Chess club popular with young students

February 16, 2005|by MARLO BARNHART

WILLIAMSPORT - When Nellie Jordan started the chess club at Williamsport Elementary School in the 2003-04 school year, she had high hopes it would be a success.

Actually, the endeavor proved to be almost too successful.

"We had 35 children sign up," Jordan said. "There were so many I ran out of seats in my room so we had to do it on two nights instead of one."

Part of that overwhelming interest may be because in the popular Harry Potter books, the characters play living chess, Jordan said. "That has given chess a great boost," she said.


This spring, Jordan has every intention of resurrecting the club, but says she will need help to make it work.

"I never played chess when I was growing up - what I know I learned from books," she said. "I need people with experience."

The club hopes to meet once a week after school.

As the Quest Enrichment teacher at Williamsport Elementary, Jordan deals with the gifted and talented students there. "I've been to so many conferences where they talk about how chess fosters critical and analytical thinking," she said.

The game is not one in which players can enjoy a quick win. Instead, Jordan said, chess is a game of strategy where the most proficient players are those who can think several moves ahead of the current move.

"Some children tend to be more analytical than others," Jordan said. "I always find it fascinating to watch the thought processes that go into chess."

Last year, Jordan had children from all five grades involved in the club, some at the beginner stage and others who had played before. She said she relies heavily on the text of "King and Queen and In Between," a book that explains chess step by step.

When she was teaching the beginners, Jordan would have the youngsters play with just one piece at a time to show how they move. "We also learned chess notation and the National Federation of Chess laws," she said.

"The students often ask me questions and I have to look it up," Jordan said.

Anyone interested in sharing the knowledge and love of chess with the club may contact Jordan at the school by calling 301-766-8415.

A Williamsport native, Jordan attended Williamsport Elementary School from the third grade when it first opened its doors. She has been teaching for 31 years, 22 of those at the kindergarten level at Fountaindale.

Jordan is in her sixth year teaching at Williamsport Elementary School.

"You would not only need to know chess but also enjoy working with children - a sense of humor would be valuable too," Jordan said.

She said she is enjoying her association with the chess club although she's learned one hard truth.

"I teach these children and then they turn around and beat me," Jordan said.

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