A West Side school where chess is mandatory brings home the trophy
The Speyer Legacy School, an independent K-8 program on the West Side, swept the Kasparov Chess Foundation's All-Girls Nationals earlier this month, taking the competition by just a half-point.
The school's six competing chess players traveled to Northbrook, Ill., in mid-April, along with Milos Scekic, the team's chess coach, and Sunil Weeramantry, head of the school's chess program. Over the course of three days, they competed in six games against 330 players in their age range who hailed from 27 states.
Two of the girls, Carolyne Kelly and Corinne Wingate, participated in the 8-and-under games, and despite the small number of their group, made it to the tournament's fifth place. But the winning title, in the 10-and-under category, belonged to Carol Chen, 9; Nivedita Morris, 8; Amanda Phillips, 8; and Alexandra Wingate, 9. Chen, who brought home the win after a close, tough game against her higher-rated Dalton opponent, represented the U.S. at 2012's World Youth Chess Championships in Maribor, Slovenia.
"Sunil and his team did an outstanding job preparing the team for this event," said Constantin Manta, Speyer's so-called "Chess Dad" who organizes the school's tournaments. "Hats off to them."
Last month's success is perhaps unsurprising for a school whose curriculum has included chess from the start. Founded in 2009 as a K-2 for high-testing children, Speyer has since expanded to eight grades. Since the school's founding, its twice-weekly chess class has been mandatory for students, many of whom also choose to pursue additional board time and competitions after school and on weekends.
"It's exciting not just for the students, but also for the parents and the administration," said Manta. "We think the chess program is a great way to balance education, fun and competition."
This was Speyer's second year competing in the Kasparov All-Girls Nationals: last year, the team came close to the final round, missing out by one game. This year's win has invigorated the whole Speyer community, Weeramantry said.
"This has been very inspirational for the school," he said. "I wouldn't be surprised if the chess team's numbers double next year."