Congratulations goes out to Aquantis Clemmons, an eighth grader and member of the Price Middle School Chess Team, who placed fifth out of 323 students in the K-8 under 750 section of the U.S. National Chess Championship in Grapevine, Texas on April 25-28.
In addition to Aquantis, the team includes eighth graders Keylon Harris, Montayo North and Cierra Patton, and seventh grader Corey Session. The team itself placed 16th out of 44 teams in the same section.
Marian Edmonds, Price’s chess coach and instructor, said she couldn’t be more proud of her students. The school’s team, which participated in the national tournament for the first time, kept winning despite earning tougher and tougher opponents amid the strongest teams in the nation.
“Aquantis lost after two hours to the eventual national champion. He was literally a few moves away from being national champion himself,” said Edmonds, a math teacher, who first taught students to play chess last year while on cafeteria duty. “Two other students also placed in the top 40 in their divisions as well, which is a huge honor.”
Principal Luqman Abdur-Rahman agreed.
“This event shows not only the unlimited potential of our students, but also the capacity of our Price community when we rally behind something,” he said. “Our students continue to amaze us, and we hope that the confidence and skills they gain from this translate to academic gains on our upcoming assessments, so they can be reminded that they can accomplish whatever goal they set for themselves.”
Learning to Play Chess
Edmonds, who shares a love for chess and started a chess team at her former school, immediately saw how the game could help the students she taught at Price. She recognized that students were incredibly talented but lacked some of the critical thinking and academic stamina that chess helped provide. She also noticed that some students were impulsive and quick to anger, and even though it was her first year at the school, she knew chess would do the trick.
“There were definitely some staff members who doubted whether or not our students at Price would be drawn to chess, but I didn’t let that stop me,” Edmonds said. “I taught one student to play first, then another, then another, and before I knew it the students were clamoring around me to get a seat at the chess table. Many students were so excited about playing at lunch and before school, it was hard to get them to go to class immediately afterward.”
Abdur-Rahman saw the brilliance in Ms. Edmonds’s vision, and was confident that her passion for the game would be quickly passed on to the students.
“It was a beautiful thing to watch. Chess brought out the innate skills that our students have that they often do not get credit for or see the benefit in,” he said. “Navigating the challenges in their lives have made them fearless. They know how to move aggressively, yet still play in ways to avoid leaving themselves exposed. Soon, students of all grades and levels started to grow in confidence, calling me out on the chess board and actually calling me scared when I told them I had to do my day job.”
From Novices to Champions
Since the chess team was established, Price students have attended weekend tournaments, competed against first responders from local city fire departments, and even challenged and taught chess to local senior citizens in their neighborhoods. They also competed against and beat more experienced teams like Drew Charter Academy and attended sanctioned Georgia Chess Foundation events.
In its first year, Price’s chess team placed in the top 10 from over 30 schools, earning the right to qualify in the Georgia chess state tournament and beating scores of schools with well-established teams with paid master chess coaches.
During the second year of the chess program, the school decided to use chess as a vehicle through which students were taught academic study skills. Soon, more students were exposed to the game and fell in love with it. Not only did the chess team make it back to the state tournament for the second consecutive year, but they attended the national chess tournament, playing against many powerhouse teams that boasted players that had been taught the game in pre-kindergarten.
Chess is now teaching Price students to look at things from more than one point of view and to think about the consequences of every move they make.
“Through chess, they are solving problems, developing critical thinking skills, and improving their focus and attention to detail. I’m so proud of these students. “At Price, our test scores don’t accurately portray the brilliance of our children. Though they have been playing chess less than two years, Price students are national chess champions. That’s a huge honor.”