Scholastic chess tournament attracts dozens of students

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COLUMBIA - More than 100 students gathered to compete in the 2018 Columbia Elementary & Middle School Scholastic Chess Tournament at Lange Middle School Saturday.

It's an event that's been held since the late 1990s and has amassed a large group of dedicated participants throughout the years.

It started as a competition only for elementary students, but more and more older students wanted to participate. 

"It slowly kept building and building. We got more interest from kids who had graduated out of the tournament," said event coordinator Tim Campbell. "So to increase and encourage middle school play, we went ahead and added middle school."

Now, any student in Columbia in kindergarten through 8th grade can participate. They are given four guaranteed rounds of chess, and are even guided by older chess players along the way.

Teo Soria, who played among the kindergarten and first grade groups, said he liked learning the strategies as he played each round.

"When you get one of your pawns to the other end, you get to swap your pawn for any other piece," Teo said. 

And Teo's older brother, Joaquin Soria, said he started out with chess when his father introduced him to it, but he still enjoys it to this day.

"I get to go to clubs and attend tournaments," Joaquin said. 

Campbell believes the annual tournament gives the students who attend a chance to branch out.

"Students have fun. That's our goal," he said. "I'd love for Columbia to become the next Brownsville, Texas, where a kid can play from elementary school to college."

Columbia is no stranger to chess tournaments. As the host school district for statewide scholastic chess competitions, students travel from all over Missouri to compete at Battle High School.

The next state tournament at Battle is March 17.

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