Local students compete in national chess tournament
You know that kid who stares at the rock-climbing wall for a long time before making a move? He may be overcome with fear or he could be a chess player.
Several local students competed in the National K-12 Scholastic Chess Championship in Florida earlier this month. They are Cario Middle School sixth-grader Austin Setser, Ashley River Creative Arts School fourth-grader Vince Apostolico, Charles Pinckney Elementary School third-graders Jacob and Joshua Lewis; and Laurel Hill Primary School second-grader Brady Setser.
Chess is not a game for older men to play in the park anymore. This game of skill is now popular among youngsters, and their parents are seeing them prosper because of it.
“I’ve seen huge benefits” said Alethea “E.C.” Setser about her son, Brady, who started playing chess when he was 4. “It’s very obvious in the little one (Brady). He’s reading better. The P.E. teacher sees him thinking ahead when climbing the rock wall: He thinks three steps ahead. I never thought about it going to those parts of his life. His math scores have gone up.”
Chess is a family matter for these boys. The Setser boys learned to play from their father, Butch Setser.
Alethea Setser teaches a morning chess class at Laurel Hill and started a club there two years ago.
“We’re trying hard to grow scholastic chess. It’s hard to compete with soccer and lacrosse. Having it in school has been wonderful,” Alethea Setser said.
She received a grant from the Park West Education Foundation to teach chess at Laurel Hill with a program called First Move.
“Our thought is to grow chess in this area and have more kids involved,” she said.
Dr. Robin Lewis said her twin sons, Jacob and Joshua, who are involved in the chess club at Pinckney, learned chess from her father. Lewis, a psychologist, said the game makes her sons more well-rounded because it combines skill with sportsmanship.
“You have to win with humility and lose with respect and dignity for someone else’s abilities,” Lewis said.
“They definitely learn patience. It’s not a fast game. They have to think things through,” she added.
Her son, Joshua, said he thinks chess is for everyone and said it’s becoming a popular game among kids.
“It helps me do better in math,” Joshua added.
Vince also learned how to play from his father, Richard Apostolico.
“I was thinking my husband was letting him win, but he (Vince) was actually beating him,” said Vince’s mother, Diana Apostolico.
Diana Apostolico said she also sees her son benefiting from chess. She said he has learned patience, strategy and has made friends along the way.
Vince does not have a chess club at his school but is coached by Stephen Welt, who also coaches the Setser and Lewis boys. The Apostolicos meet Welt at Starbucks every Sunday after church, and they said this has become a tradition.
“Whenever he gives me a problem, he says ‘Don’t guess. You have to think,’ ” Vince said of his coach.
Welt said he became fascinated with the game in high school because his best friend was “really into it.”
“He started teaching me and I fell in love with it. I think of it as an art. What I love about it is there is a lot of certainty. ... You have that sort of validation you can’t find in other mediums,” Welt said.
“I got better because Coach Stephen taught me some good moves. Unfortunately for me, he also taught my little brother how to play and he beats me often,” Austin said.
All of the boys said chess is a game anyone can learn no matter how young or smart you are. Lewis said many adults try to play her boys, but later regret it.
“It feels good to beat people older than me. Younger people can be better than older people. Age doesn’t matter. Logic and patience matter most in chess,” Jacob said.
“The impression is you have to be good at math and science. I don’t think that’s true,” Welt said.
Welt also can attest to the benefits of young people playing chess.
“The biggest thing it teaches kids is to work hard. ... It has redefined what it means to try,” Welt said.
Welt and the other parents said that if you are interested in learning how to play chess, there are a lot of helpful books on the subject. They also recommend joining or starting a local chess club to get more hands-on experience once you learn the basic rules.
“It’s helpful if you have a little bit of guidance. ... Find a book or someone who is knowledgeable,” Welt said.
Austin won first place in the under 600 rating category. This is the first National K-12 Scholastic Chess Championship win for the Charleston County School District.
Brady finished 86th in the competition, Jacob 137th, Vince 138th and Joshua 141st out of 1,300 students there.
Reach Jade McDuffie at 937-5560 or jmcduffie@post andcourier.com.