Once “a pawn” a time, more than 100 students from across Simcoe County put on their game faces to take on the best of the best among local chess players during the Simcoe Chess Tournament on Wednesday.
This was the first time since 2019 this tournament has taken place, bringing together approximately 130 elementary school students from across the region to compete. And the look of concentration on participants' faces as they took their seat across from their opponents made it clear they were there not only to have fun, but also to win.
Participating players have placed in the top four in area tournaments held across the county over the past month.
The tournament, which took place at the Simcoe County District School Board (SCDSB) Education Centre in Midhurst, featured the best players from Grade 4 to 8 competing for the first time across from each other since the pandemic began. Today's event brought out friends, family and teachers to quietly cheer on the players, including Bob Fischer, who, although a big fan of the game, admitted he is not in fact in fact related to the late Bobby Fischer — the first and only American chess world champion in history.
Fischer, who is actually a Grade 4 and 5 special education teacher at Trillium Woods Elementary School in Barrie’s south end, attended the tournament with four students.
The school launched its own Chess Club back in February and initially saw upwards of 50 students come to check it out, he said. Although the number of participants has dwindled, the club still boasts a core group of about 10 students who continue to attend twice a week.
“I think it’s a chance for kids to use their brain power in a different way than they’re used to with school. A lot of times, kids get to shine with their athletics or art, so chess just attracts a different kind of person and personality," Fischer said.
Tayden Dinsmore, a Grade 4 student at Trillium Woods, joined the school's Chess Club in February. He said he simply thought it would be something “fun” to do, adding he likes the mental side of the game.
Midway through Wednesday's tournament, Dinsmore had nine points, which he explained meant he likely sat around fourth place out of all of the players, having won three games and losing two. He had two more games left to play.
“If I win both, I will probably be like third, somewhere near there,” he said.
Dinsmore said he’d encourage other young kids to join their school’s chess club if they have one.
“It’s really fun. If you’ve never tried, you don’t know if you’re good or bad," he said.
Seeing the public school board's education centre packed with tables and topped with dozens of chess boards, Fischer acknowledged it was great to see an event like this after such a long time.
“I think it’s awesome to have a big gathering here. There are roughly 130 kids in there. With the lockdowns interrupting extracurricular activities, this is just amazing to have everyone together," he said.