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McKinley Elementary School fifth grade student Michael Bale thinks about a move during the Saturday chess tournament at Cheney Middle School. Dave Wallis/The Forum

Chess teaches kids to focus, think ahead

Fargo,North Dakota 58102
West Fargo Pioneer
Chess teaches kids to focus, think ahead
Fargo North Dakota 101 5th Street North 58102

It might have been cold outside last Saturday morning, but students and families attending the F-M Scholastic Chess Tournament on January 10, at Cheney Middle School, spent the day warm and comfortable indoors. Sixty-four students from the Fargo-Moorhead metro area, Grand Forks, and Bismarck competed in the tournament.

This was the first time the tournament has been held in West Fargo. Organizers would like to see more clubs forming in West Fargo. Right now, there are chess clubs meeting regularly at South Elementary and Cheney Middle School. Saturday's tournament included 13 students from Cheney, seven students from South Elementary, two students from L.E. Berger, and one student from Sheyenne Ninth Grade Center.

Involvement in area chess clubs tends to become a family affair for students and organizers alike. Eight-year-old Elijah Orvik, who serves as Cheney's club manager, doesn't play in the tournaments yet, but watches his brother Nick compete. Paul Heuer started helping organize chess tournaments in 1997 when his son competed in third grade. His son has since graduated from high school, but Heuer continues to be involved, downloading results into the computer during tournaments, and serving on the FM Chess Club's Board of Directors. His father, Dr. Gerald Heuer has also served on the board for many years. Most of the coaches became involved when their sons or daughters joined the chess club.

Achintya Bezbaruah, an assistant professor of civil engineering at NDSU, and Kambiz Farahmand, chairman of NDSU's industrial and manufacturing engineering department, volunteer as coaches for the Cheney Chess Club. They both have children competing on the team. Lee Brooks, a chess coach at South Elementary, has a son competing at the second grade level.

Coach Farahmand says he started playing chess when he was five years old.

"There's nothing like it. Chess teaches kids to focus and think ahead. It challenges them," Farahmand said. "I tell the kids if they win ten games, they get to play me. We have a lot of fun."

Bezbaruah has been very pleased with the reception they have received in West Fargo. The Cheney Chess Club meets on Thursdays from 5 to 6 p.m. in the Cheney Library. The South Elementary Chess Club meets at the same time in South's lunchroom.

"Our hopes are that more West Fargo schools will start chess clubs. Fargo schools have been involved in chess competitions for several years. It would be wonderful to get more clubs out here," Bezbaruah said.

Tournament results:

Grade K-3 - Overall positions within the group: First place - Sawyer Kenney, Longfellow Elementary, Fargo; Second - Kashava Katti, Longfellow, and Blake Pember, Longfellow; Third - Padmanabha Kavasseri, Longfellow.

First Position by grade: First grade - Blake Pember, Longfellow; Second grade - Zach Bigelow, L.E. Berger; Third grade - Sawyer Kenney, Longfellow.

Grade 4-6 - Overall positions within the group: First place - Colton Brunette, Cheney, and Jeremy Pember, Longfellow; Second place - Carl Denton, Ben Franklin; Davin Bush, McKinley, Fargo; and Brooks Kenney, Longfellow.

Third place - Neeraj Advani, Cheney; Michael Bale, McKinley; Logan Strand, Washington, Fargo; Lindsey Kenney, Longfellow; Autumn Gossett, Oak Grove, Fargo; and Nathan Hegstad, Longfellow.

First Position by grade: Fourth grade - Jeremy Pember, Longfellow; Fifth grade - Brooks Kenney, Longfellow; and Sixth grade - Colton Brunette, Cheney.

Grade 7-9 - Overall Positions within the group: First place - Carl Steele, Oak Grove. Second place - Vibhav Singh, Sheyenne 9th Grade Center; Robert Steele, Oak Grove; and Jacob Sprunger, CBE Middle School, Fargo. Third place - Nick Orvik, Cheney; Mathew Koppinger, Bismarck; Matt Stanga, Oak Grove; Vahid Fazel-Rezai, SMS, Grand Forks; and Samuel Lim, Ben Franklin.

First Position by grade: Seventh grade - Robert Steele, Oak Grove. Eighth grade - Mathew Koppinger, Bismarck. Ninth grade - Carl Steele, Oak Grove.

Grade 10-12 - Overall Position within group: First place - Andrea Steele, Oak Grove. Second place - Hillary Peterson, North High, Fargo.

First Position by grade: Twelfth grade - Andrea Steele, Oak Grove.

More information and upcoming tournament schedules may be found at