Youth chess program making a big impact in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A local chess program is winning big and making a significant impact on its players.

Charles Cooper is a social studies teacher at Allen Village. When he started in 1978, he noticed his students struggled with critical thinking skills. He decided to take up chess and he's been teaching it ever since.

"A lot of times they go play students that are maybe in a higher bracket, then they beat them in a chess tournament. Aww, you just see them beaming," Cooper said.

May 12, the K-8 players took first through fourth place at the Local Investment Commission chess tournament. The team won first place overall.

"It tells me that the kids no matter what ethnicity, they're competitive. They want to learn. They want to do well and I believe that chess can be a vehicle to get them there," Cooper shared.

He says students grades improve, they become more focused and ultimately they gain a lot of self-confidence.

Deyon Johnson, who plays on the team, says his biggest lesson is, "Chess is like a choice game. So you've got to make a bunch of choices and that'll determine your outcome. I usually have to make a lot of choices like my friends, who I hang around, my work ethic, stuff like that so that's how it helped me."

The kids practice at the Morningstar Youth and Family Life Center in Kansas City. Cooper said they offer open chess on Friday nights at 6:00 p.m., and it's open to all skill levels.

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