Spring Chess Season Blooms in Chicago
By David Heiser   
March 18, 2010
CHICAGO, IL- As the end of winter approaches, 643 Chicago Public Schools students in Grades K-8 competed at the district’s Elementary Schools Sports Program (ESSP) Regional Chess Playoffs to determine which schools and individuals will compete on the first day of spring (March 20, 2010) at the City-Wide Championship to be held at King High School.

Over the past three years chess has blossomed within CPS Sports Program.  In 2007 fewer than 200 students in grades K-8 participated in the City-Wide Chess Championship.  Due to problems with the tournament, Calvin Davis, Director of Sports Administration, decided to hold another chess tournament, and choose the Renaissance Knights Chess Foundation to organize and run the event.   RK and CPS Sports Department ran the ‘CPS All Grade Tournament’ and it was such a huge success that everyone was enthusiastic for more organized chess for the CPS students. Also, RK had recently partnered with CPS and the City of Chicago to make chess a part of the annual Chicago Sports Festival held annually in December, resulting in continued grow with apparent positive results for the CPS chess programs. 

Working closely with the Sports Administration and the school chess coaches, RK continued its involvement with CPS Chess.  Chess is a recognized sport in CPS and is a part of the Winter Sports Season, which runs from December through April.  At the conclusion of the 2007/2008 season we introduced the North and South Regional Playoff tournaments, in our first year participation increased to 427 students, and the growth continued the 2nd year with 567 students.  3rd year, we are happy to report, 643 players from 68 schools competed in the Regional Playoff’s!  

The Regional Playoffs are individual/team competition with team awards based on the top five scores in 4 divisions: K-2, K-4, K-6 & K-8.   The top three teams and top four individuals (not part of the top three teams) advance to the City-Wide Championship.   At the championship the top three teams are limited to five players making a move even playing field for smaller schools.

This year’s South-Side Regional Playoff was held on March 6 at Phillips High School where 243 students from 29 Schools competed.  The top schools in advancing to the ‘CPS Championship’ are: K-8 Gunsaulus, Beasley Academic Center & Seward Academy; K-6 Beasley Academic Center, Keller & Lenart; K-4 Deenen, Coles Academy & Tarkington; and K-2 Keller, Turner-Drew & Deneen.  Due to an ineligible player on the Keller team they were disqualified from advancement paving the way for the 4th place team from Metcalfe to advance. 

The North-Side Regional Playoff was held at Northwest Middle School where 400 students from 39 schools competed.  The top schools in advancing to the championship are: K-8 Burbank, Bateman & Goudy; K-6 Bell, Edgebrook & Edison Regional Gifted; K-4 Edgebrook, Decatur & Burbank; and K-2 Decatur, Burbank & Walt Disney. My Congratulations to all who made the ‘CPS Championship’.  

Not only has chess grown at these events but during the past year there has been a dramatic increase in the number of CPS students and schools participating in weekend tournament in the city.  I credit this growth to one of the first changes I made to the program that required all schools and individuals to participate in at least one tournament to be eligible to compete in the Regional Playoffs.

As a Co-Founder and President of the Renaissance Knights Chess Foundation it has been a privilege working with and supporting chess in Chicago Public Schools for the last several years, and I was honored to be asked to serve as the ESSP Chess Coordinator this year and look forward to the growth of Chess in Chicago.

More information about Chicago Public Schools Chess program can be found at www.cpschess.com.