Rivers Third Grader headed to Nashville for a National Chess Championship


by: Britney Morgan 

Studies show that chess directly contributes to academic performance, helping students with their ability to focus and solve problems. 

“Academically, Eli is a strong student,” says Pamela Weidmann, third grade teacher at Rivers Elementary.

A third grader in the gifted program at Rivers Elementary School, Elias “Eli” Swafford, won first place in the U1000 division at the 2015 Phillip Taylor Georgia State Championship held April 24-26 at the Wyndham Atlanta Galleria hotel.

Competing against older players throughout the tournament, Eli won four out of five matches to finish in second place overall in the scholastic (K-12) division.  Competing against older players is not new for Eli.  He’s spent the entire semester practicing and competing with the Sutton Middle School team.

Ms. Weidmann said that at the beginning of the school year she quickly noticed his math level was above third grade.  He was tested, and now has almost completed fourth grade math.

She says he’s a strong critical thinker, enjoys solving problems, and has the ability to analyze, evaluate, and perceive ideas very well. He also uses higher vocabulary words in most conversations.

“All of these skills could be attributed to his chess playing abilities,” said Weidmann.  “I am sure these skills help him win too!”

Eli began playing chess at the age of four and joined the Rivers Chess Club in the first grade. Since then he’s been honing his skills under the leadership of his school coaches Ben Johnson and Renee Leathers and his personal coach Damir Studen.”

Eli competed in the scholastic division this weekend with time controls that matched those of an adult tournament that was happening at the same time.  Each player had 90 minutes on the clock, which means that each of the five rounds could have lasted three hours.

You would think that he had more than enough chess after that, but he’s ready for more. “I am super excited about going to Nashville,” said Eli.  He will compete in the United States Chess Confederation’s 2015 National Elementary (K-6) Championship May 8-10 in Nashville, TN.

Join us in congratulating Elias Swafford on this great achievement and wish him luck as he heads to the championship.

The Rivers Chess Club is a part of the Kiddos’ after school program. Learn more at http://www.kiddosatlanta.com/rivers.

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