By Douglas W. Motley
Rim High School junior Jesse Swain captured first place honors in the grade 10-12 category in the fourth annual Rumble on the Rim chess tournament, which was held on Nov. 16 in the school’s cafeteria.
Swain, who is president of the Rim High Chess Club, said he plans on attending college in pursuit of a career in information technology. He said his father taught him the basics in chess when he was about 8 years old. Asked for his secret to success in chess, Swain told The Alpine Mountaineer, “I’ve been practicing multiple times a day since I was in third grade.”
Sponsored by the Riverside Youth Chess Association and hosted by the Rim High School Chess Club, this year’s “Rumble” attracted 36 first through twelfth-grade chess aficionados from throughout Riverside and San Bernardino counties. Though the majority of players hailed from the mountaintop communities, others came from as far as Corona, Hemet, Moreno Valley, Eastvale and Riverside.
Seated across from one another in the school’s lunchroom, students grouped in five grade divisions competed throughout the morning for first through third-place trophies, with all other participants receiving participation medallions. Awards were presented following a pizza luncheon.
As coach for Rim High’s chess club, retired teacher Keith Martin said he’s having fun teaching and coaching some two dozen students who show up at lunchtime in English teacher Steve Hartranft’s classroom. Hartranft, who acts as club sponsor, said, “Just providing space for them allows friendships to take root, and they have fun at lunch.”
Martin, who has been coaching student chess teams for over 30 years, said he discovered the value of teaching kids to play chess while teaching at an inner-city high school in Chicago. “It really made a difference with the kids, many of whom were in gangs. The kids learned how to play the game and wanted to compete against other schools,” Martin said, noting that, just like varsity sports teams, they had to be passing all their classes. “They soon discovered that passing classes and getting good grades wasn’t that hard, and soon we had a team.”
Noting that the Rim High Chess Club currently has 24 members, Coach Martin said, “Not all of them compete in tournaments; some come for the social aspects.”
Martin, who volunteers his time to coach Rim High chess players, also volunteers at new chess clubs that have sprung up at Mary Putnam Henck Intermediate School and Lake Arrowhead Elementary. “The club at LAE started last year and has now blossomed into 30 kids who show up for meetings after school.”
Though she didn’t win a trophy, Lake Arrowhead Elementary Chess Club member Rebekah Moreno said, “Playing chess helps me strategize when doing homework.”
Riverside Youth Chess Association president and tournament director Dr. Steve Morford, who is a former Special Education Director for Riverside Unified School District, said tournaments are held once a month, with players showing up from Riverside County schools, as well as the Rim School District and home school, charter schools and Lake Arrowhead Christian School. “Any K-12 student with knowledge of chess can play in our monthly tournaments.”
In addition to first-place winner Jesse Swain, Rim High students Ryan Whitty and Cory Hiner captured second and third place, respectively, in the grade 10-12 division. MPH eighth grader Tomas Viramontez garnered first place in the grade 7-9 division, followed by Lake Arrowhead Christian School freshman Graham Siedschlag, who placed second, and Mark Mizer, who took third place.
In the grade 5-6 division, Micah Samaniego from Corona captured first-place honors, while Rim student Rollon Gray took second place and Ashwin Karthik of Eastvale placed third. In the grade 4 division, first, second and third-place trophies were awarded to Lake Arrowhead Elementary students Hugo Pompa, David Ortega and Salvadore Moreno, respectively. Rim Home School student Abigail Rafferty captured first-place honors in the grade 1-3 division, while Sartaj Randoher took second place and David Patino from Moreno Valley took third.
Pointing out that chess has the largest body of literature of any game, Morford said chess can be played by both sexes and requires no physical skill. “Chess is an intellectually based hobby where students can feel successful and good about themselves. There is evidence that children who play chess acquire critical thinking and organizational skills that can lead to success in school. It involves planning and concentration, traits that are helpful in many fields.”