BLOOMFIELD, NJ — Bloomfield Board of Education held its annual chess tournament on Saturday, May 6, for fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-graders. Play was conducted at Fairview Elementary School. Seventy-two children were entered and the first three places from each grade level were awarded trophies.
Overseeing the event was Mary Davidson, the chess director for Bloomfield schools and a sixth-grade language arts teacher at Fairview.
She said it was the 40th annual elementary chess tournament for Bloomfield. Following are the winners.
• Fourth grade: first place, Francis Osondu, Oakview; second place, Brendan Ng, Demarest; third place, Gabriel McCulloch, Oakview.
• Fifth grade: first place, Anika Bhat, Demarest; second place, Adrian Reyes, Demarest; third place, Kyler Walbeek, Oakview.
• Sixth grade: first place, Sami Kabakibi, Carteret; second place, Raphael Turetsky, Brookdale; third place, Uchechukwa Anyanwu, Carteret.
Students from four schools took home the nine trophies. The principals of those schools thought playing chess contributed to a student’s growth.
Demarest Principal Mary Todaro said in an email that chess is a great game for teaching thinking and social skills.
“It involves thinking, problem solving, planning and predicting, all critical thinking skills that we want to encourage in our students,” she said. “In addition to our chess team, we also have students, some in younger grades, that like to play at lunch or recess. I am proud to say that I often get beaten by a third-grader in my school when we play!”
She said the game also teaches behaviors that support social development, such as taking turns and winning and losing gracefully.
“We are very proud of our students and their advisor, Mrs. Jessica Barton,” Todaro said.
Oak View Principal Mary DiTrani agreed with Todaro that chess was a game of problem solving which helps all students to be original and creative.
“It supports the development of memory, concentration skills and logical thinking,” she said. “It also teachers students to be able to predict and foresee consequences of their actions. But, most importantly, chess is fun! Oak View is very proud of our three winners.”
Carteret Principal John Baltz said that according to studies, chess significantly improves visual memory, attention span and spatial-reasoning ability.
“With its focus on problem solving it also helps improve a student’s math skills,” he said. “It also helps in critical thinking, specifically, the if-then thinker — ‘If I move here then my opponent will move there.’ The last and most important reason is it is fun and our students enjoy playing.”
Brookdale Principal Joseph Fleres said that he felt that chess benefited Brookdale students because it made them commit to a lunchtime activity and dedicate the necessary time to be successful at it.
“It helps make the student a more well-rounded young man or woman and teaches students how to strategize and plan ahead at a very young age,” he said.
Donovan said each Home and School Association sent in the participation fees for their school. The tournament also attracted a number of parents to the lower lobby of Fairview to wait while the final players quietly progressed in the adjoining multi-purpose room. Often, these children, the trophy winners, were embraced by proud parents as if they had just hit a series-winning home run. The tournament, Donovan said, is traditionally held on the first Saturday in May.