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Chess teams bask in success

INDEPENDENCE -- Checkmate.

Talmadge Middle School chess team members Adrian Camero, Daryn Leos and Roman Gabriel, from left.

Photo by Pete Strong

Talmadge Middle School chess team members Adrian Camero, Daryn Leos and Roman Gabriel, from left.

February 21, 2012

INDEPENDENCE -- Checkmate.

Teams from Henry Hill Elementary School and Talmadge Middle School will take part in the Chess for Success State Championship Tournament next month.

Students from the two schools advanced to state during a regional contest in Independence on Feb. 11. Henry Hill placed first among elementary schools, while Talmadge tied for top honors in the junior high division.

Five Talmadge students and four from Henry Hill will travel to the Portland Convention Center on March 2-3 for the state competition.

Henry Hill has built up in recent years one of the larger chess clubs in the region, with more than 80 students in grades one through five participating.

"They're excited, I'm excited," said Nancy Albritton, Henry Hill's librarian and chess coach. "We practice at school a lot, but every year I think our kids are practicing even more at home."

Portland-based Chess for Success distributes funds to schools with high percentages of low-income families to buy chess instruction and curriculum. The goal is to build confidence and improve academic skills.

Henry Hill hosted the regional tournament, which included 15 schools from four counties, on Feb. 11. Albritton said it was a major undertaking made easy because of grants, donations and local sponsors.

Community members donated chess boards to be used as raffle items to help cover costs. Several businesses donated food and drinks or other services.

One of those in attendance was Julie Young, executive director of Chess for Success.

"It was the best tournament I've ever been to," Young said. "I know it's a grandiose statement, but the coach there found volunteers who donated all kinds of things, and everybody was served a full-blown lunch ... that's never happened before."

This will be the third year Henry Hill has sent players to state. Talmadge was able to pull a team together on short notice.

Henry Hill beat second place Delphian School in Sheridan soundly, while Talmadge tied Delphian's junior high team.

The feat was impressive, Young said.

"Delphian has been regional champions almost exclusively for many years," she said. "I've been here for 14 years and I don't remember anybody else ever beating them."

Headed to State

Central School District will be represented by the following students at the Chess for Success state competition March 2-3 in Portland:

Talmadge -- Adrian Camero, Humberto Betancourt, Roman Gabriel, Daryn Leos and Margarito Soto.

Henry Hill -- Martin Ochoa, Elan Vasquez and Moises Falcon. The school has four players tied for the fourth and final team slot.