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Monday, May 12, 2014

Kids, Chess and Fun at 4th Annual Fremont Chess Fest

Hello chess friends, there's been great chess excitement at the 4th Annual Fremont ChessFest. The Midland Events Center was filled with quiet chatter on Saturday as players contemplated their next moves, trying to outwit their opponents! The event featured players in grades 2 to 8 of all skill levels.

The organiser of the chess tournament, Will Mitchell spoke to the Fremont Tribune. Here is the full report:

Will Mitchell said the festival grew from the chess clubs at schools in Fremont. Bergan, Bell Field and Howard are a few schools he said that had clubs. The coaches wanted to give players an opportunity to play other chess-enthusiasts from Fremont and other communities in a recreational tournament style atmosphere without having to worry about the pressure of playing a state sanctioned tournament.

Mitchell said about 67 players participated in this year’s tournament, which is consistent with what they’ve seen in three of the four years of Fremont ChessFest.

“We hope for growth, but we’re glad we’re maintaining,” he said. “The huge thing for us this year is that we probably have had more out-of-town people than we’ve ever had.”

This year’s tournament represented a good cross-section of eastern Nebraska chess players as it drew participants from Lincoln, Omaha, Ithaca, Wahoo and Boys Town.

Mitchell said one Omaha chess team from Castelar Elementary brought a group of players just learning to play the game.

“This is a good tournament for those players just learning the game,” Mitchell said. “They’re fitting in nicely.”

Dagen Valentine and Kathy Poehling co-coach the Castelar Elementary Chess Team. Valentine said the team is made up of about 30 fifth-grade students. About 10 of the players made the trip to Fremont Saturday to play in ChessFest.

“It’s awesome, the organization here is the best we’ve seen,” Valentine said. “I love seeing all the community partners contributing as well. Most of the other (tournaments) it’s just the school putting it on, but this one you can see -- the Fremont community is owning this.”

Melissa Sasse has been volunteering with the ChessFest since the beginning and helped get it started.

Her children participate in the tournament, and she believes young people benefit from the game in ways other sports or activities can’t match.

“Chess is one of the oldest games in the world,” she said. “I love for kids to know history and being part of this great conversation over time – chess is the same way.

“Another great thing is the brain development, critical thinking and thinking in advance that they learn,” Sasse added. “A lot times curriculum in schools try to have critical thinking skills. If you teach a kid chess, they’re learning wonderful critical thinking skills, patience and attention.”

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