By: KEVIN GARCIA (The Brownsville Herald)Dec. 15, 2004 — With a few well-planned moves of rooks and pawns, Brownsville chess players proved their worth last week at the National K-12 Championship in Florida.
Ivan Santos, a 15-year-old Hanna High School student, was glad he represented his city at the national chess championship — just as his third-grade sister Ivana Santos represented the nation at the World Youth Competition in Greece in November.
“I learned chess from my friends, and I taught my little brother and sister and they caught on very quickly,” said Ivan Santos, one of 48 Brownsville students who competed in the competition Dec. 10 to 12 near Orlando, Fla.
The event attracted 538 schools from across the country; 97 of those were from Texas, including five from Brownsville: Hanna High School, Vela and Oliveira middle schools and Hudson and Paredes elementaries.
Vela’s seventh-grade team and Hanna’s ninth-grade team won their divisions.
This was a significant accomplishment since New York schools — with more funding and resources for chess players — are seen as the main rivals to Texas schools.
“Here in Texas we teach ourselves; in New York they have private tutors and grandmasters,” said 13-year-old Vela player Everardo Guajardo.
His dad, chess sponsor and science teacher Jose Guajardo, was proud of the whole team and was pleased to see Brownsville’s high school, middle school and elementary players practice together between games.
“What I like is that there was a lot of support from Brownsville teams,” Jose Guajardo said.
This support gave Brownsville teams the edge, Ivan Santos said.
“We would work with Vela and Oliveira because a lot of us came from there so we all worked together, and Paredes and Hudson, too,” Ivan Santos said. “When we play them we teach them so they can learn. I guess in a way they look up to us.”
David Valdez, a 14-year-old Hanna competitor, said competitions can be tough but educational.
“There’s a lot of pressure,” he said. “It’s hard and you get a lot of headaches, but it’s worth it.”
Each year chess students compete in two national championships, one for their grade level, and one for their division. In April, Brownsville students will compete in a super-national tournament in Nashville, Tenn. — an event held every four years.
Andrew Ortiz, a 13-year-old Vela student, said multiple tournaments give more people a chance to compete.
“People that sometimes can’t make it to one can make it to another,” he said.
[I]National K-12 Championship Brownsville team results
Vela – 1st place in seventh grade
Hanna – 1st place in ninth grade
Hudson – 3rd place in second grade
Paredes – 6th place in second grade; 4th place in third grade; 6th place in fourth grade
Oliveira – 8th place in sixth grade; 4th place in eighth grade[I]