WEST VALLEY—What started out as students playing chess matches with West Valley Central School music teacher Aaron Cole during free time has now turned into an official club. The new club allows students to travel around the area challenging students from other districts.
After playing chess with students during free periods throughout school days and after school, Cole said he saw the increased interest from students and decided to start and coach an official chess club at WVCS. For its first year, Cole said reception has been positive with 18 students signing up at the beginning of the year that range from first grade to 12th grade.
“It started a couple years ago picking up games. There were a few kids that would like to play so we would play during lunch or during a free period,” Cole said. “It just grew over the next couple of years.”
The Buffalo Chess League allows districts to compete against each other, and after hearing about it from the Pioneer Chess Club coach, Cole spoke to his students. With positive feedback, he entered WVCS into the League and the district began competing.
“It felt like the logical next step,” Cole said. “I felt that there were so many students that wanted to get involved and if we did get involved in a league, it would give them a lot more opportunities to play, it would let them see different style, different levels of play and if there are some kids who excel in it or have some potential to do well, they start to meet other students who also can take it to the next level.”
The WVCS chess club went to their first competition at Canisius High School in Buffalo on Nov. 1, in which Cole said the students seemed to enjoy the style of play and interacting with students with a similar interest. The students attended their second competition on Nov. 29 and will then have four more on their schedule against other schools.
“Overall it was good to see the students focus and to see their attitudes change from when they are alone here with just our people … they trash talk a little bit more and have a bit more fun and a bit more recreational,” Cole said. “But when we went to a different school, it was interesting to see that they really got focused and were intent on doing a good job and representing our school well and representing themselves well.”
When they are not at competitions, Cole said the chess club spends its time learning new ways to better their game including new tactics and strategies, how to use clocks, marking their moves down and the etiquette around playing tournament chess. Cole said the school has also provided 12 tournament boards for the club to use.
“It’s really about giving more opportunities to the students in an area they are already interested in,” Cole said.