Board of directors rather than boredom: Brunswick’s children’s chess club is a success

Molly Tefft, center forward, and Gabe Eaton, center right, compete in the Maine Middle School Online Chess League tournament in March. They are surrounded by the rest of their team, while competing with other students online. Contributed / Nathan Tefft

A Brunswick elementary and middle school online chess club that has begun to battle pandemic boredom has had some tournament success and is looking forward to the next season in person.

Nathan Tefft and his daughter Molly, already a seasoned chess player, started the K-8 club to keep kids connected and doing something meaningful during the pandemic. The club have placed high in a number of online tournaments over the past few months.

“llas failures because it is not simple like the ladies, ”said Molly, a seventh-grader. “There are so many combinations that can happen. Iit is very strategic, which can help you in different parts of life.

Club member Gabe Eaton, an eighth-grader, has also been playing for some time, but so far hasn’t played in any tournaments. Online contests gave him a taste for competitive chess.

“When I learned to play my grandfather he always beat me and we were turning the board around so I had a chance against him,” Gabe said. “At one point I was just as good, and more recently I’ve beaten him every time,” Eaton said.

Eaton and Tefft are both part of the club’s Grade 6-8 team, which finished third in the Maine Online Middle School Chess League tournament in March.

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The young team also did just as well, placing second in the 2021 Online Webber Cup Championship hosted by Bonny Eagle High School and third in the Maine Scholastic Team Chess Championship.

When not participating in tournaments, club members train with each other and with players around the world on Chess.com.

“I think during the pandemic I would have been really bored if not for chess,” Gabe said.

His mother accepts.

“It’s given Gabe so much to do, and we can play games together,” Carrie Eaton said. “There are far worse things to get into during the pandemic, and I’m glad to see Gabe making meaningful connections.

“It’s such a place for him to learn on his own, and that’s a great thing with all the kids at home during the pandemic. I think this made him a better student,” she said.

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As pandemic restrictions on social distancing begin to ease, Gabe and Molly look forward to in-person tournaments, although that doesn’t mean giving up online gaming.

“I will also continue to play online, try new moves and improve,” Molly said.

While online tournaments are tough and can take up to three hours, they said, in-person tournaments can last over eight hours and are more mentally taxing. Their pandemic game prepared them for this, they said.

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