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Ory students spending afternoons playing chess

By Rebecca Burk / L’Observateur / February 9, 1998

LAPLACE – The next Bobby Fischer may be sitting in a classroom at John L.Ory Elementary.

French teacher Jean-Francois LaBarre thought it would be fun for thestudents to learn how to play chess, except he didn’t have the chessboards to teach them on.

So LaBarre went to a PTO meeting and asked the organization if it couldscrape together enough funds to buy some chess boards so he could startan after school chess club. One parent, Rick McCollum, donated 10 chessboards to the school for the club to begin.”This is my first year here,” LaBarre said. “It seemed really interestingand I like chess. I think they all like it.”LaBarre said there are about 15 regular members who stay after schoolevery Wednesday to play the game.

Besides enjoying the game, LaBarre said another reason he wanted thestudents to learn to play chess is because it helps them use their minds.

“Chess is for strategy and thinking,” LaBarre said. “It’s good for the kidsbecause they think about a move and then they play. It’s an intelligentgame.”

Students play chess on Wednesday afternoons as if they were in a smalltournament, switching partners after every game.”Of course some always want to win, and when they don’t they get upset,”LaBarre said.

He agreed that playing the game also teaches good sportsmanship.

“I told them they won’t win every game,” he said. “Sometimes they willwin and sometimes they won’t.”

At the end of the year, LaBarre said the student who has won the mostgames and been present at the most Wednesday afternoon meetings willwin a nice chess board.LaBarre said most of the students who joined the chess club have minimalexperience playing the game.

“Most of them didn’t know how to play,” he said. “But some learned alittle from their brothers or dads.”LaBarre said students are full of questions while learning to play thegame.

“They usually ask how to checkmate,” he said. “But that’s even hard forme to do.”

Amanda Brockman, a fifth-grader, already had some chess experience froma computer game (Battle Chess) she played.”I didn’t want to join at first, but my brother said it was OK, so I joined,”she said.

Another member, fifth-grader Jenna Smith, said she had never playedchess before she joined the club.”It’s pretty cool,” Smith said. “I’m just getting started. I thought it waslike checkers until I started playing.”

Like Smith, seventh-grader Chris Snyder just learned how to play thegame. “I just learned how to play a few weeks ago, but I like it,” Snydersaid, pondering which piece to move next. “It’s a good game.”

Seventh-grader Gary Millet has been playing chess for four years. “I’vebeen playing since I was 10,” he said, concentrating on the board beforehim. “But I wanted to join the club to learn how to play better and learnmore moves.”

Photo: CHRIS SNYDER, a seventh-grader at John L. Ory, said that he islearning strategy and thinking skills by playing chess at school. The chess club meets every Wednesday afternoon for an hour and the students play in tournament-like style.

Photo by: Rebecca Burk

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