The St. John the Evangelist School chess team has a new trophy for its case. The team defeated players from five other middle schools and one high school to take first place in the Maryland Chess Severn Scholastic Tournament. Hosted by the Maryland Chess Association, the tournament is an all-day event that draws players from all over the state.
The St. John team was composed of students from the school’s chess club, an extracurricular activity available to students in grades three through eight. Players included Jamison Beck, Lincoln Boyle, Alexander Johnson and John O’Connell. Johnson led the way with an undefeated sweep for all five rounds and took first overall in the class. Every point was critical, and the students earned the victory as a team, with two players scoring an 8.5 of 10 points.
The team’s chess club coach, Greg Acholonu of GCA Children’s Chess, provided guidance and encouragement. Acholonu leads multiple sessions of chess club throughout the year at St. John, teaching the game to students of all abilities. About the student’s experience on Saturday, Acholonu remarked, “The team's passion for the game was quite infectious, and most of all, they had a great experience. This passion is always evident at St. John the Evangelist, whenever I come to the school.”
Jamison Beck has been participating in chess club at St. John for three years. His mother, Renee Beck, enjoys the tournaments and learning about a culture she was previously unaware of. She has seen her son’s game improve.
“Chess has been an amazing adventure for my son,” she said. “He has learned critical thinking skills and embraced friendly competition. We look forward to continuing to play at St. John.” She particularly enjoyed seeing the students working together, providing support for each other and cheering their teammates on.
The tournament also meant a player rating increase for Alexander Johnson, who was excited to be able to move up a level in play. Johnson said he loves chess because it is “one of the most skill-based games out there.” His teammate Lincoln Boyle also enjoyed the tournament experience and said, “There were a lot of players that were really good, and we met a lot of new friends.”
Acholonu said that the team’s success was rooted in skills that are the essence of chess improvement, including concentration and thinking ahead. He also emphasizes the importance of learning from mistakes, studying the games of better players and practicing as much as possible. Finally, he observed that the skills the children are learning through the game will be applicable not just in chess but in all areas of life.