Congratulations to the Cedar Ridge Third Grade Chess Club for winning first, second and third places at the UIL competition. Cedar Ridge’s Third Grade Chess Club members and bilingual students – Ruben Torres, Oscar Torres, Moises Hiracheta, and Adrian Pecina– can be very proud. They secured the first, second and third place winning spots for the Waco I.S.D. UIL competition. Their third grade bilingual teacher, Nancy Merkh, and her husband, John Merkh, started teaching chess to students a few years ago. However, this is the first year for the competition.
“I read an article about how students can benefit from chess,” Merkh said. “ It helps them focus on other subjects like reading passages. So I got a book of chess and showed the students how to move the pieces. My husband was a big help and offered lots of support. He took time out of his career to help these kids. His main focus was teaching them chess strategies. In fact he was the main chess coach. They also learn a lot of new vocabulary like ‘sacrifice’ and ‘check mate’”
All of the chess club members stated how much they love playing chess.
For instance, Hiracheta said “Playing chess is a lot of fun. If you want to learn, you need to listen and pay attention to how the pieces move.”
And pay attention, they did. At the tournament, they had to play “chess puzzles” on paper where they placed the chess pieces according to where they would go based on a certain strategy. They also had to take a chess test.
“There were a lot of children and we were a little nervous,” Hiracheta recalls. ”But when they announced the winners, it was really cool.”
The excitement of playing chess has spread throughout the class. Merkh says that all of the students now want to learn and play chess. In fact, at the Christmas party in December, Merkh said it was the most popular request of the children.
“I even taught my dad and sisters how to play so I could continue to play at home,” Oscar Torres said.
So what’s next? Merkh says that since they have done so well, they will continue to offer the instruction next year and possibly even start a school wide chess club.