UCS chess players win at tournaments

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published May 16, 2017


All of the pieces were in place for the Utica Community Schools district to hold its annual chess tournament earlier this month.

The tournament was held May 6 at Henry Ford II High School in Sterling Heights. According to organizers, this was the 22nd year for the tournament, which involves UCS schools and local charter and parochial schools.

Tournament director Scott Burnham, a Roberts Elementary School fifth-grade teacher, oversees three local chess clubs within the school district: the Roberts Rooks, the Flickinger Knights and the Eppler Elephants. He said the UCS chess tournament went well.

“We had 284 students from 51 schools from metro Detroit, K-12,” he said. “We handed out 50 trophies and a lot of medals. We had eight first-place trophies awarded.”

At the weekend tournament, the first-place winners from UCS were Roberts kindergartner Gavin Stankiewicz, Roberts third-grader Nicolas Miller, Roberts fourth-grader Ben Miller, Roberts fifth-grader Henry Auten, Schuchard Elementary sixth-grader Graham Barash, Eppler Junior High student Jaden Loy and Stevenson High School student Wil Harrison.

Burnham’s daughter Jade, 8, attends Flickinger Elementary School. She said she has been playing chess since she was around 4 years old, adding that she plays because she thinks it’s fun and winning makes her feel more confident. She said she played five games at the UCS tournament, losing one, and won a silver medal and a third-place trophy.

In March, Jade won a first-place trophy as a co-champion in the K-3 reserve section division of a state tournament run by the Michigan Chess Association. She described what it was like competing at the state level earlier in the school year.

“I was just so surprised because I didn’t know I was going to become a state champion,” she said.

Burnham said his daughter practices chess through the school chess club as well as at home. He described some of the benefits that young people receive by learning and playing the game.

“People see chess as two old guys sitting at a park saying, ‘Hurry up, it’s your move,’” he said. “You put a clock on the board and it becomes really exciting. It can be fast-paced if you set the time control.”

Burnham explained that students learn about forming plans, getting results and taking responsibility for their actions — especially when they are forced to play the pieces they touch.

“There’s problem solving, and it’s not based on physical strength, so anybody can play with anybody,” he said. “I’ve seen kindergartners beat much older players. Chess is a lifelong game, and the kids enjoy it because there is camaraderie.”

Burnham said he plans to hold a chess camp this summer.

Find out more about Utica Community Schools by visiting www.uticak12.org or by calling (586) 797-1000. Learn more about the district’s chess opportunities by visiting burnhamchess.weebly.com.