Sue Thompson deserves her own trophy for her part in Stoneleigh Elementary's first place win for the second year in a row in Baltimore County Public Schools' fourth annual systemwide Chess Championship last month.
Thompson uses the game in her first grade math classes to teach children about patterns strategies and coordinates on a grid.
Starting in third grade, students can join the chess club, which Thompson coaches. Early on, Thompson tried to cut off membership at 40. The only adult in the room, she was worried about the children's safety.
The outcry from parents forced her to relent. She recruited parents to help out and could raise the limit to 75.
"We always have an enormous team," Thompson said. "They are so motivated and they motivate each other about their excitement about chess."
Stoneleigh's team topped 11 other elementary chess teams. And this, even after the club couldn't get started until January, months after the usual October opening due to renovations going on at the Towson school.
"I had no idea we were going to win that tournament," Thompson said.
Thirty students and nine teams received trophies as the top competitors in the championship, held April 26 at Cockeysville Middle School. More than 190 students from 43 schools participated.
Local students proved their chess expertise in all three school division categories.
Cockeysville Middle won the middle school division for the fourth year in a row. Ridgely took second and Dumbarton was third.
In the high school division, Dulaney came out on top for the third year in a row. Towson High took second.
Dulaney's faculty adviser Karen Turek says her chess club members, which number between 20 and 30, are highly motivated and skilled.
"There's really nothing I can teach them," she said. "They teach each other."
And they come well-prepared from Cockeysville and Ridgely middle schools, she said. "They have learned a lot."
Glenn Segal, Cockeysville's coach said the school's club provides a good structure for these developing chess masters. "The stronger players help the younger players," he said of his team, which numbers about 60.
"Most of them think they know how to play," Segal said. But the new members do have to learn to play by tournament chess rules and get used to playing by the clock. As the year progresses, they get better.
"The more they play the better they get," Segal said.