“You can’t leave the queen for me to take.”
“That was nice! Good job!”
“Never accept your fate until the last move of the game.”
Welcome to chess practice at Summit Academy Secondary School – Akron. In a classroom just outside the school’s main office, students in the first-year Chess Club exchange cheers, friendly critiques and strategies. Club Advisor Justin Bruce, who teaches social studies at the school, says the twice-weekly practices have attracted as many as 18 students at a time. They come motivated and focused on mastering chess basics as they prepare to compete in the upcoming Greater Akron Scholastic Chess League’s matches this season. Competitions will begin later this month and run through next February. Other schools in the league include Akron Early College High School, Copley High School, Revere High School and Solon High School.
Armed with books, puzzles and worksheets to help students step up their games, Bruce says he started the club out of his personal passion for chess and to bring a robust co-curricular activity to students.
“Chess has always been a big part of who I am,” says Bruce, who as a Copley-Fairlawn Middle School student and later in high school was an active member of his schools’ chess clubs. “I like the idea of the game. You can never master it, but you can always learn more about it.”
Bruce says he wanted to start an academic-based club that had the capacity to help temper stigmas students who learn differently may face. Likewise, it provides a venue for social interaction and confidence-building, he says.
“The biggest thing is the self-confidence, the ability to feel like you can do something and be successful at something that is academic in nature and pushes you to compete under pressure,” Bruce says. “Whether you win or lose, gaining the personal growth is positive.”
Chess Club member Charles Shuff, a junior who has been playing about a year, says he expects impressive performance by his high school’s club in the upcoming league competitions. He runs through a verbal list of his teammates, naming several who play well.
Shuff says he enjoys the social, intellectual and calming aspects of the club.
“It makes school more fun,” he says, adding that he appreciates the game’s strategic nature and “being able to plan ahead. In a way, it’s like mathematics. You need to keep track of where all the pieces are and have enough to finish a game.”
Senior Kareron Murray, whose uncle taught him how to play chess when he was just 11, shares Shuff’s views about chess.
“It makes me use my brain and learn more about strategy,” he says as he plays a practice game with sophomore Jessica Moore.
New to the club’s practice sessions and game overall, Moore says, “It’s actually kind of fun.”
As Principal Ralph Grant and Bruce watch Moore and Murray examine their game board and determine their next moves, Grant says he is pleased with the club’s popularity.
“It’s giving students a chance to learn something different and they seem to really enjoy it,” he says.