Photo Gallery: Howard Takes Top Honors in Dearborn Public Schools Chess Tournament
Four Dearborn elementary schools played for top honors Tuesday in the district's annual chess tournament.
A hush fell over the players as the games started. Some ended quickly, while others went for nearly an hour, the faces of the participants growing intense as their teammates stood nearby, excitedly cheering them on.
And in the end, Howard Elementary School got the final checkmate.
The tournament, held at the Administrative Services Center, pitted players from all four schools' chess clubs against each other for the title of district champion.
Howard came in first, with Snow, McCollough and Howe coming in second through fourth, respectively.
But really, explained district Chess Coordinator and River Oaks chess coach Linda Webb, it's about the fun of the game.
"It's really just a celebration that they made it this far," she said of the championship. "It gets the kids out of school and they have fun."
Webb, a staunch supporter of the district chess program, explained that the sport has waned in and out of popularity for decades in Dearborn schools. In recent years, it has picked up momentum again, with 15 schools playing in four groups. The four group winners each year make it to the championship rounds.
"it's a great activity for all kids, and it pushes their critical thinking," she explained. "And you don't have to be an athlete to do it."
Schools are broken up into teams–A, B, C and so forth. Kids are matched for games by ability, not by age, so a first grader could potentially play a fifth grader.
Each team has a coach, who teaches them the game throughout the school year. But come championship time, "It's really their event," said McCollough coach David Bates.
Howard coach Frank Haliburda, whose team won the championship, explained that his players are all fifth graders–mainly because Howard's chess club is so large that they can only send their top players.
"We have a really big team," he said.
And a winning, team, too–which made Dearborn resident Ban Dicicco very happy.
Dicicco's son Alexander has played for Howard for two years, and she said she loves seeing him compete.
"He goes home and plays against his dad, too," she said. "It's a big deal for the whole family."