By Jamie A. Hunt

Who would have believed that in the small town of Farmersville there are actually four chess teams with coaches that are active in the schools for about 20 plus collective years.

&#8220Farmersville is an interesting place, there are chess players from kindergarten up to high school,” said Allan Fifield, director of &#8220Chess for Kids,” a company that hosts and organizes chess tournaments, clubs and camps in Tulare County.

At the chess tournament at Farmersville High School on Sat., Jan 21, there were 172 students competing in the multipurpose room. Students came from Farmersville and Reedley, and from as far as Bakersfield and Mendota for the tournament.

Walking in a room filled with well over 200 chess boards and intent players was a fascinating and enlightening experience that made one want to get involved and try and learn the game. The concentration on players faces was equally intense; be they 7 or 18 year old.

Seeing all of these kids involved with a game that teaches strategy, critical thinking, good sportsmanship and math skills was a gratifying sight for teaches, coaches and parents.

&#8220These kids are really passionate about the game, they don't realize that in playing chess; they are actually gaining problem solving skills and increasing their math abilities,” said Jodie Faiman, afterschool Chess Coach for Snowden Elementary second and third graders.

&#8220Chess is fantastic for helping ADHD,” said Michelle Tippit, &#8220Chess helps kids learn to focus on one problem at a time.” Tippit is a fourth-grade teacher at Freedom Elementary School in Farmersville and coach for the fourth- and fifth-grader Freedom Fighters Chess Club.

&#8220I played two games today, and won booth of them,” said Mario Romo, 11, from Freedom Elementary. Romo has been playing for chess for three years.

&#8220Chess helps hyper-activity but it also is the only sport that is recognized and funded by the federal government for the Gifted and Talented Education or G.A.T.E program,” said Faiman.

Another great thing about chess and many board games; there are no socio-economic barriers to chess, it's open for everyone. No matter your physical ability, you can play chess and improve your mind. Its a non-violent battle between brains.

&#8220I've been playing chess for four or five years. Well, I'm good. I got second place in a chess championship in fourth grade,” said Rhonda Valencia. &#8220I love chess. I'm doing really well in school. Math is my best subject.”

There was a stalemate between Rhonda and Jacob Alvarez who was from Thomas Law Reed Chess Club from Reedley. &#8220I've been playing chess for 1 1/2 years. It's a fun game, challenging,” said Alvarez. &#8220It has sort of helped me with my mathematics. It makes me think ahead.”

&#8220A stalemate is neat, because you don't lose, you get half a point and continue on and play another game. Chess challenges each player, but at the same time, you are working together.”

&#8220The sportsmanship is incredible, how the players shake hands before and after the game and show respect to one another,” said Carole Rieder, Special Education Teacher at Farmersville High School.

&#8220This is my second year playing playing chess,” said Jasmine Garcia, 9, from Reedley. &#8220I like playing chess, last year I got eighth place.”

&#8220Small groups of chess fanatics roam the streets of Farmersville,” said Allan Fifield, &#8220who would have imagined.”

Sequoia Chess for Kids gives after school chess lessons in 35 schools in Tulare, Kings, and Fresno counties. If someone would like chess in their school, contact Allan Fifield at Sequoia Chess for Kids 734-2784, by e-mail at [email protected] or by mail at:

Sequoia Chess for Kids

P.O. Box 27

Visalia, CA 93279.

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