Ethan and Jim), and they’ve had unflagging support from principal Cavelle Monck.

Jim Richards says chess is a great substitute for screen time and the game has helped him bond with his son.

• Left to right: Zachary Pendragon (year 5), David Richards (year 6), Minh Nguyen (year 5) and Ethan Richards (year 4).

“Every house should have a chess board set up” he says.

“Chess is getting a bit of a renaissance now, because I think parents are realising there’s a serious problem with attention spans.

“The great thing about chess is it makes the kids concentrate.

“If you don’t concentrate you lose, and they don’t like losing.”

“They learn to concentrate and focus, to plan ahead, to handle pre-game nerves, and also how to lose sometimes.

A lot of primary school sports don’t keep scores in games anymore, in case pupils on the losing side gets their feelings hurt.

But Mr Richards says losing a game of chess is good preparation for adult life, and he’s watched kids accept defeat gracefully and maturely.

He says people shouldn’t be put off by the complexity of chess because it’s really easy to learn the basic rules.

“The beauty of the game is it’s the most simple game, but it’s impossible to master,” he says.

Over the past few years MLPS has successfully got kids interested in the game, and the school’s chess club now has more than 50 members.

by DAVID BELL

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