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Franklin Elementary chess students know the moves
There's just something about chess that stands the test of time.
If the turnout at last Wednesday's Sacramento Valley Scholastic Chess League tournament at Franklin Elementary School was any indicator, that looks likely to hold true for generations.
Why that is depends on whom you ask.
"Everybody can make up their own strategy, and use it," Franklin fifth-grader David Tappe said after his second game of the day.
For fellow fifth-grader Mikayla Baker, who started playing in second grade, chess' learning curve presented an obstacle she was happy to overcome.
"I stuck with it, and it turns out it's pretty fun," she said.
Whatever the formula, Franklin Elementary teacher and chess coach Jon Trefzger oversees 19 youths in the school's club — the only one at Yuba-Sutter area schools — with an additional 26 students in his beginner's class.
"We've got a lot of future chess players here," he said while finalizing prep work before round one began.
Involved with the league since its inception about 10 years ago, Trefzger's Bulldogs are accustomed to traveling to Corning, Chico and Biggs for monthly tournaments. The Oct. 17 event marked their chance to shine in their only home tournament of the year.
Nearly 100 students, playing three games each, filled the elementary school's gym in Yuba City.
From set up, to judging, to concessions and other logistics, Trefzger credited parent volunteers with not only helping at the tournament but for showing their support throughout the year.
"Franklin parents are awesome, they always step up," he said.
Erin Cucci was one of about 15 parents helping out, tasked with guiding some of the younger students who might need some direction.
Her daughter, Emma, was at one of the nearby tables playing a game during her second year on the team. Erin Cucci said it's been easy to see the benefits come out of Emma joining the team.
The club opens doors for students who might not be interested in sports, she said, adding that Trefzger makes the game accessible to a variety of skill and experience levels.
"They can start and not know anything, and he teaches them from the ground up," Cucci said.
Indeed, many coaches offered hints, rule clarifications and encouragement to help lighten the mood at the tournament. Learning from mistakes, remembering the positives and never giving up were some of their lessons.
On the game board itself, knowledge and creativity came to life with every move.
David knows a thing about the four-move checkmate, a strategy his father used to beat him several times. With club practices once a week and Trefzger's guidance, he developed a knack for scouting it out.
His technique came in handy in game one, as he spotted his opponent trying the move, stopped it — and won.
As it does for David and many Bulldogs, the open-endedness of chess appeals to fourth-grader Griffin Haydon. After some deliberating, he assuredly identified it as his favorite board game.
It runs in the family, as Griffin is a triplet — his brother, Daniel, was in the tournament. The third, a sister, was on the team last year, but ballet has presented a scheduling conflict.
Compared to chess, the SVSCL is young, but its future seems just as bright.