Citywide chess tournament grows

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 245 views 

FORT SMITH — “Chess is a game you play with your mind — not with your hands,” Ernest Cialone reminded the 56 chess players Wednesday morning (May 16) before the start of the second annual Fort Smith Elementary City Chess Tournament. The competition took place at the Evans Boys & Girls Club.

Tim Higgins, unit director at Evans, said six local elementary schools participated in this advanced-level tournament: Barling, Howard, Carnall, Sunnymede, Fairview and Christ the King. Just three schools participated last year.

“This is a Swiss-style tournament,” said Cialone, an art professor at the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith. He is also a local level tournament director sanctioned by the U.S. Chess Federation.

All children play a match in every round of the tournament.  A win earns the student one point, a tie gets half a point, and a loss garners none. After four or five rounds, the school with the most overall points wins; the student with the most points comes in first overall.  The tournament lasts four hours and they are usually able to get at least four matches in.

“These are children, they play quickly and energetically,” said Cialone.

Christ the King won the overall tournament with a score of 15; Carnall came in second with 11.5 points; and Howard in third with 10.5 points. At the end of four rounds, two players were tied with four wins each: Parker Crisp and Vinny Nguyen, each with a record of 4 and 0.

After the school trophy was awarded, Parker and Vinny had a quick but suspenseful match-off. Vinny used his rook to force the checkmate and then collect the overall championship trophy.

David Israel of Weldon, Williams and Lick got the idea for the chess tournament from a Ted Danson film, Knights of the South Bronx, which featured school kids playing chess.

“If they can do that, so can we,” Israel thought.

The company had been a Partner in Education with Howard Elementary for more than 20 years when the tournament was started six years ago. Most the children playing in the tournament were fifth- and sixth-graders, though there was a third-grader making his moves on the board in Wednesday’s tournament.

Higgins said there will be a second tournament for beginners on Saturday (May 19) to accommodate the different levels of play among the children. The novice-level tournament will be 9 a.m. at Fairview Elementary and include Cavanaugh, as well as Euper Lane and Orr schools, since those schools began their chess programs just a few months ago.